Press Release

JPL Astrophysicist Receives Presidential Award

By SpaceRef Editor
March 8, 2002
Filed under ,

Dr. James Bock, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has received the
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S.
government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are
beginning their independent careers. The program is sponsored
by the National Science and Technology Council, which
implements the President’s science and technology policy
across the federal government.

Dr. Michael Werner, JPL senior research scientist and
principal scientist for the Space Infrared Telescope Facility,
nominated Bock for the award.

“It is important that the world know that JPL has world-
class scientists,” said Werner. “Bock provided the key
detector elements for two experiments that have put our
understanding of the early universe on solid footing and have
set the stage for further exploration.”

Bock builds detectors and instruments for far infrared
millimeter wave astrophysics. Bolometer instruments developed
by Bock were used in a recent balloon-borne experiment called
Boomerang to detect minute fluctuations in the cosmic
microwave background, showing the geometry of the universe is
essentially flat. Bolometers sense thermal radiation in the
same way humans can feel the warmth from sunlight with their
hands, but are many times more sensitive.

A ceremony in Washington, D.C. will honor Bock and other
awardees. They will each receive $500,000 over a five-year
period for research. Bock plans to use the funding to develop
a new experiment to study the polarization, or the specific
light properties, of the cosmic microwave background. A relic
of the Big Bang, the cosmic microwave background arose when
the Universe was 1,000 times hotter and denser than it is
today. It gives us a snapshot of the Universe when it was
just 300,000 years old, a tiny fraction of its current age of
15 billion years. The physical properties of the Universe at
that time imprinted signatures in the structure and
polarization of the cosmic microwave background that we detect
today.

Bock received his bachelor’s degree in physics and math
from Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and his
doctorate in physics from the University of California,
Berkeley. He has been at JPL since 1994.

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena.

SpaceRef staff editor.