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October 28, 2021

Phi Delta Theta honors Nobel laureate

By FRANK BRANCATI | September 20, 2012

Adam Riess, the Hopkins professor who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, was awarded the Phi Delta Theta Distinguished Alumnus Award at a dinner held in his honor at the Space Telescope Science Institute last night.

Riess, a Phi Delta Theta brother at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was recognized by his fraternity for his outstanding contributions to not only the fraternity but also the world.

“We are all honored to call [Riess] our brother,” Robert A. Biggs, the Executive Vice President of the national chapter of the fraternity, said at the event, held on the Homewood campus.

The dinner recognized Riess’ work using supernovae to determine that the universe’s expansion rate is accelerating.

After the dinner concluded, Riess discussed his work and arriving at his groundbreaking discovery.

“At 5:36 in the morning my phone rang, and, quite groggy, I picked it up. There were Swedish sounding voices, and, as I joked later, I realized I hadn’t ordered any furniture from IKEA, so I figured something was up,” Riess said, quipping about the phone call he got when he was notified that he had been selected to receive the Nobel Prize.

Riess went on to talk about his trip to Stockholm and receiving the Nobel Prize from the King

of Sweden. He discussed the most exciting part of winning the Nobel Prize.

“It was towards the very end. A sort of quiet moment, when they brought you into the offices of the Nobel Foundation, and they ask you to sign a book. The amazing part is when you flip back the pages and you see Einstein, Niels-Bohr, Heisenberg, Winston Churchill, Madame Curie, and it’s just amazing to sign this book. The history in this book, the great accomplishments of the past hundred and twenty five years in science, literature and economics, it’s very humbling,” Riess told his audience.

Riess’s brethren in Phi Delta Theta were all honored to be a part of this event, and to have someone like Riess among their ranks, many said. Brothers in the Hopkins chapter of the fraternity showed up in droves.

“He brought great honor to the fraternity and he’s done great work. He’s really gone above and beyond,” senior Chris Kinkade, the president of Hopkins’ chapter of Phi Delta Theta, said.

Among the brothers in attendance, there was no short supply for praise of Riess’s achievements.

“Adam Riess is an inspiration to us all, and I hope one day my research will be as significant as his,” senior Dorian Bogdanovski, a Phi Delta Theta brother, said.

“Adam Riess is a distinguished brother of [the fraternity], and we all wanted to show up and give him our support,” sophomore Dakota Walker said.

Director of Student Activities Rob Turning — a Phi Delta Theta alumnus — was also in attendance at the dinner. “Only at Hopkins would I be standing in line at the cafeteria with a Nobel Prize winner,” Turning said, quoting his wife. “I really think that speaks to how special a place Hopkins is and how special an organization like Phi Delta is. Its great to be able to honor him, and to have the undergraduates be a part of it.”

In an interview, Riess discussed his time as a Phi Delta Theta at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as his work now, at the Space Telescope Institute. He recalled an event from his junior year in college that still stands out in his memory.

“One of my professors, who had won the Nobel Prize, graded my lab report shortly after that, and I got the worst grade that I ever got the whole time I was there. It was painful,” Reiss said. “I think Phi Delta Theta is a great organization and I really enjoyed when I was a member of it as an undergrad. I made a lot of good friends there, and I’m glad to see it continuing.”

Riess’s current work uses the Hubble Space Telescope to conduct further research into understanding the nature of dark energy in the universe.

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