Kohta Murase, assistant professor of physics and of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, has been awarded the 34th Nishinomiya-Yukawa Memorial Prize. The prize honors the late Hideki Yukawa, a Japanese theoretical physicist and the first Japanese Nobel laureate. The prize is awarded annually to scientists under the age of 40 for contributions in one of four areas of theoretical physics: condensed matter physics, particle physics, nuclear physics, and astrophysics. Murase was honored for “pioneering work in multi-messenger astroparticle physics focusing on high-energy cosmic neutrinos.” The prize will be presented to Murase at an awards ceremony held on December 7, 2019 at the Nishinomiya City Frente Hall, in Nishinomiya, Japan.
The prize citation notes Murase’s work on theoretical modeling of high-energy neutrinos prior to their discovery by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in 2012/2013 and his work using data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope to place the first gamma-ray constraints on the sources of high-energy neutrinos. He is also recognized for his “cosmic-ray reservoir scenario,” which can provide a unified view of ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, high-energy neutrinos, and gamma rays, as well as for his contributions to our understanding of high-energy neutrino production in astrophysical transients such as gamma-ray bursts and supernovae.
Murase focuses his research on theoretical astroparticle physics and interdisciplinary areas among astrophysics, particle physics, and nuclear physics. His particular interest lies in the cosmic rays, the subatomic particles known as neutrinos, and the properties of dark matter.
Using neutrinos, gamma rays, charged particles (protons, nuclei, and electrons), and gravitational waves as cosmic messengers, he aims to reveal non-thermal aspects of the Universe and solve the mysteries of extremely energetic cosmic particles. With the multi-messenger approach combining these four messengers, he aims to unveil the extreme astrophysical phenomena of black holes and neutron stars, such as gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, and active galactic nuclei. Regarding the Universe as a natural laboratory, he also attempts to use astroparticles as probes of elementary particle properties and theories beyond the Standard Model that are difficult to test with human-made experiments.
Murase’s previous awards and honors include an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in physics in 2017, the 2015 Young Scientist Award of the Physical Society of Japan, awarded jointly with the 2015 Incentive Award of Cosmic Ray Physics from the Cosmic Ray Researchers Congress of Japan, and the 2014 Young Scientist Award of the Astronomical Society of Japan.
Before joining the faculty at Penn State, Murase was a member and Hubble Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 2012 to 2015. He was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics Senior Fellow at the Ohio State University from 2010 to 2012. He earned a doctoral degree in physics in 2010 and a master's degree in physics in 2007 at Kyoto University, and a bachelor's degree in physics at the University of Tokyo in 2005.