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Homer A. Neal
UM Department of Physics

Homer A. Neal, Ph.D., interim president emeritus, vice president emeritus for research, Samuel A. Goudsmit Distinguished University Professor of Physics, and professor of physics in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts passed away on May 23, 2018.

Professor Neal received his B.A. degree (1961) from Indiana University, and M.S. (1963) and Ph.D. (1966) degrees from the University of Michigan. Following positions at Indiana University and SUNY Stony Brook, he joined the University of Michigan faculty as a professor and chair of the Department of Physics in 1987, served as the vice president for research (1993-97), interim president of the University of Michigan (1996-97), and director of the U-M ATLAS Collaboration Project (1997-2018).

Professor Neal had a long, distinguished career and was a world-leading expert in the studies of particle spins and polarizations. He pursued his research at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Fermilab, and for the past 20 years at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. He had important roles in the discoveries the top quark in 1995 at the Fermilab and the Higgs boson in 2012 at CERN. Professor Neal formed a research group to join the DZero experiment at the Fermilab when he returned to Michigan as the chair of the physics department. His achievements also include the observations of the Ξb and Ωb baryons.

With the world’s major high-energy collider accelerator – the LHC - planned for CERN, Professor Neal led a group of Michigan faculty to join the ATLAS Experiment. Under his leadership, the group blossomed into one of the largest and most productive university groups working at the LHC and made critical contributions to the discovery of the Higgs boson. He was also a pioneer in the development of tools for shared data in large collaborations and led the initial design of the computing architecture of the ATLAS Experiment.

In addition to his scientific and academic leadership roles, Professor Neal served as President of the American Physical Society, board member of the Ford Motor Company, council member of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, director of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, Regent of the Smithsonian Institution and on the National Science Board (NSB). As a member of the NSB he played a pivotal role in the establishing the widely popular and effective Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. At Michigan, he initiated and coordinated the flourishing CERN REU program for U.S. students to participate in cutting-edge research at CERN every summer and developed a seminar in science policy that led to the textbook Beyond Sputnik, which he co-authored, and which is being widely used.

Professor Neal was a recipient of a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, the Stony Brook Medal, and the Indiana University Distinguished Alumni Service Award. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the AAAS, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds Honorary Doctorates from Indiana University, Notre Dame University and Michigan State University.

Professor Neal had an impact on the lives of many individuals, on science, and on the development of many thriving institutions. We will all miss him greatly.

UM Department of Physics