Jessie Shelton selected for PECASE

Siv Schwink

Illinois Physics Professor Julia 'Jessie' Shelton
Illinois Physics Professor Julia 'Jessie' Shelton
Physics Professor Julia “Jessie” Shelton of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been awarded the 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the US government on scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Shelton is a theorist whose work spans a broad range of topics in particle physics beyond the standard model. She is especially interested in elucidating the nature of dark matter and in searching for unusual footprints of new physics at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. Her recent work focuses on possible decays of the Higgs boson to new particles, strategies to detect particles produced at the LHC that travel macroscopic distances before decaying, and the cosmological origin stories of "hidden sector" dark matter, i.e., dark matter that interacts far more strongly with other dark particles than it does with us.

At Illinois Physics, Shelton is known as an engaging teacher whose ability to explain complex physics concepts in elegant and concise language is coupled with great enthusiasm for public outreach efforts.

Shelton is a 2019 Center for Advanced Study Fellow at Illinois. She received an Early Career Award of the US Department of Energy in 2017. Since 2014, she has served as the theory convener for the Large Hadron Collider Higgs Cross-Section Working Group.

Shelton received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton in 2000 and a doctoral degree in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006. Shelton held postdoctoral fellowships at Rutgers University (2006-2009), Yale University (2009-2012), and Harvard University (2012-2013) prior to joining the faculty at Illinois Physics in 2014.

Shelton is among six researchers at Illinois to be named PECASE recipients this year. Other winners include Chemistry Professor Prashant Jain, who is an affiliate faculty member in physics; Mechanical Science and Engineering Professors Gaurav Bahl and Kelly Stephani; Materials Science and Engineering Professor Pinshane Huang; and Molecular and Integrative Physiology Professor Daniel Llano.

The PECASE awards, established by former-President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. PECASE awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and for their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

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Gaurav Bahl, associate professor in mechanical science and engineering, and Taylor Hughes, physics professor, published their findings in Nature Communications. This important work was led by postdoctoral researcher Inbar Grinberg, also in mechanical science and engineering.