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General Assembly Recognizes Tennessine Researchers

March 29, 2017

Physics Professor Robert Grzywacz was among the scientists invited to Nashville March 27 for recognition of their research adding tennessine to the periodic table of elements.

Tennessee Senate Joint Resolution 0002 “recognizes Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for their contributions to the discovery of element 117 and its naming as tennessine.” It concludes: “through their extraordinary achievements, they have advanced human knowledge and left an indelible mark on the history of science.”

Read aloud to General Assembly members, the resolution outlines the contributions of Tennessee’s scientists who worked with colleagues at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Russia to discover element 117, the second-heaviest element known. From the earliest scientific discussions to the results published in Physical Review Letters to the christening of 117 as “tennessine,” it details the long and fruitful journey that made Tennessee one of only two U.S. states represented on the periodic table (the other is California). Along with Grzywacz, James Roberto and Krzysztof Rykaczewski of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Joseph Hamilton of Vanderbilt University were also in attendance. Grzywacz and Rykaczewski, as the document explains, “led the development of a new detection and digital data acquisition system that was used in the followup experiments on superheavy nuclei at JINR.”

tennessine resolution
Krzysztof Rykaczewski (ORNL), Speaker of the state Senate and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally,
Robert Grzywacz (UT Physics), and James Roberto (seated) (ORNL).

tennessine resolution
Krzysztof Rykaczewski, James Roberto, Joseph Hamilton (Vanderbilt) and Robert Grzywacz at the state capitol.

The resolution was filed in January and signed by Governor Bill Haslam in early February. The sponsor was Speaker of the state Senate and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, who represents the 5th District encompassing Anderson, Loudon, and part of Knox Counties.

Grzywacz joined the physics faculty in 2003. His research focuses on the decay of unstable nuclei, emphasizing nuclear processes that are critical for understanding the most abundant elements in the Universe. He also serves as director of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Nuclear Physics and Applications.

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