Lee Grodzins


Honorary Degree Recipient

  • Doctor of Science, Purdue University 1998

Dr. Lee Grodzins, Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the recipient of the 1998 honorary degree of Doctor of Science of Purdue University, received his Ph.D. degree in Physics from Purdue University in 1954. Dr. Grodzins remained at Purdue during 1954-55 as an Instructor of Physics, after which he became a Research Scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory until 1959. He joined the faculty of MIT in 1959 and has held the rank of Professor of Physics there since 1966. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a Guggenheim Fellow twice, 1964-65 and 1971-72.

As a nuclear physicist, Dr. Grodzins has performed many profound and pioneering experiments. One of his early efforts was a measurement of the helicity of the neutrino. (Helicity characterizes the alignment of a particle's intrinsic spin vector with that particle's direction of motion). The elegance and subtleties of that experiment are now discussed in many textbooks on nuclear and elementary particle physics. The helicity measurement was a key to our understanding the so-called weak interaction, the force that governs nuclear beta decay. Other experiments probed the fundamental properties of nuclei such as the universal nature of certain electromagnetic transitions from first excited states in even-even nuclei, and the violation of parity. The trademark of Dr. Grodzins' experiments has been the originality of the experimental technique and the significance of the questions addressed. For example, Dr. Grodzins performed the first computer axial tomographic experiment using synchrotron radiation in 1985.

When Dr. Grodzins was not asking fundamental questions of physics, he was using his creative side to put his knowledge of nuclear physics to practical use. He developed a scanning proton-induced X-ray microspectrometer for use measuring elemental concentrations in air. This led Dr. Grodzins to start a company, NITON Corporation, (now run by his son) to manufacture and market instruments to measure pollutants in the environment. His most far reaching invention, for which he holds four patents, is a new x-ray fluorescence method to quantify the concentration of buried lead and other elements. In 1995, Dr. Grodzins received an R & D 100 award from R & D magazine and was a finalist for a Discovery Award for the NITON XL, based on those patents. Since 1988, he has spent an increasing effort to developing methods for finding clandestine explosives, drugs and other contraband in luggage and cargo containers. He already has numerous publications in this important field.

Dr. Grodzins' social conscience led him to co-found the Union of Concerned Scientists (1970) and was its Chairman in 1972. He also devoted a number of years to studying many aspects of scientific manpower. He chaired committees for the American Physical Society and the National Research Council and published some 10 papers in this area.

Last Updated: Apr 29, 2016 3:53 PM