On 16 October 2020, Dr Przemysław Mróz from the University of Warsaw was presented with the Frank Wilczek Prize by the JU Rector Prof. Jacek Popiel. The award was granted for his characterisation of the free floating planets population in the Milky Way and the detection of the most promising candidates for low-mass free floating planets. The prize is awarded to young Polish scientists who have made a significant discovery in physics, astronomy or related fields.
The prize ceremony participants also included the JU Vice-Rectors Prof. Dorota Malec, Prof. Piotr Kuśtrowski, and Prof. Jarosław Górniak, the Dean of the JU Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science Prof. Ewa Gudowska-Nowak, the Faculty Vice-Dean Prof. Piotr Salabura, and the Head of Kościuszko Foundation Marek Skulimowski. A special online address from Massachusetts, US was also delivered by the prize patron Prof. Frank Wilczek.
The Rector of the Jagiellonian University Prof. Jacek Popiel congratulated the Prize winner, wishing him further research success. The laudatory address was delivered by Prof. Andrzej Udalski. Thanking for the award, Dr Przemysław Mróz expressed this conviction that the Frank Wilczek Prize will contribute to the promotion of achievements of young Polish scientists who conduct world-class research.
The first Frank Wilczek Prize winner was chosen by the committee consisting of Prof. Frank Wilczek, Prof. Katarzyna Chałasińska-Macukow (University of Warsaw), Prof. Stanisław Kistryn (Jagiellonian University), Prof. Maciej Lewenstein (Institute of Photonic Sciences, Barcelona), and Prof. Christopher Sachrajda (University of Southampton). Dr Przemysław Mróz was awarded in recognition of his research achievements, namely the characterisation of the free floating planets population in the Milky Way and the detection of the most promising candidates for low-mass free floating planets, which has been considered one of the greatest accomplishments of Polish astronomy in recent years.
The astronomical knowledge of free floating planets (FFPs) was considerably broadened thanks to the revolutionary studies conducted during the recent years by Dr Przemysław Mróz, who carried out extensive research on gravitational microlensing events, focused on the detection of very short time scale events (characteristic of low-mass objects). Based on these detections, Dr Mróz derived the frequency of occurrence of FFPs in the Milky Way. This is the most complete analysis of the FFP population, based on the largest sample of microlensing events.
Besides the global analysis of the FFP population, Dr Mróz searched for the most promising individual candidates for FFPs. He analysed selected microlensing events where the lensed object was a giant star. In such cases one can expect additional effects during the microlensing event, which allow more precise estimation of the mass of the lensing objects. The method proposed by Dr Mróz turned out to be very efficient. He found and characterised three FFPs including a very low-mass one, whose mass is similar to that of the Earth.
The Frank Wilczek Prize was established in February 2019. The award worth 12 thousand US dollars is funded by the JU Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science and the Kościuszko Foundation. It is awarded biannually to young Polish scientists who have made a significant discovery in physics, astronomy or related fields.
The award patron Frank Wilczek is an eminent American physicist of Polish-Italian origin, a Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2004, together with Hugh David Politzer and David Gross, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction. In 2012 Prof. Wilczek was conferred with an honorary doctorate of the Jagiellonian University.