US-Australian scientist accidental Nobel laureate

AP News
Posted: Oct 05, 2011 5:58 AM
US-Australian scientist accidental Nobel laureate

When Montana-born U.S.-Australian dual citizen Brian Schmidt started studying astrophysics, he wondered if he would end up with a job, much less a Nobel Prize.

"It didn't seem to be a very practical choice, but I decided it would do in the short term while I decided what I really wanted to do," the 44-year-old professor at the Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics told The Associated Press on Wednesday, a day after he became one of three scientists awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.

"I thought it would be hard to get a job _ which it is because they're aren't many around _ but I haven't looked back," he said.

"When I started out, I didn't even dream about winning Nobel Prizes," he added.

In 1998, Schmidt and fellow American astrophysicists Saul Perlmutter, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, and Adam Riess, of Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, presented findings that overturned the conventional idea that the universe's expansion was slowing 13.7 billion years after the big bang.

Schmidt said his team's findings that the expansion was actually accelerating initially "seemed wrong, because we were expecting the exact opposite."

Born in the town of Missoula in 1967, Schmidt grew up in Montana and Alaska before embarking on studying cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

He moved to Australia 17 years ago after meeting his future wife, Australian Jenny Gordon, at Harvard University where they were both doctoral students.

He now lives outside the national capital, Canberra, with his economist wife and two teenage children on a farm where he grows pinot noir grapes and makes wine as a hobby.