Prize Recipient

MoeMichael K. Moe
University of California, Irvine


"For his leadership in the first observation of the rare process of two neutrino double beta decay, where his creative contributions were instrumental to its successful detection and transformed the field."


Michael Moe received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1959.  Graduate work under Frederick Reines at Case Institute of Technology led to a Ph. D in 1965.  He spent a year as a post-doc at Caltech, doing cloud-chamber studies of high-energy cosmic-ray interactions.

In 1966 he moved to the University of California at Irvine, where a preprint sent by C. S. Wu sparked his interest in double beta decay.  From his experience at Caltech he recognized that a cloud chamber would mitigate a troublesome 214Bi background encountered by Wu.

His cloud chamber indeed tagged the bismuth events, but accumulated data too slowly.  David Nygren’s new concept of a time projection chamber suggested a way to improve sensitivity.  Moe designed a TPC for double beta decay, and developed it with Steve Elliott and Alan Hahn to finally see the first solid evidence of two-neutrino decay in 82Se in 1987.

His group went on to measure this rare decay in 48Ca, 100Mo,  and 150Nd.  Having seen no evidence of a far-more-interesting neutrinoless mode, Moe in a1991 paper outlined steps toward the vast increase in sensitivity needed for a serious search for neutrinoless decay.  Currently, the EXO collaboration led by Giorgio Gratta at Stanford is pressing on with that approach.

Moe retired from UCI in 1997, but remains a member of EXO.

Selection Committee:

John F. Wilkerson, Chair; K. de Jager; W. Nazarewicz; S.J. Seestrom; M. Savage