BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Ulrich Baur, a professor in the University at
Buffalo Department of Physics, died Nov. 25 while on vacation with
his wife, Yvonne, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was 53.
Baur, a native of Munich, where he will be buried, was an
important figure in theoretical high-energy physics. His
calculations for the Large Hadron Collider have laid the groundwork
for many measurements being conducted there and have become
increasingly essential for interpreting the new data they are
The LHC experiments are designed to identify signs of new
physics that will challenge the Standard Model, the prevailing
understanding of the behavior of subatomic particles.
"Ulrich's calculations are essential for understanding the
interactions between fundamental particles at very high energies"
says colleague Doreen Wackeroth, PhD, associate professor of
physics at UB. "He developed new ideas to test our understanding of
the weak nuclear force and how to measure the properties of the top
quark (the heaviest fundamental particle) and the elusive Higgs
particle, once it is discovered. We are very eager to see how much
the new LHC data will reflect this."
According to Wackeroth, Baur was working very hard to interpret
the LHC data on the theoretical side and to look for discrepancies
between the data and the Standard Model, which would provide
signals of new physics.
"He was so active, he had so many ideas and he was in the middle
of it," says Wackeroth. "It is a huge loss, both on a personal
level and also for the entire international physics community."
Baur was also unique in that he was skilled, his colleagues say,
at bridging the often disparate worlds of the theoretical
physicists and the experimentalists.
"You need people like Ulrich who can talk in both languages,"
says Wackeroth. "He was unique in that sense."
Hong Luo, chair of the UB Department of Physics in the College
of Arts and Sciences, credits Baur with building the entire
high-energy physics and cosmology group at UB.
"When he came here, we didn't have a strong high-energy group
and no cosmology group. But now we have a very good group and
Ulrich was the driving force behind all of this," says Luo. "He
demonstrated real leadership and his colleagues have tremendous
respect for him."
Baur and Luo also worked together to improve the way the
introductory physics courses are taught to undergraduates by
introducing team-teaching and increasing interaction between
students and faculty.
Baur is known among physicists for his landmark calculations of
processes involving subatomic particles, such as Higgs bosons and
top quarks and for studying minute quantum effects in the
production of the W and Z bosons (the mediators of the weak force)
at high energy particle accelerators.
A UB faculty member since 1994, he was named a Fellow of the
American Physical Society in 2008 in recognition of his
contributions to precision electroweak physics, especially the
precision study of W and Z bosons at Fermilab and the LHC, which is
a unique way of testing the quantum nature of fundamental particle
Baur was a member of the LHC Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS)
collaboration, and served as co-convener of working groups and
co-organizer of numerous workshops, including the annual LoopFest
series, now in its ninth year, on current and future high-energy
physics programs at Fermilab, the LHC and the International Linear
His research had been funded continuously since 1996 by the
National Science Foundation, and he co-authored more than 100
He was one of the founders of the LHC Theory Initiative,
designed to encourage graduate study in theoretical particle
physics and to address what Baur had called the "outsourcing" of
theoretical physics research to countries other than the U.S. Those
efforts paid off in 2007 with the establishment by the National
Science Foundation of the Large Hadron Collider Theory Initiative,
which provided funding for U.S. graduate students who pursue
Baur obtained his PhD in 1985 working with Harald Fritzsch on
phenomenological aspects of composite models at Ludwig Maximilian
University in Munich, Germany. He joined the UB faculty after
holding a postdoctoral position at the Max-Planck Institute for
Physics and Astrophysics in Munich, and serving as a Max-Kade
Fellow at Fermilab, a Research Fellow at CERN, a Superconducting
Supercollider National Fellow, a visiting assistant professor at
the University of Wisconsin and a senior research scientist at the
University of Florida.
Guido Tonelli, the CMS spokesperson-elect, says that Baur "will
always be remembered by his colleagues for his cheerful humor, his
enthusiasm and dedication to physics,
and for his encouragement of younger physicists. He will be
A funeral service will be held Dec. 17 in Munich. A symposium to
honor Baur's contributions to theoretical high-energy physics is
planned for spring 2011.
He was a resident of Williamsville.