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Weiler, emeritus professor of physics and astronomy, has died

Posted by on Friday, January 26, 2024 in News Story.

Thomas Weiler, professor of physics and astronomy, emeritus, died December 17, 2023, after enduring a progressive neurodegenerative variant of Parkinson’s disease. He was 74.

Weiler was an international leader in the use of neutrinos to elucidate new particle physics and astrophysics.

man in suit and tie smilingHe received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1971 and a Ph.D. in particle physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1976. He continued his studies through postdoctoral appointments in the U.S. and abroad and joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1984. He retired from the Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2019 as professor emeritus.

Weiler received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, including the Department of Energy Outstanding Junior Investigator (1985-1988); Fellow of the American Physical Society, Division of Particles and Fields (since 2002); Distinguished Alumni Fellow Award, University of Wisconsin Physics Department (2006); Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Career Award (2008); and Simons Foundation Fellow in Theoretical Physics for his work with elemental particle physics and astrophysics (2014-15).

“Tom had a significant international reputation in the world of theoretical high energy physics,” said Robert Scherrer, professor of physics. “He had a quirky sense of humor and never took himself too seriously. He was a delight to work with.”

Weiler was invited by the Swedish Academy to nominate for the Nobel Prize in 2003 and 2008 and served on the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Board of Directors from 2001-2008. In 2012, he was an invited speaker at TEDx Nashville, where he spoke on “Neutrinos, Einstein, Time, and Paradox.”

He enjoyed mentoring graduate students and was known for the attention and dedication to them.

“Tom was a wonderful colleague and was always fun to discuss new ideas with,” said Julia Velkovska, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Physics and department chair. “He had high standards and cared about the future of his students and postdocs both personally and professionally.”

Tom was highly regarded by colleagues throughout the physics field. He collaborated on research with many of them, who in turn, became friends.

“Tom was always good to talk to about physics or any subject,” said Thomas Kephart, professor of physics, who worked with Weiler on 20 papers. “He was a great colleague and friend for over 40 years. Tom had many friends in the global physics community. We’ll all miss him.”

Weiler is survived by his son, Daniel Bowater (St. Louis, Missouri); sister Terry Ann Gaffney (Seattle, Washington); brother William M. Weiler (wife, Molly; Madison, Wisconsin); nephews Thomas Gaffney (Seattle, Washington) and Matthew Weiler (Phoenix, Arizona); nieces Colleen Gaffney (husband, Justin Scheild; Seattle, Washington), Erin Calderon (daughter, Violeta, Madison, Wisconsin), and Laura Zollner (husband Matthew Zollner and daughters, Sarah and Meghan; Needham, Massachusetts); and stepchildren Nicole Hermo-Danielson (husband, Dane Danielson and son, Luca Danielson; Nashville, Tennessee) and Christian Hermo (Nashville, Tennessee).

A memorial service will be held in Nashville at a later date.