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Press Release

Lauren Ward

For immediate release:
September 19, 2005

Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Physics Receives Bequest From Sorensen Family To Enhance Education and Research Programs

PITTSBURGH—A bequest of nearly $400,000 from the family of Raymond A. Sorensen, former head of Carnegie Mellon University's department of physics, will enable the department to sustain and enhance its leading programs in research and education.

"Ray Sorensen was an outstanding physicist and valued colleague. His bequest, split between undergraduate scholarship funds and an unrestricted gift, will make possible support of both the educational and research goals of the department," said Fred Gilman, head of Carnegie Mellon's Department of Physics and Buhl Professor of Theoretical Physics.

A native of Wilkinsburg, Sorensen earned his degrees in physics—a bachelor's in 1953 and a Ph.D. in 1958—from the Carnegie Institute of Technology. After a year at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and two years at Columbia University in New York City, Sorensen returned to Carnegie Mellon's Department of Physics at the Mellon College of Science (MCS). Sorensen, who was department head from 1980 to 1989, retired in 1997.

"He took this position with the strong support of the whole department, who knew he was someone who could be trusted to be fair and energetic," said former colleague Lincoln Wolfenstein, now a Carnegie Mellon professor emeritus of physics.

At Carnegie Mellon, Sorensen conducted research in theoretical nuclear physics, was published often in scientific journals, and taught classes at undergraduate and graduate levels. In the mid-1960s, he and Wolfenstein played key roles in launching a new branch of physics—medium-energy physics—which uses particle physics to analyze nuclear structure. Leonard Kisslinger, another former colleague and current professor of physics, described Sorensen as one of the most brilliant theorists in this field. In 1969, Sorensen played a key role in forming a collaborative research group of physicists from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh that met weekly. According to Kisslinger, Sorensen's frequent and insightful questions helped guide the research of the other physicists in this group.

After Sorensen's retirement, he and his wife, the late Audrey Sorensen, traveled to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Seattle. In 2001, they moved to California. He died in March at the age of 74.

The MCS at Carnegie Mellon develops innovative research and educational programs in biological sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics and several interdisciplinary areas. For more information, visit


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