Prof. Ran Budnik completed his BSc in physics and mathematics through the elite Israel Defense Force’s Talpiot excellence program at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem in 1997. He was awarded his MSc at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 2004, and his PhD in physics at the Weizmann Institute in 2009. He spent the next year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Weizmann Institute working on cryogenic radiation detectors. From 2010 until joining the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics at the Weizmann Institute in December 2013, he was a postdoctoral scientist at the Columbia University astrophysics laboratory working on the XENON dark matter project. In 2019-2020, Prof. Budnik spent a sabbatical year at the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics in Stony Brook, SUNY. Until hjs promotion, he was the incumbent of the Aryeh and Ido Dissentshik Career Development Chair.
Dark matter is one of the most striking unsolved mysteries in physics today. Scientists have yet to detect it directly, but almost all measurements of the motion of galaxies, the evolution of the universe and the behavior of matter in the known universe lead scientists to believe that there must be a tremendous amount of mass in the universe that is not made of conventional matter. Prof. Budnik is part of an international team of scientists creating new instruments that they hope will show the first confirmed interactions between this so-called “dark matter” and “normal” matter. He has done work on the Xenon 100 project, was in charge of building and operating major parts of Xenon 1T – currently the most sensitive dark matter experiment world-wide – and is now working on the upgrade to the XENONnT, which will increase the sensitivity about tenfold. He is part of the planned DARWIN international project to build 50-ton scale liquid xenon detectors. In addition, Prof. Budnik is working on small-scale, proof-of-concept experiments built at the Weizmann Institute, to explore new, unknown ways to find Dark Matter that may change the path of future experiments.
Prof. Budnik won first place in the Israel Physics Olympics in 1994 and went on to win a silver medal in theoretical physics at the International Physics Olympics that year. Prof. Budnik wasappointed commander of the third-year students in the IDF Talpiot program in 2001 – 2001, and completed his ten years of service at the rank of major.
Prof. Budnik is married and has four children. When not looking for dark matter, he enjoys a game of pick-up basketball with friends.