Frank Krennrich, Physics and Astronomy, (515) 294-3736
Dave Gieseke, LAS Public Relations, (515) 294-7742
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- Frank Krennrich, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University, has been named an Outstanding Junior Investigator by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Krennrich was one of six individuals granted the award from the DOE's high-energy physics division. Each recipient receives funding from the DOE for their research projects. Other recipients this year are from Princeton University, Columbia University, Duke University, the University of California-Los Angeles and Boston University.

The Outstanding Junior Investigator Program was started in 1978 to identify talented, new high-energy physicists and to facilitate the development of their research programs. Krennrich is the fourth member of Iowa State's physics and astronomy faculty to receive this honor since 1980.

Krennrich will receive a $225,000 grant for his research into microsecond gamma-ray bursts emanating from exploding primordial black holes. These "mini-black holes" are theorized to be the size of a hydrogen nucleus and may have formed early in the universe. In 1974, Steven Hawking developed a theory that a short flash of gamma rays indicates the violent death of these mini-black holes. Their existence has yet to be proven.

"No one has seriously attacked this problem," Krennrich said. "The technology needed to effectively seek out these mini-black holes hasn't really existed until this point."

New digital electronics for the study will be developed at Iowa State. Krennrich and his research team will use the Whipple Observatory's 10-meter gamma-ray telescope in Arizona for the study, which should begin by the summer of 2001. Krennrich expects to have data on the mini-black holes by 2002.

"This is a high-risk, exploratory experiment," Krennrich said. "The idea is that these black holes should exist, and if they do and we can find them, it will be a very important discovery for astrophysics and particle physics."

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