GLENDALE — Internationally renowned nuclear physicist Dr. Yuri Oganesyan, the only living person on the periodic table of elements, was honored for his lifetime achievements by the Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA) during its 35th anniversary gala at the Armenian Society of Los Angeles on Saturday, January 19.
The academician, who is scientific director of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia, is considered the world’s leading researcher in super heavy chemical elements. It was with his significant achievements in mind that the AESA bestowed upon him the Victor Harmbartsumyan Award, named after the legendary astrophysicist, and given to engineer and scientists of Armenian descent to recognize their technical excellence and contributions to their fields and to the greater community.
In an exclusive interview (aided by translator Dr. Gagik Melikyan, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at California State University, Northridge), Oganesyan said he was “honored” to receive the Victor Hambardzumyan Award that is named after a “prominent astrophysicist” whose work he respects.
Throughout his accomplished career, Oganesyan focused his research on nuclear reactions, synthesis of new elements of the periodic table, and investigation of their properties that led to the discovery of six elements in the periodic table, one of which, element 118 (Oganesson, Og 118) was named after him in 2016 by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
His humility shone through when he explained the logistics and unwritten rules of how elements receive their names. He noted that they can be locations of where the element was discovered, such as Berkeley or Dubna, or after the scientists who discovered them “as a way to immortalize them.”
A graduate of the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, Oganesyan was raised by an engineer father who worked for Yerevan’s City Council and by a mother who always encouraged his abilities in the math and sciences. He initially aspired to become an architect, the course of his studies changed when he was awarded a gold medal (valedictorian) in high school for his academic excellence. Because of this accolade, Oganesyan was automatically admitted to any school of his choice without entrance exams and decided to pursue physics, a field he has dominated for more than 60 years.