Rice physicist Jay Roberts dies at 76

Jabus (Jay) Roberts, 76, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice, died Nov. 22.

Jabus (Jay) Roberts

Jabus (Jay) Roberts

Roberts, who joined Rice in 1975, was a core member of the university’s Tom W. Bonner Nuclear Laboratory and became a full professor in 1985. A native of Alabama, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969.

Roberts’ research included work with detectors at both the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at CERN, directly contributing to both the quark-gluon plasma and the Higgs boson discoveries. Over the years he taught at all levels of the curriculum and had advised undergraduate, doctoral and postdoctoral researchers.

Most recently Roberts had been overseeing the senior honors thesis course and providing support to the 100-level general physics courses.

“Jay had an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of both the field in general and the Bonner Lab in particular, and was always ready with a kind word to pitch in and help out,” said Douglas Natelson, chair of the physics and astronomy department.

Outside the department, Roberts had served as the faculty sponsor of the Rice rugby club for the last 36 years.

Roberts was predeceased by daughter Clara Katharine Roberts (Duncan ’15) and is survived by his wife, Sue Ellen Roberts, and daughters Traci Roberts Capesius and Tiffany Dynamite Roberts. A celebration of his life will be held at 4 p.m. Feb. 20 at Brochstein Pavilion.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.