Leo Piilonen is a professor in the Department of Physics at Virginia Tech, where he has been a faculty member for 31 years. Piilonen pursued undergraduate work in physics at the University of Toronto, and graduate studies in experimental nuclear and particle physics at Princeton University.
Following his postdoctoral appointment at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1985 to 1987, Piilonen joined the faculty at Virginia Tech. Since then, he has conducted research in experimental elementary particle physics at the KEK national laboratory in Japan with the Amy, Belle and Belle II collaborations. Piilonen's team designed, built and operated the Belle experiment’s subsystem for muons and neutral K-long mesons and the upgrade of this subsystem for Belle II.
Piilonen is co-author of more than 500 peer-reviewed papers. He has received uninterrupted funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science since his arrival at Virginia Tech. Piilonen is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He was a recipient of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.
Piilonen held the William E. Hassinger, Jr. Senior Faculty Fellowship in physics at Virginia Tech for six years. He was awarded the Carroll B. Shannon Award for Teaching Excellence by the College of Science and the William E. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence by Virginia Tech.
Piilonen served as the elected co-spokesperson of the Belle collaboration for the past six years. He was elected the inaugural director of the Center for Neutrino Physics at Virginia Tech, a position that he relinquished when he became chair of the department of physics. During Piilonen’s tenure as chair, the department hired 11 new full-time, tenure-track faculty and increased the undergraduate cohort by a factor of three.