TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Dr. James Brooks, director of the MagLab's Condensed Matter Science Experimental Program, chair of the Florida State University Physics Department, and a much-beloved teacher, mentor and friend, passed away last week.
"This is a great tragedy for us all personally and for the MagLab as an institution," said MagLab Director Gregory Boebinger, who first met Brooks in 1982.
ture and high magnetic field physics for decades. A fellow of the American Physical Society, he pioneered the use of dilution refrigerators in high-field resistive magnets and held the record for doing an experiment in the largest steady state magnetic field (47.8 tesla). He was devoted to educational outreach and to cast-netting for mullet near his Gulf Coast home.
Brooks worked in experimental low temperature and high magnetic field physics for decades. A fellow of the American Physical Society, he pioneered the use of dilution refrigerators in high-field resistive magnets and held the record for doing an experiment in the largest steady state magnetic field (47.8 tesla). He was devoted to educational outreach and to cast-netting for mullet near his Gulf Coast home.
Brooks's remarkable and productive career is summarized in his lengthy list of publications and other achievements. But a picture of this jovial, giving and passionate scientist is perhaps best drawn by the memories of the many people at the lab whose lives he graced.
Colleagues and Students Remember
"I've known Brooks since 1982 when I was a grad student and he was an Assistant Professor at Boston University. We shared the same lab, sliding the magnet back and forth on rails depending on who had magnet time during any given week. Circumstances and personalities cast us as both friends, but also occasional competitors, because he was assigned to host Emilio Mendez, head of the IBM group working on the fractional quantum Hall effect. I was in the Stormer/Tsui (i.e. Bell Labs/Princeton) group. During one of their magnet runs, I was making alterations on our dilution refrigerator. As soon as I powered up the drill, electrical spikes showed up on their data, ruining the mobility of the delicate two-dimensional electron system in their sample for the rest of the day (until they could thermally cycle the sample back to room temperature). Emilio was upset. I felt terrible. It was Brooks who saw the humor and turned things into a teaching moment."
— Greg Boebinger
"Dr. Brooks was the best and the most dedicated mentor I have had. He worked very hard, including the weekends, to make sure we will be successful. He always made sure we had the best environment to excel and be creative. He took us in when we couldn't even use an ohmmeter yet. And his mentorship has made us better than we can ever be all because of him. A lot of us are not the brightest and the most talented, but he can truly see our passion and help us achieve our dreams. His group is always very diverse, yet with his outgoing personality and kindness in his own way, he managed to get his group to be cohesive and have great teamwork. … No words will be enough to describe his positive impacts to people around him. We all will miss him greatly and I regret not having a chance to say thank you to him one more time."
— Eden Stevens
"A fourth century Archbishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostum said, 'He who we loved is no longer where he was, he is where we are.'
"A life is ultimately measurable in how many people show up at the funeral and what they say about the dear absent. Jim lived well. He will be missed."
— Pradeep Kumar
"He was my 'FSU mentor' during my tenure-track years and he was a true mentor, always coming with great advice regarding all sorts of things, research or teaching related. He had quite often an unconventional approach about research methods. You would often wonder how could someone come up with such an idea to deal with quite a complex phenomenon. As a group and department leader, he was dedicated to meaningful changes and he was a very hard-working person. And he was able to do all that while keeping things in a happy perspective, often contagious."
— Irinel Chiorescu
"In the eight years that I've been at the MagLab, a happy moment of any day occurred when I either ran into Jim coming into the lab or, as often happened, we shared email exchanges. Often it was — what wonderful exotic place are you at the moment and are you having fun? In fact fun is what I associate with Jim Brooks. He was a humanist. He made life better."
— David Larbalestier
"I still remember the moment I first met with James in the lobby at the MagLab after I moved to FSU in the summer of 2012. He is the first one who welcomed me and walked me around at the MagLab. James is the kind of person that even a quiet person like me would love to make friends with. In the past two years, I received numerous supports from him on teaching, research, grant writing, etc. He never turned me down."
— Wei Guo
"Everyone in Tallahassee will be aware of the huge impact he has had at FSU. But what many of you may not realize is that he has been just as active in the international scientific community, constantly traveling to Asia, growing scientific networks, and mentoring tons of young people from all around the world. … Brooks was also the reason I moved to Tallahassee in 1995, where I soon met my wife (he and Janet attended our wedding), and where we now live happily with four wonderful children. Brooks touched our lives in so many special ways. We will truly miss him.
— Stephen Hill
"Brooks was an enthusiast. He loved the science, the magnets, the quantum oscillations, the Fermi surfaces, but most of all, he loved the young people that he educated, the people whose love for science he helped grow and bloom. Brooks always worked with many people — he was surrounded by students, colleagues, users, visitors. He thrived building this community. I remember him taking his group, every Friday, late in the afternoon, to the golf course cafeteria, for a group meeting over a pitcher of beer and much discussion and many jokes. And it is those jokes - his humor - that will probably reman best remembered by many of us. He often saw the funny side of things, and this helped many of us in times which were not always easy, it helped people see the good side, not only the hard reality of life."
— Vlad Dobrosavljevic
"He was a great teacher. He made even the most complex phenomena look simple and understandable. It was one of the only classes I used to look forward to, especially to his homework's. During the entire course not only did he introduce us to different kinds of research inside and outside MagLab, he also inspired us to become great scientists … I wish I could have thanked him one last time for making me believe in myself, for giving me several valuable opportunities to grow as a young researcher and motivating me."
— Lakshmi Bhaskaran
"…[Brooks] sometimes would work together with us [graduate students] during some important magnet time and stayed up until 2:30 a.m., as well. Moreover, after the students worked a long shift until midnight, he would ask if there was anything that he could do to help in the morning, be it running the magnet or cleaning up the cell. This is clearly an ultimate form of teamwork and equality, that he sees us not only as students, but also as partners, as part of a team, as equals, that we're in this together. … Sometimes I disagreed with his views. Of course my views turned out to be wrong, but he gave them some thought, anyway, before he told me why and how they were incorrect. This is also what made him a great scientist and mentor."
— Andhika Kiswandhi