TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Four physicists who conduct much of their research at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory have received one of the top honors in their field: They have been named fellows of the American Physical Society (APS).
With nearly 48,000 members, the APS is the nation’s largest and most prestigious professional society dedicated to the advancement of physics research and knowledge. Election to fellowship is limited to no more than one-half of 1 percent of the society’s membership and is a significant recognition by a scientist’s peers of his or her outstanding contributions to physics.
The researchers selected as APS fellows for 2010, and the language provided on their citations, are as follows:
- Scott Crooker, staff member at the lab's Pulsed Field Facility at Los Alamos National Lab,for the development of magneto-optical spectroscopies and their applications to colloidal quantum dots and electron spin transport and noise in semiconductors.
- Vladimir Dobrosavljevic, professor of physics and at Florida State University and director of the Magnet Lab's Condensed Matter Science-Theory program, "for research on fundamental localization processes near the metal-insulator transition, particularly the interplay of strong electronic correlations, disorder, and quantum glassy dynamics."
- Huan-Xiang Zhou, professor of physics at FSU and an affiliate of the Magnet Lab’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance program, “for his pioneering contributions to theoretical and computational biophysics, in particular by developing elegant theories and methods on protein-ligand binding and the effects of intracellular environment on biophysical properties of proteins.”
- Lloyd W. Engel, graduate research faculty member in physics at FSU and a scholar-scientist at the Magnet Lab, “for contributions to the study of the quantum Hall effects and associated electron solid phases using microwaves in very high magnetic fields.”
“Being named a Fellow of the American Physical Society is a great recognition from one’s peers in the physics research community,” said Mag Lab Director Greg Boebinger. “It is a delight to work alongside scientists with this level of talent.”
While they may share the new honor, the researcher’s areas of research differ dramatically.
Much of Crooker’s work in recent years has focused on “semiconductor spintronics,” an emerging field centered on the study of the spin (i.e., magnetic) properties of electrons in semiconductor structures. Basic research in this area aims to investigate how these spin properties can be utilized — in conjunction with electrons’ charge properties — to achieve new functionalities in future generations of electronic devices.
“The Mag Lab and Los Alamos National Lab have always been very supportive of these research efforts, for which I’m very grateful,” said Crooker. “I’m able to interact on a daily basis in a very collaborative environment with a bunch of really clever colleagues — it’s a fantastic peer group.”
Dobrosavljevic’s research, meanwhile, involves theoretical studies of the fundamental processes that determine how well a given material conducts electricity: Does it act as a metal or as an insulator?
“To understand it and to control it,” he said, “could prove more useful and lucrative than converting lead into gold.”
Indeed, the last few decades have witnessed some amazing and unexpected advances in materials science and technology. And the ability to determine how well materials conduct electricity — its intellectual underpinning — is what was indispensable in designing and fabricating the iPhone, the Xbox and the MRI diagnostic tool, among other modern amenities.
“Today’s kids have grown up in a different world than had their parents — all because we have learned a few basic ideas and principles of electron dynamics,” Dobrosavljevic said.
Working almost exclusively at the Magnet Lab is Engel, who studies the physics of semiconductors at low temperatures and high magnetic fields.
“I am grateful to my colleagues for thinking of me” via the APS fellowship, Engel said.
Zhou’s extensive work on the binding kinetics of proteins has influenced both theorists and experimentalists. He explains that the binding of proteins with small molecules, other proteins, nucleic acids, and their complexes is at the center of biological processes.
“Our theory provides a unifying framework for understanding binding mechanisms and accurately predicts binding rate constants,” he said. “While most studies on proteins are carried in test tubes, ultimately our concern is how proteins behave inside cells. We have been investigating the influences of the crowded intracellular environment on biophysical properties of proteins and have played a leading role in turning such studies into a major area of research.”