19 July 2010

Mag Lab materials scientist receives prestigious CAREER Award

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A professor in the Condensed Matter Physics research group at the Magnet Lab has earned major recognition — and support — for his work.

Oskar Vafek, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at The Florida State University, has won a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award is designated for young scientists who are still in the early stages of their academic careers and are intended to help them build upon previous accomplishments in their respective areas of research.

"Florida State is developing a critical mass of talented young faculty members who will be leaders in their fields for decades to come," said FSU Vice President for Research Kirby W. Kemper. "This is another tangible example of the scholarly rigor that Florida State is already known for and continues to emphasize."

Vafek, a theoretical physicist, is conducting research on a class of materials that includes graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet derived from the mineral graphite that is made entirely out of a hexagonal array of carbon atoms. Graphene's remarkable electronic properties make it a potential candidate for use in numerous technological applications, which has sparked tremendous interest in the scientific community and in industry.

His CAREER Award, which comes with NSF funding of $84,000 a year over five years, will support integrated research, education and outreach activities, including the development of "wiki-books," digital learning tools that will assist in the teaching of undergraduate and graduate-level physics courses. Using wiki-books, students work as teams to write certain chapters and edit others, thus sharpening their scientific writing skills while improving their understanding of often-complex concepts. (See http://wiki.physics.fsu.edu to view the physics department's wiki page.)

"I feel honored and exceptionally privileged to receive this award," Vafek said. "I view it as a bestowal of opportunity, and responsibility, to pursue experimentally motivated and curiosity-driven theoretical research. I am also aware that I have greatly benefited from the stimulating and collegial atmosphere of the Magnet Lab and the FSU physics department, both of which have unreservedly supported the proposed line of research and educational activities."