Stevenson Professor of Physics Keivan Stassun and Associate Professor of Physics Kalman Varga have been elected fellows of the American Physical Society.
The fellowship is considered a prestigious recognition from their professional peers. The criterion for election is exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise, such as outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education. The number of fellows the society can elect is limited to half a percent of its membership per year. This year the society elected a total of 251 new fellows.
Stassun was cited “for helping to substantially increase Ph.D. attainment in physics and astronomy for underrepresented minorities, and for fundamental contributions to the astrophysics of young stars and brown dwarfs.”
Stassun has made important intellectual contributions to the study of the physical processes that govern the birth and evolution of stars like the sun and has also been extremely active in recruiting minority students. He is a prime mover behind the Vanderbilt Initiative in Data-Intensive Astrophysics, a campus project designed to give Vanderbilt scientists a major role in the informatics revolution currently sweeping astronomy and astrophysics. At the same time he has played a key role in establishing the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. program which has become the leading source of underrepresented minority students obtaining doctoral degrees in the critical STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.
Varga was cited for developing computational algorithms to describe the motion of electrons and nuclei in matter, specifically “for the development of a class of variational methods for accurate treatment of quantum few-body systems of various natures.”
Varga’s research focuses on the interaction of lasers and matter at the atomic scale and is part of the new field of attosecond science – an attosecond is a billion billionths of a second – that is allowing scientists to study extremely short-lived phenomena such as the making and breaking of chemical bonds and tracking the real-time motion of electrons within semiconductors by probing them with attosecond pulses of laser light. They are also using these ultrafast pulses of light to create materials with new electronic and optical properties. Varga’s computer simulations are aiding efforts to exploit these dynamic material properties to produce the next generation of electronics.
The election of new fellows was published on the APS website and will appear in the December issue of the organization’s newsletter, APS News.
Stassun and Varga join 24 other Vanderbilt faculty members who have previously received this honor.