APS fellowships recognize members who have made significant contributions to physics through original research, in applications of physics, in teaching or service.
Professor Henriette Elvang was nominated by the Division of Particles and Fields and recognized “for profound insights into gravitational field solutions with novel horizon geometries, the structure of quantum scattering in supersymmetric theories, corner contributions to entanglement entropy, and precision holography.”
Professor Elvang works on problems in quantum field theory and gravity. Her current research focuses on theories that describe low-energy physics of particles, for example theories that arise from spontaneous symmetry breaking. Rather than the traditional approaches, namely the Lagrangian descriptions, Professor Elvang and her students use the physical observables, in particular scattering amplitudes, to characterize and classify the low-energy effective field theories. Together with former U-M physics postdoctoral student Yu-tin Huang, Professor Elvang wrote a textbook on the modern approach to scattering amplitudes in quantum field theory.
Professor David Lubensky was nominated by the Division of Biological Physics and recognized “for seminal applications of ideas from statistical and nonlinear physics to understand complex biological systems, including in particular cyanobacterial circadian clocks and diverse examples of animal development.”
Professor Lubensky studies how biological systems develop and organize themselves into specialized cells making up an organism. His studies are computational and theoretical, and based heavily on physical principles. For example, self-organization has long been studied in physics in terms of the transition from liquid to solid. A biological equivalent to this is in animal development, or the way an egg multiplies into cells that “know” they should become a certain type of tissue. Besides animal development, Professor Lubensky’s team studies circadian clocks. The most familiar example is an animal’s sleep-wake cycle. Circadian clocks can be modeled as oscillators with a period of 24 hours, and Professor Lubensky’s team has studied the biological mechanisms causing this oscillator, focusing on proteins in bacteria. Professor Lubensky also collaborates with experimental biologists to test and develop his theories.
Professor Stephen Rand was nominated by the Division of Laser Science and recognized “for outstanding contributions to precision optical spectroscopy, laser physics, and the exploration of ultrafast magneto-electric interactions at the molecular level.”
Highlights of Professor Rand's research on these topics include determination of the electronic and spin structures of color centers in diamond. Color centers are defects in the crystal structure that affect not only its color but important potential applications such as quantum computing and magnetic sensing. Professor Rand and his students have also demonstrated numerous upconversion lasers, which unlike standard lasers, emit light at wavelengths shorter than that of the pump light. A final highlight of Professor Rand’s research is the first report of optical interactions driven simultaneously by the electric and magnetic field components of light in individual molecules.
Professor Alexander Thomas was nominated by the Division of Plasma Physics and recognized “for contributions to the experimental and theoretical understanding of short pulse high intensity laser plasma interactions and in particular for the development of laser wakefield accelerators and the generation of x-rays from these beams.”
Professor Thomas’s research involves very high intensity laser-plasma interactions. In a single cycle of these interactions, the laser field is intense enough to accelerate electrons to relativistic energies. One particular topic his team focuses on is the acceleration of ultrarelativistic electron beams, where the electrons move at almost the speed of light. These beams are accelerated by “surfing” them on a plasma wave excited by the laser. Professor Thomas also studies the emission of energetic photons when these electrons interact with strong electromagnetic fields.