Each year that a professor in the University of Michigan Department of Physics is awarded specific honors from the American Physical Society (APS), we have cause to celebrate. This year, we have four times the reason: We are honored to announce that four members of our faculty have received awards or prizes from the APS. Professors Steven Cundiff, Katherine Freese, and Sharon Glotzer were recognized with specific honors. Additionally, Professor Jordan Horowitz, who will join the physics faculty in January 2019, has been recognized with an inaugural award given to early career scientists.

"Typically, the University of Michigan Physics Department is honored to receive one such award every 4-5 years," said Roberto Merlin, the Peter A. Franken Professor of Physics, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and chair of the Physics Department's award committee. "It's especially notable for four Michigan physicists to win these awards in a single year, and their hard work reflects the exciting research happening in ours and other departments of the university."

Steven Cundiff – Arthur L. Schawlow Prize

Steven Cundiff, Harrison M. Randall Professor of Physics is the recipient of the American Physical Society’s 2019 Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science “for pioneering contributions to the field of ultrafast laser spectroscopy, including optical multidimensional coherent spectroscopy applied to electronic excitation in solids and atomic vapors, and the development and application of femtosecond frequency comb technology.”

Professor Cundiff and his research team have made pioneering contributions to the development of optical multidimensional coherent spectroscopy and its application to studying electronic excitations in solids and atomic vapors. Multidimensional spectroscopy is a technique that allows ambiguities in standard spectra to be resolved, for example whether a transition occurs over a broad energy range or if many distinct transitions occur near the same energy. Professor Cundiff’s contributions include both the development of these techniques and the use of the method to reveal physical properties and processes that cannot be accessed by other methods. Examples include the elucidation of the role of interactions between electrons in solids and making size-selective measurements in ensembles of nanoparticles without the need to isolate single particles.

In addition to his work on multidimensional coherent spectroscopy, Professor Cundiff also made seminal contributions to the field of optical frequency combs. Optical frequency combs are a laser spectrum of distinct, equally spaced frequencies. They can be generated a number of ways, and in particular, Professor Cundiff’s group has studied the generation of the combs using mode-locked lasers, which emit pulses lasting a picosecond or shorter. Other contributions include the first demonstration of self-referencing the comb, which allows the absolute optical frequencies of the comb lines to be determined, and the experimental demonstration of the connection between the phase evolution of the pulses and the comb spectrum.

Recently Professor Cundiff has merged these fields by developing a new approach to multidimensional coherent spectroscopy based on frequency combs. This approach provides unprecedented spectral resolution in extremely short acquisition times using an apparatus with no moving parts.

The Schawlow Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to basic research which uses lasers to advance our knowledge of the fundamental physical properties of materials and their interaction with light. The prize was endowed by the NEC Corporation in 1991.

Katherine Freese – Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize

Katherine Freese, the George E. Uhlenbeck Collegiate Professor of Physics, was awarded the American Physical Society’s 2019 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize. The prize recognizes a most outstanding contribution to physics “for ground-breaking research at the interface of cosmology and particle physics, and her tireless efforts to communicate the excitement of physics to the general public.”

Professor Freese works on a wide range of topics in theoretical cosmology and astroparticle physics. She has been working to identify the dark matter and dark energy that permeate the universe. Dark matter and dark energy make up the vast majority of the universe, but their nature is still unknown. Professor Freese did seminal work on a type of dark matter known as Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs), leading to a field of underground experiments known as direct detection. She has also worked to build a successful model for the early universe immediately after the Big Bang. Professor Freese proposed “natural inflation” as a model for the primordial accelerating phase known as inflation, which would explain the smoothness of the universe on the largest scales. Her theoretical proposals are being tested against experimental results.

Recently, Professor Freese and her research team have explored a new idea for dark matter detection using ancient minerals brought up from deep boreholes 10 km below the surface of the Earth. Dark matter particles have been bombarding these minerals for half a billion years and may have left detectable tracks.

Professor Freese is also the author of a book titled The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter, which was published in June 2014 by Princeton University Press. She has given 45 public lectures, including at TED-X Vienna, The Hayden Planetarium in New York, the World Science Festival, the Edinburgh Science Festival, and most recently two public lectures to audiences of over 300 people, one in Stockholm, Sweden and the other in Valencia, Spain.   Freese has appeared on numerous radio, TV, and podcast interviews, including BBC TV’s “The Genius Behind” and “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.”

The Lilienfeld Prize was established in 1988 under the terms of a bequest of Beatrice Lilienfeld in memory of her husband, Julius Edgar Lilienfeld. The prize is awarded for outstanding contributions to physics by a single individual who also has exceptional skills in lecturing to diverse audiences.

Sharon Glotzer – Aneesur Rahman Prize

Sharon Glotzer, the John Werner Cahn Distinguished University Professor of Engineering and Professor of Physics and Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering is the recipient of the American Physical Society 2019 Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics. The prize recognizes outstanding achievement in computational physics research specifically “for innovative molecular dynamics simulations of the self-assembly of variously shaped particles which opened up new directions in soft matter and materials science research.”

Professor Glotzer’s research uses fast supercomputers made from graphics processors to investigate how particles self-assemble in order to engineer new materials and manipulate matter at the molecular and nanoparticle level to create novel structures. One contribution of Professor Glotzer and her research team is the idea of “patchy particles,” a conceptual approach to modeling, understanding and designing nanoparticles. This has led to a variety of investigations on self-organization and self-assembly.

One of her research interests is in modeling matter assembled from shapes. An example of this is studying how polyhedral shapes self-assemble from a random orientation into an ordered structure. In this area, her team has developed a “shape space diagram,” which shows how matter self-organizes into an ordered material based on the shape used for the constituent particles. This makes it possible to predict the type and structure of ordered material that will emerge from a system of randomly oriented particles. Professor Glotzer and her team showed that, counterintuitively, entropy alone can assemble shapes into many structures, which has implications in materials science, thermodynamics, mathematics, nanotechnology, biology, and more.

Professor Glotzer also holds positions as Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor of Applied Physics, and Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Her group additionally develops open-source software including a particle simulation toolkit called HOOMD-blue, an analysis toolkit called freud, and a workflow management framework called signac.

The Rahman Prize was established in 1992 with support from IBM Corporation as a means of recognizing outstanding work and disseminating information in computational physics.

Jordan Horowitz – Irwin Oppenheim Award

Professor Jordan Horowitz was awarded the American Physical Society 2019 Irwin Oppenheim Award. The prize recognizes outstanding contributions by early career scientists who have published their work in Physical Review E (PRE). PRE covers work in statistical, nonlinear, biological, and soft matter physics. Professor Horowitz was recognized together with his colleague Todd R. Gingrich, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University, for the article, “Proof of the finite-time thermodynamic uncertainty relation for steady-state currents,” published in PRE 96, 020103(R) (2017), which demonstrated significance, rigor, and broad impact in the general area of non-equilibrium thermodynamics.

Professor Horowitz works on extending ideas about energy, dissipation, and thermodynamics away from equilibrium into the far-from-equilibrium regime.  This is especially relevant for molecular and nanoscale systems, like the protein motors that power life.  At such small scales, the world is very different from our everyday experience, dominated by violent fluctuations and constant energy dissipation. One area of Professor Horowitz’s research on this topic is to understand how these fluctuations interplay with energy dissipation in such miniscule systems, which could lead to improvements in designing devices on the nanoscale.

Cells are an ideal playground for these kinds of ideas.  Inside cells, nearly every process occurs far from equilibrium, continually consuming energy in order to support life. The energy dissipation that drives these processes is inherently noisy. By studying living organisms from the molecular to the cellular scale, this research leads to a better understanding of life.

Professor Horowitz’s team also studies information thermodynamics, in which feedback from a measurement can be used to improve the energy output of a heat engine. When feedback is incorporated into a system, the system can be made more efficient. Applications include minimizing the requirements for sensing and responding, especially in single-celled organisms.

This year is the inaugural year of the Oppenheim Prize. The prize is the first APS award established by a Physical Review journal. Support for the prize comes from PRE’s founding editor, Irwin Oppenheim, along with his colleagues and members of the PRE community.

More Information:

Steven Cundiff
Katherine Freese
Sharon Glotzer
Jordan Horowitz
APS Prizes and Awards Recipients Announcement