26, No. 11, Dec. 7, 2006
Four physics faculty members named APS Fellows
Four Illinois physics faculty members – Rob Leigh, Charles Gammie, Mats Selen and Scott Willenbrock – have been elected as fellows of the American Physical Society. Each year, no more than one-half of 1 percent of the then-current APS membership is recognized by their peers for election to the status of fellow.
Leigh, who joined the department of Physics at Illinois in 1996, was recognized “for his important work in string theory, supersymmetric gauge theory, the theory of the electroweak phase transition, and the theory of D-branes.” Leigh’s work lies at the heart of current efforts to build a fundamental theory of matter, including quantum gravity effects, and he has done outstanding work in string theory, supersymmetric field theory, and other topics in particle physics and early universe cosmology.
Gammie’s research involves magnetohydrodynamics, star formation and accretion physics. He is a leader in the computer simulation of astrophysical plasmas, the formation of interstellar clouds and the collapse of dense clouds to form stars. He also is carrying out calculations of disk accretion onto black holes in general relativity. A member of the physics and astronomy faculty since January 1999, he was recognized by APS “for contributions to understanding the structure and implications of astrophysical turbulence, particularly in black hole magnetospheres, star forming interstellar clouds and circumstellar disks.”
Selen, also known as “The Whys Guy” to area television viewers, was cited “for leadership and hardware contributions to the CLEO collaboration and contributions to the understanding of charm hadronic decays and excited states.” Since coming to Illinois in 1993, he has been a prime mover behind the massive curriculum revision of the calculus-based introductory physics courses. He developed an undergraduate Discovery course in which freshmen create their own physics demonstrations –designed for grade-school children - to introduce them to the fun and excitement of physics. Selen also started the Physics Van, the department’s award-winning community outreach program.
A specialist in elementary particle theory, Willenbrock has conducted research on a variety of topics in high energy physics, ranging from relevant and influential highly technical calculations of higher-order corrections in quantum field theory to vitally important insights into the phenomenology of elementary particles. His research has focused on reliable predictions for electroweak phenomenology and specific methods for determining new physics at the electroweak energy scale and on the specific mechanisms of electroweak symmetry breaking. The APS citation recognized Willenbrock “for pioneering work in the understanding of single top quark in hadron colliders, and for contributions to the understanding of associated production of Higgs and vector bosons as a discovery channel at the Tevatron and LHC.”