U professor receives award for low-temperature physics research

by Wendy Weisman

Last week in Japan, professor Allen M. Goldman, head of physics at the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, was awarded the Fritz London Memorial Prize.

The award, regarded as the highest of its kind in the field of low-temperature physics, was presented to Goldman at a ceremony in Hiroshima.

“I’m so glad to see Dr. Goldman receive the recognition he so richly deserves,” said H. Ted Davis, Institute of Technology dean.

Within the physics department “everyone was elated,” said professor Paul Crowell, who conducts research in the same area as Goldman.

The London Prize is only awarded every three years. Eight of the previous winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Goldman researched the reasons materials transform when subjected to different environmental conditions, such as a drop in temperature. During these phase transitions, the properties of a material can change dramatically, just as when a lake freezes in winter.

Goldman’s research has given scientists a new way to think about a phase transition that takes place within materials called thin films, at temperatures as low as 457 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. These transitions are important not only to theorists but also to engineers developing applications with thin films.

Davis said the behavior of these nearly two-dimensional films “will be exceedingly important in this era of nanotechnology, as everyone is trying to make things smaller and smaller.” Crowell said the world is arriving at an age when virtually everything – computers, electronics and magnetic memory devices – will require thin-film technology.

The 2002 prize committee decided recognize three individuals for their contributions to the understanding of low-temperature physics.

Receiving the award with Goldman were Russell Donnelly of the University of Oregon and Walter Hardy of the University of British Columbia.