Ellen Williams to Serve as Chief Scientist at BP

As you may know, Distinguished University Professor Ellen Williams will take a leave of absence beginning January 15 to serve as Chief Scientist at British/Beyond Petroleum.  BP is the third largest oil company and the fifth largest corporation on the planet, and as BP’s Chief Scientist Ellen will play a role in determining how developments in science and technology can contribute to sustainable, secure and environmentally responsible energy.

Ellen has made important contributions in condensed matter/surface physics in her extremely productive and prestigious career; our campus is infinitely richer and wiser for her 28 years here. Her research accomplishments and her ability to bring first-rate people into the Physics Department have played a huge role in bringing the department into the top tier.  But given the gravity of the environmental and energy issues facing the globe at this juncture, we can all appreciate and commend her willingness to focus her talents on these topics.

Since 1996, Ellen has directed the UMD Materials Research Science and Engineering Center in cutting-edge research, developing collaborations and innovative outreach. Among her special interests are surfaces at the atomic scale, thin films, low-dimensional interfaces and graphene.

In 2005, she was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences; two years earlier, she was selected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has been honored with the David Turnbull Lectureship for career contributions from the Materials Research Society, and has received from the American Physical Society both the David Adler Lectureship Award for work in materials and the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award for outstanding achievement as a young researcher.

Throughout her decades as an acclaimed scientist, she has been utterly committed to encouraging the involvement and success of women and minorities in physics and related fields. An interesting profile on her own ascent accompanied the publication of her inaugural article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. http://www.pnas.org/content/105/43/16415.full .

As physics chair, I certainly would prefer that Ellen Williams stayed here in College Park, doing cutting-edge research in her lab, giving invaluable guidance to her students, masterfully maintaining MRSEC and strengthening the department through her many skills and insights. But as a consumer of energy and a citizen of planet earth, I wish her the maximum possible success in her new job.


CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards Announced

Allie Hoch (honorable mention), John Silberholz (finalist) and Richard McCutchen (winner) received CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards for 2010. A copy of the announcement will appear in the January 2010 issue of Computing Research News. It will also be posted on CRA's website (www.cra.org) later this week.


ADM Conference Celebrating Arnowitt, Deser and Charles Misner’s Fundamental Contribution to the Field

Texas A&M University, supported by the Department of Physics and College of Science, is holding a three-day conference in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the ADM formulation. The ADM formulation, developed by Richard Arnowitt, Stanley Deser and Maryland’s Charles Misner, restructured the dynamics of general relativity. The conference will be held November 7 – 8 and will celebrate the contribution to the understanding of gravitation. Additionally, it will focus on current research and developments in the field.

In Dr. Misner's words: Einstein's 1915 gravitation equations had both unfamiliar content (spacetime is curved) but also a mathematical form that intimidated physicists (including Einstein) familiar with Newton's mechanics and Maxwell's electromagnetism.  In 1959 Arnowitt, Deser, and Misner (ADM) found a way to recast Einstein's equations in a ("Hamiltonian") form which allowed hard-won mechanical and electromagnetic intuitions to be applied to gravity. One result was to encourage attempts to solve Einstein's equations on computers, which in the last couple decades has grown into a major method for understanding black hole interactions.

For more information on the conference, visit http://adm-50.physics.tamu.edu

Kara Hoffman Awarded the 2009 Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship

Assistant Professor Kara Hoffman has received the 2009 Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship, which recognizes outstanding personal effort and expertise in physics as well as dedicated service to the UMD Department of Physics. The Fellowship, established in 2001, honors Dr. Richard A. Ferrell, a deeply-respected physicist who joined the University in 1953, served 40 years, and remained active in the department even after his retirement. Dr. Ferrell died in 2005 at his nearby University Park home.

Professor Hoffman is a particle astrophysicist whose current areas of focus are AURA (the Askaryan Underice Radio Array) and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole. She was the recent recipient of an NSF CAREER award and in 2007 received the Board of Visitors' Distinguished Junior Faculty Award from the College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences.