Janet Das Sarma, 1971 - 2019

Janet Das Sarma, who managed the Condensed Matter Theory Center (CMTC) for the last decade, died on December 2, 2019 at the age of 48 years.

DasSarma janetShe received a diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic cancer in 2016 and was given a four-month life expectancy, but lived 43 months while undergoing nine separate therapies. Despite these grueling protocols, she continued to carry out all her CMTC duties. On October 25th, she was honored at the Physics staff awards luncheon for her comprehensive efforts in moving the CMTC from the Toll to the Atlantic Building. Her disease took a sudden, decisive bad turn in early November, and she died in December at home, looking at her favorite garden.

Janet ensured that CMTC faculty, postdocs, students and visitors could pursue their scientific interests unhindered by bureaucratic inconvenience. Her careful handling of applications and recommendations helped an immense number of CMTC alumni secure their professorial appointments at various institutions.

She regarded as her greatest accomplishment the raising of her sons, Andrew and Matthew.


Ellen Williams Named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Ellen D. Williams, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers, because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

“I am honored to receive this award and delighted that it affirms the important role of scientists in providing clear technical assessments to support policy decisions,” Williams said.   Williams E

Williams came to UMD in 1981 for a postdoctoral fellowship and rose to the rank of professor by 1991. At Maryland, she established an internationally recognized research program in experimental surface science, exploring fundamental issues in statistical mechanics and nanotechnology. She also pioneered the use of very powerful electron scanning, tunneling microscopes to study the surface of materials like silicon at the atomic level. In 1996, Williams founded the University of Maryland Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, serving as its director until 2009. 

Williams served as the chief scientist for British Petroleum (BP) from 2010 to 2014, before her confirmation by the U.S. Senate as the director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) on Dec. 8, 2014. Launched with bipartisan support in 2009, ARPA-E’s mission is to advance high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early in development for private-sector investment. 

Williams returned to UMD in January 2017. Since then, she has been working to bridge policy and technology perspectives for clean energy innovation. Recently, she completed a report to the State of Maryland on “The Present Status and Future Potential of Maryland’s Clean Energy Innovation System.

“Dr. Williams is continuing the long tradition of accomplished physicists turning their attention and skills to tackling major policy issues of the day—in her case, climate change and energy policy,” said Steven Rolston, professor and chair of the UMD Department of Physics. “We are lucky to have someone with her talents contributing to these issues, which are among most pressing facing humanity."

Williams has a distinguished history of professional service, including chairing the development of the National Academy of Sciences’ 2002 report on “Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty” and providing extensive technical advice to the U.S. government, primarily through the Departments of Energy and Defense. As a member of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, Williams co-authored the 2009 final report titled “America’s Strategic Posture,” which provided more than 100 findings and recommendations on critical issues related to the U.S. nuclear strategy.

Williams received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Michigan State University in 1976 and her Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1981. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a foreign member of the Royal Society (London). She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Vacuum Society. Williams has also been recognized by awards from the American Physical Society and the Materials Research Society.

Williams is one of 443 AAAS members to be named as a Fellow this year. New Fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on November 29, 2019, and will be presented with an official certificate and a rosette pin on Saturday, February 15, 2020 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.


Original story by Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

University of Maryland
College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
2300 Symons Hall
College Park, MD 20742

Physics Staff Members Honored at Annual Luncheon

Five members of the Department of Physics were honored at an October luncheon held in the lobby of the Physical Sciences Complex. 
The Chair's Award for Outstanding Service was given to Mark Conners. One nominator called him "an incredible asset to faculty and staff at the Physics Department, and in particular to young assistant professors who start out on a faculty job with a range of non-trivial financial and procedural matters they need to deal with right away."
The Sibylle Sampson Award was given to Samantha Suplee. She was nominated for planning and coordinating the North American Conference on Trapped Ions (NACTI). "Pulling this together required quick thinking and creative solutions. Her energy, drive, positive attitude and friendly manner have made this conference a success."
The Staff Excellence Award was given to three employees.
  • Janet Das Sarma. She was cited for her "tremendous organization and coordination" in arranging the Condensed Matter Theory Center's move from the Toll Building to a new suite in the Atlantic Building. "She spent an enormous amount of time and attention to detail to make this happen.  I commend her for this effort!"
  • Donna Hammer.  "Donna Hammer puts her life and soul into this department and it shows. She gives so much of her time and effort into making this place comforting for women in undergrad and beyond and fosters the personal and professional development needed so we can succeed. She is constantly branching out to do new and innovative things."
  • Kristin Stenson.  She was nominated for her contributions to CNAM – including event planning, graphics development and outreach activities – as it was renamed the Quantum Materials Center. She was cited for "exceptional service, commitment and tremendous contribution to the center and its development."

Sankar Das Sarma, Chris Monroe and Ian Spielman Named 2019 Highly Cited Researchers

Sankar Das Sarma, Chris Monroe and Ian Spielman join two other faculty members in the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences included on Clarivate Analytics’ 2019 list of Highly Cited Researchers, a compilation of influential names in science.

Das Sarma is a Richard E. Prange Chair and Distinguished University Professor in Physics, Joint Quantum Institute Fellow, and Condensed Matter Theory Center Director. Das Sarma was included in previous compilations of this list in 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2001.

Monroe is the Bice Zorn Professor of Physics, a Distinguished University Professor, a member of the Quantum Technology Center and a fellow of the Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science and the Joint Quantum Institute

Spielman is an Adjunct Professor of Physics, JQI Fellow and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Fellow. Spielman was also included in the  2018 and 2017 compilations.