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APS Honors Two Young Physicists With 1996 Apker Award

apkerTwo promising young physicists have been named by the APS as recipients of the 1996 Apker Award for their research achievements as undergraduates. Christopher Schaffer and Benjamin S. Williams will each receive a $3,000 stipend, a certificate, and a travel allowance to attend the 1997 Joint APS/AAPT Spring Meeting in Washington, DC, in April, where the award will be presented. They will also be invited to present papers at an appropriate technical session during the meeting. Since 1992, the committee has sought to select two winners, one from a Ph.D.- granting institution and one from a predominantly undergraduate institution.

Schaffer was honored for his thesis entitled "Programmable Shaping of Ultrabroad-Bandwidth Pulses from a Ti:Sapphire Laser," which has been published in the Journal of the Optical Society of America B. He graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville in December 1995, with minors in both mathematics and English. He is currently pursuing graduate studies in physics at Harvard University under a National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship awarded him by the U.S. Department of Defense.

While an undergraduate, Schaffer worked on the development of ultra-fast laser spectroscopy, with particular responsibility for the generation, manipulation, and amplification of femtosecond laser pulses. The ability to do spectroscopy at these ultra-short time scales could result in applications extending from basic science to practical applications in biophysics, such as the study of the back of the retina for early diagnosis of eye disease. In addition to successfully developing the theory and implementation of temporal pulse shaping techniques at ultra- short time scales, Schaffer recently worked on the construction of multi-pass amplifier systems for a femtosecond laser system.

Williams was honored for his thesis entitled "Mixing of a Passive Scalar in a Two-Dimensional Turbulence," which has been submitted to Physics of Fluids for publication. He is currently pursuing graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Electrical Engineering, where he has been awarded a research assistantship.

During his senior year at Haverford College, Williams embarked on a novel experimental study of mixing in two-dimensional turbulence, testing an old but never satisfactorily confirmed prediction about the spatial power spectrum at high wavenumbers of a weakly diffusing impurity that is passively advected by a flow. He obtained strong evidence for an unexpected result, namely, that the power spectrum of the concentration field falls off much more strongly with increasing wave number than had been anticipated. His result may have interesting applications to geophysical transport.

Established in 1978 through an endowment by Jean Dickey Apker in memory of her fellow solid state physicist and husband, LeRoy Apker, the Apker Award is given annually in recognition of outstanding achievement in physics by undergraduate students. It is intended to encourage young physicists who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment. All students at U.S. colleges and universities who were undergraduates during at least part of the year prior to the deadline for nominations are eligible to apply.


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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin