APS News

Three Budding Young Physicists are New Apker Recipients

Jacob Krich, Heather Lynch, Steven Oliver
From left to right: Jacob Krich, Heather Lynch, Steven Oliver (Photos by Ken Cole/APS)

Three promising undergraduate physics majors have been awarded the 2000 Apker Award. Jacob Krich of Swarthmore College was honored for his thesis entitled, "Correlation Length and Chirality of Isotropic Short-range Order in Nematic and Chiral Nematic Liquid Crystals." Heather Lynch of Princeton University was honored for her thesis entitled, "A Kondo Box: Coulomb Blockade and the Kondo Effect in Iron-Doped Copper Nanoparticles." And Steven Oliver of the University of California, Berkeley, was honored for his thesis entitled, "Three-Dimensional Raman Sideband Cooling at High Density."

End of an Era

Lustig

After this year, the APS Apker Award Selection Committee will be minus a man who has become a fixture of the committee for more than a decade. Harry Lustig, former APS treasurer who retired from that position in 1996, will be retiring from the selection committee after 16 consecutive years of service.

Lustig first became involved with the Apker Award selection committee when he succeeded Joe Burton as APS Treasurer in 1985. At that time, the Apker Award was administered by the Treasurer's Office, and Lustig assumed that responsibility as part of his APS duties. He continued his association upon his retirement from the APS at the suggestion of then-APS associate executive officer (and former APS News editor) Barrett Ripin.

Lustig admits he will miss the opportunity to read such excellent physics research work, and to meet so many brilliant young physicists, but says he believes the committee should consist primarily of those who are active in physics research. "It's a wonderful experience and really shows that physics is in good hands," he says of his committee service. As his next projects, he will be reviewing the 4,500 new physics entries in the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, and will be teaching a course on solar energy at the University of New Mexico.


The Apker Award is given annually by the APS for physics research done by an undergraduate. The award was first given in 1978, and in recent years has been divided into two categories, depending on whether the institution has a PhD granting program or not. The winners will receive $5,000, and are selected by a committee from among the six finalists.

The experiment that forms the basis of Krich's award-winning thesis measured the pitch of the chiral fluctuations in the isotropic phase of a liquid crystal. The purpose was to test two theories that predict strong discontinuities in the pitch at this transition. Despite the difficulty of conducting such an experiment, Krich succeeded in obtaining results that demonstrate unequivocally that the two theories do not describe the chirality at this transition well at all, according to his thesis advisor, Peter Collings. He presented his results at the International Liquid Crystal Conference in Sendai, Japan, this summer.

In addition to the Apker Award and numerous graduate fellowships, Krich received awards from Swarthmore for the graduating senior with the strongest academic performance and graduating physics or astronomy major who has performed at the highest level in both course work and research. Krich is currently attending Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar studying mathematics, and plans to pursue graduate study in experimental condensed matter physics at Harvard University when he returns to the US.

Lynch came up with the idea for her award-winning thesis independently after reading an article in Physical Review Letters on superconducting nanoparticles. According to department chair Curtis Callan, she "had an overwhelming curiosity" to understand the complex interplay between spin-polarized tunneling and finite-size effects in a metallic nanoparticle doped with a magnetic impurity. She learned the required experimental techniques, including nanofabrication and low temperature low noise measurements, and did so with minimal supervision.

Lynch's research results gave her the opportunity to present a talk at the 2000 APS March Meeting in Minneapolis, and at the meeting of the Materials Research Society in April in San Francisco. She also received the Undergraduate Materials Research Society Initiative Award for her work, as well as Princeton's "Shenstone" prize honoring the most outstanding senior experimental thesis in the Physics Department. Lynch is currently pursuing graduate studies at Harvard University under a fellowship from Lucent Technologies.

Oliver's award-winning thesis research on 3D Raman sideband cooling at high density was one of several laboratory experiments he performed as an undergraduate. He achieved the highest laser-cooled phase space density to date, according to his thesis advisor, David Weiss, and his results should enable a host of future experiments, including quantum entanglement in an optical lattice, and studies of cold gases in reduced dimensions. As one of six team members, Oliver carried out some critical calculations that helped the team redesign their technique during the course of the experiment, and also took the lead in implementing several modifications to the experiment's complex beam timing and control. Oliver received UCB's Departmental Citation for his work, the highest honor for an undergraduate, and is pursuing his graduate studies there.


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