APS News

APS Members Elect Hopfield as New Vice President in 2004 General Election

John J. Hopfield
John Hopfield
APS members elected John Hopfield, the Howard A. Prior Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, as the new APS vice president in the 2004 general election. Hopfield will take office January 1, 2005. In 2006 he will become president-elect, assuming the mantle of APS president in 2007. The APS president for 2005 will be Marvin Cohen of the University of California, Berkeley.

In other election results, the University of Chicago's Thomas Rosenbaum was elected chair-elect of the APS Nominating Committee, which is responsible for proposing a slate of candidates each year for the Society's general election. Ann Orel of University of California, Davis, and Lucent Technologies/Bell Laboratories' Richart Slusher were elected as general councilors. Also approved was an amendment to the APS Constitution, slightly modifying the mechanisms for the formation and termination of topical groups.

Kenneth Cole, Special Assistant to the Executive Officer, described the 2004 election as "the easiest and smoothest in the four years since we have been offering online voting." In addition to saving the Society a great deal of money in mailing costs, the online voting option has proven overwhelmingly popular with members: 91% of all those who voted did so online. Those few remaining members who prefer paper ballots can request them. The percentage of APS members voting was 22.8%, slightly higher than in 2003, but below the all-time high of 24.9% in 2002. Before the online voting option was offered, the percentage of members voting hovered between 18% and 20%.

Hopfield was born into a physics household in the midst of the Depression. His father had taken a one- year position helping set up the physics exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair. His mother had met him when they were both graduate students in physics at Berkeley. "The culture of the household was that anything physical could and should be observed, measured, taken apart into its components, understood (if necessary even repaired) and that joy, deep satisfaction, and new technologies could all come with successes in this process," he said.

Hopfield received his PhD from Cornell in 1958. He joined the theoretical group at Bell Laboratories for two years, and began his teaching career in the physics department at Berkeley in 1961. In 1964 he returned east to Princeton as a professor of physics. His research interests having turned toward the interface between physics and biology, he resigned his Higgins Professorship in 1980 to go to Caltech as the Dickinson Professor of Chemistry and Biology in order to help build the multidisciplinary interface. In 1996, he returned to Princeton.

Hopfield's PhD thesis formulated a field-theoretic description of the interaction of light with excitons in solids. He continued research on the interaction of light with solids, and the interpretation of absorption and emission spectra, receiving (with experimental chemist co-worker D. G. Thomas) the Buckley Prize from the APS in 1969 for this work. In 1970 his interests turned toward understanding biology. His researches in molecular biology described "kinetic proofreading" which greatly enhances the selectivity of biochemical reactions by proofreading at the molecular level. In 1980 his interests in biology began to focus on how a nervous system carries out its "computations". He received the APS Biophysics Prize in 1985.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to put something back into an institution so important to the healthy state of American physics, and an institution that behind the scenes has helped me to have a fulfilling professional life," Hopfield said of his successful bid. "The institutions essential for physics to prosper do not function well unless serious scientists are enthusiastic about taking leadership roles."

Rosenbaum is the James Franck Professor of Physics and the Vice President for Research and for Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago. His research interests center on the quantum mechanical nature of materials at low temperature, where the mix of statics and dynamics leads to a new class of phase transitions and to states with unusual excitation spectra. Rosenbaum conducted research at Bell Laboratories and at IBM Watson Research Center before he joined the Chicago faculty in 1983. He directed the NSF Materials Research Laboratory from 1991 to 1994 and the James Franck Institute, an interdisciplinary research institute focused on problems at the intersection of physical chemistry and condensed matter physics, from 1995 to 2001. Rosenbaum received his PhD in physics from Princeton University in 1982.

In his candidate's statement, Rosenbaum identified three major challenges confronting the APS:

  1. 1. Reestablishing balanced funding for basic research in the physical sciences, with an emphasis on the benefits of interdisciplinary endeavors;
  2. 2. Educating policy leaders and the general public to think quantitatively and critically so that public policy decisions can be technically informed; and
  3. 3. Communicating the excitement of physics to our students so that physics can continue to attract to our profession the brightest men and women from all backgrounds.

Orel attended the University of California, Berkeley, receiving her PhD in chemistry in 1981. She worked in the Laser Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a staff scientist from 1981 to 1985. She was then employed at the Aerospace Corporation as a member of the Technical Staff. In 1988 she accepted a position in Berkeley's Department of Applied Science. She currently chairs the department and is the Edward Teller Professor of Applied Science. Her research interests are in the area of theoretical molecular physics, particularly the study of low-energy collisions between electrons and molecules and molecular ions. She is particularly interested in systems where there is a strong interplay between the electronic and nuclear degrees of freedom, for example dissociative recombination and attachment.

"The face of physics is always changing. Even the definition of what is physics constantly changes," Orel said in her candidate's statement. She herself holds degrees in chemistry, is a professor in an applied science department, yet she identifies herself as a physicist. "This is not unique, but now becoming the norm for physics, multidisciplinary and multi- application. Yet the core of physics is the same. We are engaged in the search for truth, no matter if we are looking in different places."

Slusher is director of the Quantum Information and Optics Department at Lucent Technologies, Bell Laboratories. He received his PhD in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1965. His present research interests include nonlinear photonic crystals, nonlinear optical waveguides and fibers, quantum optics and quantum computation.

During the mid-1970s and early 1980s he worked at Princeton and MIT using CO2 laser light scattering from Tokamak plasmas to study turbulence near their edges and radio frequency heating processes. He and his collaborators were the first to observe squeezed light in 1985, a new quantum state of light with uncertainties in one field component below the standard quantum limit.

In the early 1990s he and his collaborators demonstrated microdisk lasers in semiconductors as well as nonlinear optics and lasing in organic materials. He received the 1995 APS Arthur Schawlow Prize in laser spectroscopy.

In his candidate's statement, Slusher identified increased funding for physics, public awareness of the tremendous value of physics education and physics applications in our daily lives, and enhanced interdisciplinary activities and cooperation among physicists around the globe as top priorities for the APS.

Furthermore, "Applications of physics for long-range advances in energy, homeland security and restoring the environment should be highlighted and encouraged by the society in imaginative ways," he said. "All of this is based on a foundation of fundamental physics research and the inspiration we all find in the study of physics. We must preserve these values."

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette