Thomas Halsey

Candidate for Treasurer

Biographical SummaryThomas Halsey
Thomas Halsey is currently Chief Computational Scientist at ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company in Spring, Texas. In this role, he exercises technical leadership of modeling physics, applied mathematics, technical software engineering, and high performance computing for ExxonMobil's global hydrocarbon exploration and production research, development, and business activities. During his tenure at the Upstream Research Company, ExxonMobil has developed a world-class petascale high performance computing capability, which has been used by Halsey and other company researchers to create major innovations in geophysical imaging and in the modeling of subsurface hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Halsey joined ExxonMobil (then Exxon) in 1994 at the Corporate Strategic Research Laboratories in Annandale, NJ. Since then, he has served in a variety of research, staff, and management jobs within the company, including Director of the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory in Annandale, a stint in Corporate Planning in ExxonMobil headquarters in Irving, TX, and a role as the founding manager of a computational sciences division at the Upstream Research Company, where he also managed a "breakthrough" innovation program for seven years.

From 1984 until 1994, Halsey was a postdoctoral fellow and then a faculty member at the University of Chicago, in the Department of Physics and the James Franck Institute. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1984 under the supervision of David R. Nelson, and attended the University of California, Riverside, as an undergraduate, graduating with a B.S. in 1980.

Halsey has worked in a variety of areas of statistical physics, soft-condensed matter physics, and applied mathematics. He was an author of a widely cited paper on the singularity spectra of multifractal measures, as well as a series of works applying these and other ideas to diffusion-limited aggregation; wrote key early papers on electro- and magneto-rheological fluids, and has investigated a number of topics in the statistical mechanics and dynamics of Josephson junction arrays. Since joining ExxonMobil, he has worked in the dynamics of granular systems as well as on the diagenesis (shape evolution over time) of porous media.

Notwithstanding the industrial direction of his career, he has remained engaged with both the academic and national laboratory physics communities. He has held visiting positions at CE-Saclay (France), New York University, and Boston University; he has also served on advisory boards at Harvard, Northwestern, Rice, and New York Universities. He is a past chair of the APS Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Candidate's Statement
The heart of modern science is communication, and the most important function of the APS is to promote scientific communication, which it achieves through its publishing and meeting activities. Indeed, most members are aware of the APS mainly through these activities, which are the primary means by which the APS supports our careers. The APS has promoted communication extremely well for over one hundred years, but the current state of both physics and society require that we continue to improve our performance in advancing scientific communication. I thus believe that the APS Treasurer, with lead oversight responsibility for APS budgeting, investment, and development, must be committed to effective use of APS resources to maintain and enhance scientific communication.

We are all aware of the challenges facing the business model for scientific publishing. A larger issue is the gap that has emerged in the last generation between the activities of those members, primarily in academia and national labs, focused on open, peer-reviewed science, and the growth of industrially-focused physics research (much of it in universities!), which creates a variety of forms of intellectual property.   This gap weakens both sides. Application-focused scientists need to apply the most recent insights into nature, which usually emerge from academic researchers. On the other hand, academic researchers interested in addressing major social problems in energy, the environment, health care, homeland security, or manufacturing need insights into how to scale technologies to succeed in the marketplace, insights that industrial scientists are best placed to provide.

Physics advances through the fertile interaction between its rigorous and deep exploration of nature and its powerful impact on our society.  Early in my career, these two sides of physics were effectively linked by large industrial basic research operations such as Bell Labs and IBM Watson.  While physics is still widely practiced in industry (as reflected in industrial membership statistics for the APS), much physics now occurs in smaller companies, or is embedded in efforts including, and perhaps led by, other disciplines.

Physics is thus still important in industry, but it is less visible, which has frayed the links between the "academic" and "industrial" sides of the discipline. The APS has laid a strong foundation for addressing this through the activities of the Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics and the establishment of the journal Physical Review Applied. While fully solving this problem is well beyond the resources of any one APS leader (or even of one learned society), I believe that my exposure to both fundamental and applied research conducted at a top level will help me to contribute unique insights on how the APS can maintain and improve strong communication among all of its members.

In addition to this overarching challenge, we must not neglect our other important goals. These include advocating for physics to governments and society at large, promoting open international mobility of physicists (a key avenue of communication), and ensuring that the next generation of talent needed to advance our beloved science can receive the education needed. This applies especially to those who might be excluded, or exclude themselves, due to class, sex, ethnicity, or other characteristics.

Gray arrow Back to Election Homepage