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NIST Physicist Wins Young Investigator Award

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – John D. Gillaspy, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has been selected to receive the 1998 Young Investigator Award at Sigma Xi's annual meeting November 12-15 in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is the first recipient of this new award, which includes a certificate of recognition and $5,000. Presented annually, the award will alternate between the physical sciences and the life and social sciences.

According to Awards Committee Chair Millicent E. Goldschmidt, the Young Investigator Award was created by the Board of Directors to acknowledge the work of researchers early in their careers and their ability to communicate its importance to the general public. Goldschmidt is a professor in the dental branch department of basic sciences at the University of Texas Houston Health Science Center.

"Membership in Sigma Xi recognizes scientists for their research achievements or potential," Goldschmidt said. "At one end of the continuum are established scientists who receive the Procter Prize for their research and their ability to communicate its importance to the public. However, many young members also deserve special recognition. Dr. Gillaspy and the other nominees epitomize the type of young investigator we wish to honor."

Gillaspy received his Ph.D. in 1988 from Harvard University, where he also received his A.M. degree. His undergraduate work was at Stanford University. At NIST, he is leader of the Electron Beam Ion Trap (EBIT) project in the Atomic Physics Division. One of the primary applications of the EBIT is the production of fundamental data in support of such areas as X-ray astrophysics, solar physics and fusion devices for electrical power generation.

Already with some 40 publications to his credit, Gillaspy has performed pioneering research in several fields. Under his joint leadership, for example, a collaborative group of NIST and Harvard researchers developed a new method of etching nanoscale patterns on surfaces, which has breakthrough potential in the field of microelectronic circuits. The group's work was first described in Science (September 1, 1995) in an article titled "Microlithography by Using Neutral Metastable Atoms and Self-Assembled Monolayers."

"There are now numerous groups around the world pursuing this line of research," according to William D. Phillips, group leader in NIST's Atomic Physics Division. "It may prove to be of wide-reaching significance because it promises the ability to write nanoscale features with high speed and a resolution not limited by the wavelength of light."

Phillips continued: "Gillaspy's leadership supplied constant stimulus to the project, even during a long, difficult period when results were not reproducible. He provided the needed encouragement and fresh ideas to keep attacking the problems until they were solved."

Gillaspy is also much in demand as a lecturer because of his ability to make the complexities of his research understandable. "He has the ability to take a difficult and complicated topic and in a very short time boil it down to its key elements," according to NIST Magnetic Materials Group Leader Robert D. Shull, a past president of the NIST Chapter of Sigma Xi. "He can then quickly assemble his thoughts and present a very logical talk on the topic that is so clear even a novice can follow it."

Among other honors during his career, Gillaspy received the 1997 Young Scientist Award for Excellence in Scientific Research from the NIST Chapter of Sigma Xi. "I'm delighted and honored to receive this award," Gillaspy said. "The beginning of my career has been a very exciting time for me, particularly because of all of the really great people I've had the chance to work with. In addition to thanking Sigma Xi for the award, therefore, I also want to thank the students and postdocs I've worked with, as well as my senior mentors – you have made any success that I've had possible, and it has been a great privilege to work with all of you. Science, it seems, is increasingly becoming a group enterprise which thrives on cooperation and synergy. When the right people get together, it can be a very rewarding and productive experience. I'm looking forward to the next 10 years!"

Gillaspy's nomination for the 1998 Young Investigator Award was supported by Sigma Xi's Mid-Atlantic Regional Directors. Other nominees, who received certificates of recognition, included:

North Central Regional Young Investigator
Mickey Kutzner, associate professor of physics at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Virginia, where his thesis work involved the use of many-body methods to investigate photoionization of xenon and barium. At Andrews University, he continued his research in theoretical atomic physics, collaborating with undergraduates and publishing five papers in Physical Review with undergraduates. He gives many physics demonstrations and astronomy lectures each year in elementary and high school classes.

Northwest Regional Young Investigator
Courtney A. Young, associate professor in the School of Mines at Montana Tech of the University of Montana, received his Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from the University of Utah College of Mines and Earth Sciences in 1995, where his graduate studies culminated in 12 professional publications. His areas of research expertise include mineral processing, hydrometallurgy, biohydrometallurgy, surface chemistry, electrochemistry and spectroscopy. He is active in many professional societies and is recognized for his outstanding teaching, as well as his mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students.

Northeast Regional Young Investigator
Metin Akay, assistant professor in the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, received his Ph.D. in 1990 from the department of biomedical engineering at Rutgers University. A well known expert in the area of wavelets for both signal and image analysis, he is investigating noninvasive acoustical detection of coronary artery diseases and analysis of fetal EEG, blood pressure, and breathing movements as measurements of central nervous system maturation. He also has contributed to biomedical engineering education through authorship or co-authorship in books and work with professional societies.

Southwest Regional Young Investigator
George Hademenos, visiting assistant professor in the Endovascular Therapy Service at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1991. His field of research is the application of biophysical methods in the analysis of blood flow dynamics in cerebrovascular diseases, particularly high-flow vascular abnormalities and aneurysms. He has published 22 original papers in pre-reviewed journals, and is the author of "The Biophysics of Stroke" in the May-June 1997 issue of American Scientist. Hademenos developed a biomathematical electrical network model of brain vascular malformations that closely resembles the real world of blood flow dynamics in patients afflicted with these diseases.

Award Nominations Due June 1
It's not too late to nominate an outstanding young researcher in the life or social sciences for the 1999 Sigma Xi Young Investigator Award. The deadline is June 1, 1998. Any active (dues-paying) member of Sigma Xi within 10 years of his/her highest earned degree at the time of nomination is eligible. Active membership in Sigma Xi is also a requirement for nominators. Click here for complete guidelines.


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