University of Rochester

Geologist, Director of Laser Laboratory, Optical Engineer Named Fellows of American Association for the Advancement of Science

November 23, 2004

Three scientists from the University of Rochester were elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest federation of scientists. Asish Basu, professor of earth sciences; Robert L. McCrory, director of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics and professor of physics and professor of mechanical engineering; and Duncan T. Moore, co-founder of the University’s Center for Optical Manufacturing and Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering, were honored for their work at the cutting edge of science. The new fellows will be presented with certificates at the Fellows Forum during the 2005 AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19.

Basu is being honored for fundamental contributions to the field of geochemical petrology and for connections made between mass extinctions, impact events, and flood basalt geochronology. In 1988, Basu announced the discovery of “shocked quartz”—special crystals that have split along certain planes indicative of a large impact—immediately beneath the Deccan Traps of India. The Deccan Traps are areas of huge volcanic deposits that have been dated to 65 million years ago, the time of a giant asteroid impact that marked the end of the dinosaurs’ reign. This suggested the novel idea that the massive volcanic outflows in India may have been triggered by the meteorite’s impact.

In 1991, Basu showed a massive and ancient lava flow in Siberia dated precisely to the greatest extinction, called The Great Dying, 251 million years ago. Further testing showed that both the Siberian and Indian lava had come from as deep as 1,800 miles beneath the surface. To find what might have caused the Siberian flows, Basu more recently took samples of 251 million-year-old rock from Antarctica, and showed strong evidence that a meteor containing an extraterrestrial iron alloy likely collided with the Earth precisely at the time of The Great Dying. This research shows a very strong and unprecedented connection among two giant meteorite strikes, mass extinctions, and volcanic activity.

Basu chaired the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences from 1986 to 1998. He was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2003, and won the 2004 American Federation of Mineralogical Societies Award. He earned his bachelor’s degree in geology, physics, and mathematics from Calcutta University, and his doctorate in geology from the University of California at Davis.

McCrory is being honored for his seminal contributions to laser-produced plasma science and leadership in advancing toward inertial fusion. He has led the University’s effort to become the world’s leading laboratory to investigate direct-drive laser fusion, where laser beams compress a small target. The University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) is home to the world’s most powerful laser for fusion research, Omega, which scientists from around the world utilize in their quest to develop nuclear fusion as a reliable energy source. Under his leadership, the laboratory has discovered new methods for using and controlling laser beams in fusion experiments. Construction of an extension to Omega will allow LLE to continue at the cutting edge of fusion science by enabling new classes of experiments to diagnose fusion experiments.

First opened in 1970, the facility has undergone a number of upgrades in the past to keep it the foremost fusion-testing platform in the world. Its laser currently releases more than 100 times the total power output of the nation in a billionth of a second, serving a particularly crucial role as the nation’s main fusion program. As the largest unclassified inertial fusion laboratory in the nation, LLE is also an important national source of graduate students trained in the area of high-energy-density physics.

McCrory received his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He began his research in inertial fusion at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and came to the University in 1976. He became professor of mechanical engineering in 1984, and professor of physics in 1999. He served as executive director of governmental relations for the University from 1997 to 2004. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and has served on several National Academy of Science committees on military space policy and plasma science.

Moore was honored for his distinguished contributions to modern optics, including design work on the Hubble Space Telescope and graded refractive index lenses, and for his leadership in U.S. science and technology policy. He is recognized internationally for his research in lens design, especially gradient-index or GRIN lenses, in which the index of refraction varies, allowing light to travel in curved paths. In the past decade, Moore has helped modernize lens design and manufacturing by using computers to design lenses more quickly and precisely. This research, along with similar work at Eastman Kodak Company, formed the basis for the Center for Optics Manufacturing, created in 1989 as a joint effort by universities, the optics industry, and the U.S. Department of Defense to enable optics companies to become more competitive.

A member of the faculty since 1974, Moore served as president and chief executive officer of the Infotonics Technology Center Inc., an industry, academia, and government partnership to foster cutting-edge research in Upstate New York. He also served as Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Rochester, and as president of the Optical Society of America. In 1998, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Moore was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in the fall of 1997 for the position of associate director for technology in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he advised President Bill Clinton on U.S. technology policy, including the Next Generation Internet, Clean Car Initiative, new construction materials, and NASA. Moore is also the founder and former president of Gradient Lens Corporation of Rochester, New York, the manufacturer of the high-quality, low-cost Hawkeye boroscope.

Founded in 1848, AAAS works to advance science for human well-being through its more than 138,000 members. The tradition of honoring those members who have excelled in their chosen fields began in 1874. AAAS publishes the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Science.