University of Rochester

Three Scientists Elected Fellows of Physics Society

January 5, 2001

Three University of Rochester scientists have been elected to fellowship positions in the American Physical Society. John H. Thomas, Stephen Teitel and Stephen Craxton were honored for their accomplishments in physics. Less than one-half of 1 percent of the membership of the society is elected to a fellowship.

Thomas, professor of mechanical and aerospace sciences and of astronomy, was recognized for his work on solar magnetohydrodynamics, the study of the interaction between gas motions and magnetic fields in the sun. The sun goes through a 22-year cycle that is governed by these magnetic fields. They give rise to sunspots, solar flares, and mass ejections that occasionally threaten satellites and power grids on Earth. Thomas recently worked with other Rochester astrophysicists to show how magnetic fields can shape some of the most beautiful objects in the sky, the planetary nebulae.

Teitel, professor of physics, studies the modeling of phenomena in superconducting materials and networks. Superconducting materials pass electricity with almost no resistance, so they have the potential to make much more efficient electrical devices. Ordinarily, most superconducting materials need to be kept hundreds of degrees below zero to work. However, the new "high-temperature" superconductors that are the focus of Teitel's research are able to maintain their superconducting behavior at the higher temperatures possible with commercially viable liquid nitrogen cooling methods, thus offering the potential for much wider practical application.

Craxton, senior scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, discovered how to efficiently triple the frequency of high-powered lasers, making them more useful for fusion research. Since 1980, when Craxton's designs were first demonstrated, all major glass laser-fusion facilities have adopted them. One design was incorporated into Omega, the University of Rochester's fusion laser and the world's biggest laser, with great success, and Craxton is now working on techniques to smooth the laser's beam so that it strikes its target with more uniform force. Another of his designs will be incorporated in the National Ignition Facility, which will be the world's largest laser when it is completed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California later this decade.