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Chapman University Professor Yakir Aharonov Receives National Medal of Science

October 15, 2010
Professor Yakir Aharonov

Yakir Aharonov, Ph.D., professor of theoretical physics at Chapman University, has been awarded the 2010 National Medal of Science, the White House announced today.

Bestowed annually by the President of the United States, the National Medal of Science is the nation’s highest scientific honor.

The White House awards the National Medal to “individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences.”  The official citation accompanying Dr. Aharonov’s medal states that he is being honored “for his contributions to the foundations of quantum physics and for drawing out unexpected implications of that field, ranging from the Aharonov-Bohm Effect to the theory of weak measurement.”

Past recipients of the National Medal of Science include many of the most distinguished scientists in the world, such as Arnold Beckman, Richard Feynman, Hans Bethe, Charles H. Townes, Edward Teller, James Cronin, Hans Dehmelt, Herbert Friedman, Willis E. Lamb and Berni Alder.

The medal will be presented to Dr. Aharonov and the other recipients of this year’s medals by President Obama at a ceremony in coming weeks at the White House, with the date to be announced.

Dr. Aharonov joined the Chapman University faculty in 2008 and holds the James J. Farley Professorship in Natural Philosophy in Chapman’s Schmid College of Science.  Regarded as “the most distinguished living exponent of the theory of the foundations of quantum mechanics” (quote from Nobel Laureate Anthony Leggett), Dr. Aharonov is internationally recognized for his many monumental contributions to physics.  He is the recipient of many of the world’s top scientific prizes, including the Wolf Prize, the Elliot Cresson Medal of the Franklin Institute, the Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize and others.  In 2009 he was named a Citation Laureate by the worldwide news organization Thomson Reuters, an honor given to researchers considered most likely to win a Nobel Prize in the near future.

Dr. Aharonov’s lifetime body of work includes his co-discovery of the famous Aharonov-Bohm (AB) Effect, which he developed in 1959 with the late David Bohm. The AB Effect, which involves the action of atomic particles around a magnetic field, is regarded today as one of the cornerstones of modern physics.

“I am deeply honored to be selected by the President of the United States and the National Medal committee as a recipient of this distinguished award,” said Dr. Aharonov when he learned the news today. “It is my hope that this award will serve as encouragement for young physicists to join the field of foundations of physics, because performing research on such deep and fundamental questions is both very exciting and very rewarding.”

Chapman President Jim Doti hailed the news, saying, “I know the entire Chapman community joins me in congratulating Dr. Aharonov, and we are extremely proud of his achievement.  His discoveries have revolutionized the field of physics, and his work continues to break new ground.  Our students are extraordinarily fortunate to have him as a teaching member of our faculty, and his presence here has truly enlivened the intellectual life of our campus.”

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., dean of Chapman’s Schmid College of Science, added his accolades: “As dean of the college where Dr. Aharonov holds his appointment, and as colleague and friend, I am particularly delighted for the national honor bestowed on him and through him to our university and college. He truly deserves it. Dr. Aharonov’s achievements and reputation are internationally known and not only reflect deep theoretical understandings of quantum phenomena, many of which are named after him, but also increasingly important applications in a variety of applied fields.”

Watch a video of one of Dr. Aharonov’s lectures and read more about his work at the Schmid College website.

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