Physicist Named Distinguished Research Professor
Date: June 5, 2002
By: Chris Curran
Phone: (513) 556-1806
Photo by: Dottie Stover
Archive: Research News, Campus News
A global reputation as an outstanding theoretical physicst earned UC
Professor Fu-Chun Zhang the honor of being named a Distinguished Research
Professor by the UC Board of Trustees.
Zhang joined the UC physics faculty in 1988, and his contributions to the field of condensed matter physics are impressive. They include more than 2,000 citations in the scientific literature with six papers earning more than 100 citations each. Zhang says his most important contribution to physics was also the most challenging.
"It is definitely the theory for high temperature superconducting copper oxides. It is related to a new type of metal, very difficult to tackle. Many physicists including some of the most promising theorists have been working on this problem. We still have not solved it yet. I have proposed a mathematical model as a starting point to tackle this problem, which turns out to be successful to explain many unusual properties of the oxides."
In fact, the model Zhang proposed now bears his name in the scientific community, the ultimate recognition of its significance. "This path breaking work has stood the test of time and plays a crucial role in interpreting experimental data," wrote Penn State Professor J.K. Jain in a support letter.
The most interesting project in his career dates back to his graduate school days, when he worked to understand the "quantum Hall effect," a field so important two Nobel Prizes in physics were awarded to other researchers working in the area. "The problem is about the new states of many electrons in high magnetic field. I did many calculations in the 80s and in early of 90s to help understand this new state of matter."
Zhang's abilities have attracted collaborators from around the world, including ETH-Zurich in Switzerland, Northwestern, the University of Illinois. He's also worked closely with UC physics professor Michael Ma, visiting scholars from China and a chemist from Japan. A number of new theories and prestigious publications resulted from those collaborations, including a highly publicized presentation at the American Physical Society meeting in 1997.
"In my view, there is no doubt that Professor Fu-Chun Zhang has an outstanding international reputation," wrote Professor T.M. Rice, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. "He is well known and respected not just in the USA, but also in Europe, Japan and the Far East."
As a successful researcher, it's not surprising that the physicists Zhang trains are also successful. One postdoctoral fellow ended up with a high-paying job on Wall Street and a former graduate student landed a job with an insurance company. "I think the training in physics helps them analyze the problems outside the field of physics," explained Zhang. Other Ph.D. students are continuing to work as research physicists in postdoctoral positions.