New Regents Professor of Physics Allen Goldman credits his graduate students with much of his success--and vice versa.
Physicist Allen Goldman, three others named Regents Professors
Regents Professor is highest rank for University faculty
By Deane Morrison
June 24, 2008
The last few years have been heady ones for Allen Goldman. In 2002 he won the coveted Fritz London Prize, one of the top prizes in physics, and last year he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Now he has garnered an honor that reflects the admiration of the people who know him best: his colleagues at the University. Goldman, head of the University's School of Physics and Astronomy, is one of four faculty members just elected Regents Professors, the highest faculty rank. The others are Madelon Sprengnether, English; Eric Sheppard, geography; and Steven Ruggles, history. All will be profiled in this space soon.
A brobdingnagian output"My feeling is I didn't do this alone," says Goldman of his new status. "I had excellent graduate students and extraordinary support from other faculty and staff in physics. They deserve some credit for helping to make this happen." If there's one term to describe Goldman (besides self-effacing), it would be prolific. Or prodigious. The graduate of Harvard and Stanford, who joined the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor in 1965, has more than 250 research publications to his credit. He has made an indelible mark in the field of superconductivity, the state in which materials lose their electrical resistance and electrons can flow freely. He and his team have found ways to construct and study thin films of metals only a few atoms thick. Around 1979 his team discovered electrons undulating through a superconducting material in sync; that is, in waves where all the electrons moved up and down together "like sound waves," Goldman says. That research caused a stir in the superconductivity community, as did a subsequent discovery of a way to switch a thin film of metal from being an insulator to being just the opposite--a superconductor--or vice versa. That work is cited by other scientists about 100 times every year. Lately, he has found another way to induce superconductivity.
"He let me design and build equipment for more than 18 months. It is only now when I am a professor that I have come to respect the enormous gamble that he took with me as a student."Research in superconductivity is considered critical to the development of new materials for electronics and electrical technology. While superconductivity may be a hot field, the science is carried out at extremely low temperatures. Goldman jokes that his lab may have "the coldest macroscopic space in Minnesota." It's only a small space, measured in cubic centimeters, but its temperature gets down to three-hundredths of a Centigrade degree above absolute zero. (Absolute zero--minus 459.67 F--is the coldest anything can get. It cannot be achieved artificially.)