Researchers join ranks of AAAS fellows

David C. Larbalestier, left, and Harrison B. Prosper

Two Florida State University researchers — David C. Larbalestier and Harrison B. Prosper — have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Election to fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. Larbalestier and Prosper are among 401 members to receive the honor this year for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

The new fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 14, at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, Calif.

Larbalestier, one of the world’s foremost authorities in the field of materials science, has profoundly influenced the development of high-field magnets for high-energy physics and other applications, such as magnetic resonance imaging, that have evolved from them.

At Florida State, Larbalestier is the Francis Eppes Professor of Superconducting Materials in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, director of the university’s Applied Superconductivity Center and chief materials scientist at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. He earned a doctorate in physical metallurgy from the Imperial College of the University of London in 1970.

Larbalestier was elected to fellow for “advancing our understanding of the materials science of high-field superconductors and for developing processing techniques that incorporate this knowledge.”

“I am extremely happy to have received this honor from the AAAS,” Larbalestier said. “Most of all, I’m grateful to all my former students, postdocs, colleagues and collaborators who have worked with me to advance the science, technology and understanding of how to apply superconducting materials to make cutting edge superconducting magnets and who thus have been decisive in making such an honor for me possible.”

David C. Larbalestier is the Francis Eppes Professor of Superconducting Materials in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Florida State.
David C. Larbalestier is the Francis Eppes Professor of Superconducting Materials in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Florida State.

Gregory S. Boebinger, director of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MabLab), was instrumental in recruiting Larbalestier and the Applied Superconductivity Center (ASC) to move to Florida State in 2006.

“I couldn’t be happier about this well-deserved recognition of David’s commitment to the advancement of science,” Boebinger said. “The ASC’s partnership with the MagLab’s Magnet Science and Technology Division enables us to lead the world in revolutionizing superconducting magnet technology.”

Emmanuel Collins, chair of the Florida A&M University-FSU College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, praised Larbalestier.

“David continues to distinguish himself as an outstanding scholar, as evidenced by this award,” Collins said. “His career success is an inspiration to the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.”

Prosper, a high-energy physics experimentalist, is among the U.S. scientists who played a significant role in the search for and 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field, which gives mass to elementary particles. His research interests include high-energy physics, cosmology, advanced analysis methods and Bayesian statistics.

At Florida State, Prosper is the Kirby Kemper Professor of Physics. He earned a doctorate in experimental physics from the University of Manchester in 1980.

Harrison B. Prosper is the Kirby Kemper Professor of Physics at Florida State.
Harrison B. Prosper is the Kirby Kemper Professor of Physics at Florida State.

Prosper was elected to fellow for “pioneering leadership in the development of advanced statistical methods leading to the discovery of the top quark and precision measurements in top quark physics.”

“I am delighted to have received this recognition,” Prosper said. “It is really a tribute to the longtime support and encouragement I have received from many people, including my FSUmentors Vasken Hagopian, Jeff Owens and Kirby Kemper. I am also fortunate to have been inspired early. For that I thank President John F. Kennedy and this amazing country for putting a man on the moon, and I thank my parents for recognizing in the summer of 1969 that a fire had just been lit.”

Sam Huckaba, dean of Florida State’s College of Arts and Sciences, praised Prosper for his productive career.

“Harrison has been a leader in experimental high-energy physics for many years and has built a robust research record while contributing significantly to collaborations at both Fermilab and CERN,” Huckaba said. “On behalf of the college, I salute him for this high recognition.”

Horst Wahl, chairman of Florida State’s Department of Physics, commended Prosper for his independent thought and creative approach to problem-solving in experimental particle physics.

“He is one of theworld’s leading experts in devising methods to find small signals hidden in huge backgrounds, like looking for tiny needles in huge haystacks,” Wahl said. “The fact that he was selected as a fellow is a well-deserved recognition of his accomplishments by the physics community, and we are proud to count him as one of our colleagues in the Department of Physics.”

In addition to his part in the discovery of the Higgs boson, Prosper was key in the discovery of the top quark in 1995 and in finding evidence for and subsequent discovery of the production of topquarks by weak interaction processes in 2008 and 2009.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected.