Two FSU physicists receive prestigious academic honor

Two faculty members in Florida State University’s department of physics—Professor Jorge Piekarewicz and Associate Professor Laura Reina—have received one of the top honors in the field of physics: Both have been elected Fellows of the American Physical Society (APS).

With more than 43,000 members, the APS ( is the nation’s largest and most prestigious professional society dedicated to the advancement of physics research and knowledge.

In announcing the fellowships, the APS recognized Piekarewicz "for seminal and sustained research on fundamental nuclear physics problems using novel computational tools, particularly on the nuclear equation of state and its impact on the physics of neutron stars."Reina was recognized "for contributions to calculations of Higgs production at hadron colliders and rare B decays."

David Van Winkle, chairman of FSU’s physics department, praised both professors for helping push the boundaries of knowledge regarding the creation of the universe and the basic properties of matter.

"Each year, no more than one-half of 1 percent of the membership of the American Physical Society can be elected Fellow," Van Winkle said. "Receiving such an honor provides public recognition that one has made significant contributions to the study and knowledge of physics. Professors Piekarewicz and Reina could not be better choices."

Piekarewicz received his Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1985, and carried out postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology and Indiana University. In 1990 he joined the research staff of the Supercomputer Computations Research Institute at FSU. His main interest is the study of neutron stars, the stellar remnants left behind by one of the most cataclysmic events in the universe—a supernova explosion.

Piekarewicz described himself as "thrilled, honored and humbled" by the recognition among his peers that an APS fellowship represents.

"Not even in my wildest dreams would I have imagined 24 years ago when I left Mexico City to pursue a doctoral degree in physics that I would be elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society while being a professor of physics at a research university," he said.

Reina received her Ph.D. in high-energy theoretical physics from The International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, in 1992. After postdoctoral work at the University of Brussels and at Brookhaven National Laboratory, she joined the University of Wisconsin in Madison as an assistant scientist in 1997 and the FSU faculty in 1998.

Reina’s research involves the phenomenology of elementary particle physics. Working with high-energy particle colliders, she seeks to increase science’s understanding of how matter behaves in the most extreme conditions. Such knowledge helps to provide a better understanding of how all matter in the universe was, and continues to be, created.

"It is a tremendous honor to receive an APS Fellowship at an early stage in my career," Reina said of her election. "I am deeply grateful to the physicists who educated me, to the ones I have met and collaborated with, and to my students. From all of them I have learned how to think about physics, how to approach challenging problems, and how to make this a part of everyday life."

The APS Fellowship Program was created to recognize members who have made advances in knowledge through original research and publication or made significant and innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology. They also may have made significant contributions to the teaching of physics or service and participation in the activities of the society.

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