FSU physicist named Fellow of prestigious American Physical Society

Winston Roberts

A researcher in Florida State University’s Department of Physics has received one of the top honors in his field. Professor Winston Roberts has been named a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

“It is indeed an honor to be recognized by my peers in this manner,” Roberts said of the announcement. “The American Physical Society is our nation’s premier organization for the advancement of physics research, so I am happy to have been elected.”

A theoretical nuclear physicist, Roberts carries out research on a number of aspects of hadron physics. (Hadrons are strongly interacting subatomic particles that are composed of quarks, which are among the basic constituents of matter.)

“Nuclear and high-energy physicists know that more than 99 percent of the matter that we see around us is composed of quarks,” he said. “They also know the theory that we should be able to use to understand how quarks combine into the protons and neutrons that make up our world and ourselves. However, that theory is very difficult to calculate and remains one of the outstanding intellectual challenges of the 21st century.

Mark Riley
Mark Riley

“In my research, I try to gain some understanding of quarks and their relatives, the subatomic particles known as baryons and mesons, by doing calculations that simplify the complexity of the problem,” Roberts said. “I then compare the results of these calculations to the results of experiments carried out at a number of laboratories around the world.”

The overarching goal of his research is to help develop a better understanding of the properties of matter.

“The fundamental reason I do it is curiosity about nature, how things work, and how we as humans can understand this,” Roberts said. “It never ceases to amaze me that we are able to understand the world around us in terms of numbers (with some equations thrown in).”

He credits a particularly skilled science teacher with kindling his interest in the composition of matter.

“I was inspired by my high school teacher in Trinidad, the recently deceased E. Norman Lambert, many moons ago,” Roberts said. “At the time, I had been taught that the constituents of matter were protons and neutrons, and I wondered how protons and neutrons were held together in the nucleus against the very strong repulsive force that exists between protons. (‘Like’ charges repel. An oxygen nucleus has six protons; why, then, do they stay together?) Mr. Lambert provided some reading materials that I didn’t quite understand at the time, but which caught my interest enough to make me want to pursue this when I went to university.”

Roberts joined the FSU faculty in January 2006. He previously taught physics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., where he also was a member of the Theory Group at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. Roberts also has been a program officer in the Physics Division of the National Science Foundation and a program manager in the Office of Nuclear Physics at the U.S. Department of Energy. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Guelph (Guelph, Ontario, Canada) in 1988.

With 46,000 members, the American Physical Society (www.aps.org) is the nation’s largest and most prestigious professional society dedicated to the advancement of physics research and knowledge.

“Being elected an APS Fellow is a hard-earned and highly cherished honor,” said Professor Mark Riley, chairman of FSU’s physics department. “This is a wonderful recognition of Winston’s significant and sustained contributions to nuclear physics and the understanding of hadronic matter. As chair, I am especially pleased since this adds to the growing list of Fellows on our faculty—a number which is often looked upon as an important indicator of a department’s research prowess.”

Roberts becomes the 17th faculty member from the physics department—and the 21st FSU faculty member overall—to be chosen for the honor. Go to this link to view the complete list.

To learn more about the innovative research taking place within FSU’s physics department, visit www.physics.fsu.edu/news.