Texas A&M University physicists Dr. Olga Kocharovskaya and Dr. David Toback have been recognized by the Texas A&M chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, as the 2012 recipients of the chapter’s primary annual awards celebrating scientific excellence and advancement.
Kocharovskaya, a distinguished professor of physics, has earned the Sigma Xi Distinguished Scientist Award, while Toback, Thaman Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has received the chapter’s Outstanding Science Communicator Award.
Both awards are bestowed annually in recognition of respective faculty members who have demonstrated research and teaching excellence and significant contributions to their profession and general science (Distinguished Scientist Award) as well as superior skill and dedication to improving science education (Outstanding Science Communicator Award).
Kocharovskaya and Toback each will be presented with a commemorative plaque and a $750 cash prize at the 2012 Sigma Xi Induction and Awards Banquet, scheduled for May 18 at the College Station Hilton. Kocharovskaya also will be invited to present the “Distinguished Scientist Lecture” on the Texas A&M campus later this fall.
“Sigma Xi has a long history of supporting the local Texas A&M research community, in part by recognizing the best efforts of our researchers and research communicators,” said Dr. Mark J. Zoran, professor of biology and 2011-12 Sigma Xi president. “The executive committee and membership of Sigma Xi are excited to have Drs. Kocharovskaya and Toback as our award recipients for 2012, and we congratulate them and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the academic home of both our award winners this year.”
Kocharovskaya is the latest in a lengthy list of notable past recipients of Sigma Xi’s top scientist award from the Texas A&M College of Science, including fellow physicists Dr. Marlan O. Scully (2010) and Dr. Edward S. Fry (2001) as well as chemists Dr. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg (2011), the late Dr. D. Wayne Goodman (2009), Dr. Abraham Clearfield (1999) and the late Dr. F. Albert Cotton (1997). The college also boasts no fewer than three previous recipients of the top communicator prize: mathematician Dr. Joseph Pasciak (2010); Scully (2000); and physicist Dr. Peter M. McIntyre (1999).
Kocharovskaya, who is recognized as one of the top quantum optics and laser physics researchers worldwide, joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1998 after 12 years at the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. A member of the Texas A&M Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering (IQSE), she was appointed as a distinguished professor in 2007 and has made major contributions to the rapidly developing field of atomic coherence phenomena, including pioneering works on lasing without inversion and electromagnetically induced transparency. Her current research is focused on coherent control of the optical electronic and gamma-ray nuclear transitions in solids. A fellow of both the American Physical Society and Optical Society of America, Kocharovskaya has earned the Willis Lamb Medal for Laser Physics and Quantum Electronics, the Presidential Award of the Russian Academy of Sciences as the Outstanding Young Professor of the Russian Federation and a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research.
Toback, a high-energy physics expert and member of the Texas A&M faculty since 2000, has received many prior awards, both for his teaching and research, which focuses on the search for new fundamental particles at the world’s highest-energy particle accelerators, the Fermilab Tevatron in Chicago and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. In between working with these high-level international collaborations and developing web-based tools and novel instructional innovations to improve his classroom environment, Toback routinely cultivates opportunities to share his palpable excitement about his science, assisting in both College of Science and university-level marketing projects and serving as a go-to media source for a variety of topics routine and otherwise. For instance, his work is among the now-infamous backdrops featured in last week’s episode of the popular science-based television comedy The Big Bang Theory. When it comes to more traditional mentoring and public outreach, Toback has served as keynote speaker for various outreach-related events, including the Texas Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, Davidson Scholars and Saturday Morning Physics. A guest presenter for Science Café and other community science education programs, he also has published an undergraduate textbook and recently produced a pilot episode for an educational DVD series.
Sigma Xi is an international, multidisciplinary research society honoring scientists whose work promotes scientific enterprise and rewarding excellence in scientific research. Founded in 1886 at Cornell University, Sigma Xi has grown to include 500 chapters across North America and around the world at colleges and universities. To date, there are about 70,000 active members, more than 200 of which are Nobel Prize winners.
The Texas A&M chapter of Sigma Xi was chartered July 1, 1951, with a mission “to recognize, encourage and promote scientific research at Texas A&M University and to honor the community of science scholars.”
Contact: Michelle Sullens, (979) 458-4066 or SigmaXi@tamu.edu