Two Texas A&M University faculty members — mathematician Dr. Peter Kuchment and astronomer Dr. Casey Papovich — have been elected as 2021 Fellows of the American Physical Society (APS), the world’s largest organization of physicists.
Each year, no more than one-half of 1 percent of the organization’s current membership is selected by their peers for inclusion in the APS Fellowship Program, which was created to recognize members who have made advances in knowledge through original research and publication, innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology, and significant contributions to the teaching of physics or service. Kuchment and Papovich are among 154 Fellows unveiled October 13 by the APS and two of the five selected from Texas-based institutions.
Kuchment, a distinguished professor in the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics whose international expertise spans the fields of partial differential equations, medical imaging and mathematical physics, was nominated by the Division of Condensed Matter Physics. He is cited “for fundamental contributions to mathematical physics and inverse problems of medical imaging and homeland security.”
Papovich, a professor in the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy and an expert in the field of observational astronomy as well as galaxy formation and evolution, was nominated by the Division of Astrophysics. He is cited “for innovation and leadership in the physics of galaxy formation and evolution, and for critical contributions in methods to understand the stellar content and formation histories of distant galaxies using ultraviolet, optical and infrared measurements.”
Kuchment joined the Texas A&M Mathematics faculty in 2001 after 11 years on the faculty at Wichita State University. He was appointed in 2011 as a distinguished professor, Texas A&M’s highest academic rank for faculty, and is an affiliated member of the Texas A&M Institute of Data Science and the Center for Excellence in Nuclear Training And University-based Research (CENTAUR) as well as a member of the Institute for Applied Mathematics and Computational Science and the Nuclear Solutions Institute.
Kuchment earned his Ph.D. in mathematics and physics from Kharkov State University, Kharkov, Ukraine, in 1973 and his doctorate in mathematics and physics from the Academy of Sciences in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1983. He then joined the faculty at the Forestry Institute and State University in Voronezh, Russia, achieving the rank of professor in 1985 prior to immigrating to the United States in 1989. During his time at Texas A&M, Kuchment has made seminal contributions in the areas of computed tomography, quantum graphs, differential equations and photonic crystals. His research program has attracted continuous funding support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, and other federal agencies. As but one example among many, his expertise has been key for more than a decade to a large collaborative project headed by Texas A&M nuclear engineers to detect illicit weapons-grade nuclear materials at border crossings and other U.S. points of entry.
In addition to the APS, Kuchment is a fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (2018), the American Mathematical Society (2012), the Institute of Physics (2009) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2015) as well as a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (2015). He has authored more than 200 research publications in peer-reviewed professional journals along with four books on partial differential equations, quantum graphs and medical imaging while editing more than a dozen in these and similar areas as well. In addition, he has given numerous plenary talks and organized prestigious conferences in mathematical physics, tomography and partial differential equations. Equally respected in the classroom, Kuchment received an Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement College-Level Award in Teaching in 2008. He is also the founding director of the Summer Mathematics Research Training (SMaRT) Camp, a two-week NSF-funded program he started in 2009 at Texas A&M to broaden and encourage advanced high school students’ interest in mathematics.
“Dr. Kuchment is an extraordinary faculty member who is central to the research group in mathematical physics as well as mentoring students and younger colleagues,” said Dr. Sarah J. Witherspoon, professor and head of Texas A&M Mathematics. “This is an extremely well-deserved honor for his many contributions to multiple fields, including applications of the mathematical theory of partial differential equations, such as medical imaging through CT scans, wave propagation and topological insulator materials.”
Papovich joined the Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy faculty in 2008 as an assistant professor and a member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. He was appointed in May 2015 as an inaugural holder of the Marsha L. ’69 and Ralph F. Schilling ’68 Chair in Physics and Astronomy and promoted to full professor in September 2016.
Papovich earned his doctorate in physics from The Johns Hopkins University in 2002, where he worked at the Space Telescope Science institute in Baltimore, Md. Prior to coming to Texas A&M, he completed postdoctoral research as a NASA Spitzer Prize Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory (2002-2008), conducting research using the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Papovich’s research focuses on the formation and evolution of the most distant galaxies, observational cosmology, and the growth of large-scale structures and its impact on galaxy evolution. His research utilizes data from NASA’s space-based Great Observatories as well as the largest terrestrial telescopes. He has authored more than 250 technical publications in astronomy and cosmology and is a three-time Thomson Reuters’ Highly Cited Researcher (2014-2016) recognized as among the top 1 percent of the world’s leading researchers in his field. A renowned speaker and science communicator, Papovich also is a popular lecturer and has received multiple awards for his innovative and engaging teaching methods. Since 2018, he has served as a faculty lead for the Warrior-Scholar Project at Texas A&M, a two-week academic boot camp for veterans transitioning to college.
In addition to being a science team member for the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer project in Hawaii, Papovich serves on the advisory committee for the Giant Magellan Telescope currently under construction in Chile. He also is a co-principal investigator for the proposal recently awarded one of the largest shares of time during Cycle 1 for the James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in December. His team’s collaborative survey will entail some of the deepest imaging to be done during the telescope’s first year in space in order to study the universe’s oldest galaxies to better understand their composition and evolution over time.
“Dr. Papovich is an outstanding scholar — an embodiment of the very best in the academic profession,” said Dr. Grigory Rogachev, professor and head of Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy. “He is a renowned astronomer with several important contributions to the field of galaxy formation and evolution and other areas of astronomy, he is an extremely popular instructor and he is also a great colleague. I am delighted that Dr. Papovich received this recognition, which I am sure will be followed by many other awards in years to come!”
Founded in 1899, the American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and circulate the knowledge of physics through APS research journals, scientific meetings, education, outreach, advocacy and international collaboration. The APS is composed of more than 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the United States and throughout the world.
For more information on the American Physical Society or the APS Fellowship Program, visit https://www.aps.org.
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