UCI'S Steven R. White wins top physics award

October 25, 2002

Irvine, Calif., Oct. 25, 2002 -- UC Irvine physicist Steven R. White, whose research is helping to make the use of superconductivity a reality, has won the Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics from the American Physical Society.

The Rahman Prize is the top award in computational physics, a research method that uses supercomputers to solve theoretical physics problems too complicated for traditional techniques. The prize, which includes a $5,000 award, was established in 1992 as a means to recognize outstanding work in this area. Previous recipients of the Rahman Prize include Nobel Prize winner Kenneth Wilson of Cornell University, who was White's doctoral thesis advisor. White, 42, is the youngest scientist to win the award.

"Steve White is a leading figure in the numerical physics community," said Ronald Stern, dean of the School of Physical Sciences. "His path-breaking computational methods have had a huge impact and are widely used around the globe. We are proud and honored to have him on our faculty."

A professor of physics and astronomy at UCI, White earned the prize for his creation and application of the numerical density matrix renormalization group (DMRG) method, a mathematical procedure that allows researchers for the first time to accurately calculate the properties and movement of electron pairs in a superconductive state. Before DMRG, there was no efficient method to understand the complex electron activities in cuprates, the latest and most promising superconductive materials. White's invention allows for a greater understanding of superconductivity and further application to a number of technologies.

Superconductivity occurs when a metallic material at near absolute zero temperatures conducts electricity with no resistance, making this the closest state to perpetual motion in nature. With no resistance, there is no loss of energy when electricity flows through the material, which makes superconductivity remarkably efficient and attractive for devices such as magnetic resonance imaging machines and the potential economical generation and transmission of commercial electricity.

White received his bachelor's degree from UC San Diego with a triple major in physics, mathematics and economics, graduating summa cum laude. He received his doctorate in physics from Cornell and has been at UCI since 1989. He is the author of more than 100 scientific papers, and his work has been cited in other research papers more than 5,000 times. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and an elected council member on the society's governing council.

White will receive the Rahman Prize at the annual society meeting in Austin, Texas, in March 2003.
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University of California - Irvine

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