UCSD Physicist Ivan Schuller Receives Adler Lectureship Award

Ivan Schuller
Ivan Schuller, Professor of Physics at UCSD

11.07.02 -- "I have felt for some time that Ivan's significant scientific achievements, although widely recognized, were not properly acclaimed. That's why I nominated him," says Max Lagally, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin. "What made it more fun for me is that Ivan didn't believe he had a chance."

What he's referring to is the fact that Ivan Schuller, a physicist at UCSD and leader of the Materials and Devices layer of the UCSD Division of Calit², recently was honored with the 2002 David Adler Lectureship Award from the American Physical Society (APS). The APS cited Schuller's "research in metallic heterostructures and superlattices communicated with unusual enthusiasm and eloquence." The award recognizes an outstanding contributor to the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of materials and their properties, and a person noted for the quality of his research, review articles, and lecturing.

"Ivan has been a great role model for all of us in Calit²," says Larry Smarr, Calit² director and a physicist in his own right. "He's an enthusiastic champion of the Materials and Devices layer, he's mentored Calit² student fellows, he successfully wins large, multidisciplinary research grants in highly competitive programs. At the same time, he has the ability, when he lectures, to not only inform but excite his audiences. I can't imagine a more deserving awardee!"

The Adler award is one of the highest honors a physicist can receive. According to the APS, "It is a symbol of the admiration of a physicist's peers and demonstrates that the recipient's accomplishments and contributions to physics are judged exceptional by those of his colleagues who are best able to judge their value."

"This certainly came as a surprise to me," admits Schuller who's strikingly humble when asked about this award, even in the presence of the many others earned over the years that are mounted on his office wall. These awards include the John Wheatley Award from APS in 1999 and a Department of Energy award for outstanding scientific accomplishment in solid state physics in 1987. Schuller is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences of both Chile and Belgium where he travels frequently to further his scientific collaborations.

"I'm very grateful for this recognition," he says, "It's always nice to be acknowledged by my peers. But my primary focus has always been on doing the best research and writing the best paper I can."

Schuller's research clearly stands on its own, but his students have something important to add: He consistently receives extremely high grades for instruction from undergraduates hardly known for being easy graders themselves. Their ratings clearly underscore the "lectureship" aspect of Schuller's award.

"I'm extremely tough on them," he admits, shaking his head. But his approach must work, because the students keep coming back: His approval ratings, averaged over physics classes numbering in the several-hundreds per class, typically run 90% and higher, a rating that has to inspire his departmental colleagues. And it certainly catches the attention of the senior vice chancellor who formally thanks him each quarter.

Schuller, manifesting the Calit² philosophy of interdisciplinary collaboration, has been working with Andrew Kummel and other Materials and Devices colleagues to design the clean room on the ground floor of the Calit² building planned at UCSD, which is slated for occupancy in late 2004.

"We've anticipated this type of facility for some time and are very excited about it," says Schuller. "We're going to be next to the Visual Arts and Music faculty - not something that's typical in the university world - we're eager to further these kinds of interactions, and we think they will be strengthened once we're co-located." he says.

The Adler lectureship was endowed in 1988 by contributions from friends of David Adler. Schuller now shares this honor with a colleague in his own department, M. Brian Maple, who won in 1996.

Schuller will receive his award at the March APS meeting where he will present an invited talk before the appropriate focused session of the Materials Physics Division.