Yale Physicist Steven Girvin Named National Academy of Sciences Fellow

Steven M. Girvin

The National Academy of Sciences announced the election of Steven M. Girvin, professor of physics and applied physics at Yale as one of the 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 16 countries who are recognized this year for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

“Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors in American science and engineering,” said Ralph Cicerone, president of the Academy. Barbara Schaal, the Academy’s first woman vice-president, noted, “This year’s new class represents outstanding accomplishment in a wide variety of disciplines.” The election was held this week during the business session of the 143rd annual meeting of the Academy.

Girvin, designated the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics, is a theoretical physicist who studies the quantum mechanics of large collections of atoms, molecules and electrons that are found in superconductors, magnets and transistors.  He works closely with experimentalist colleagues Rob Schoelkopf and Michel Devoret as part of a team of Yale scientists addressing the engineering question of whether it is possible to build a quantum computer.

In addition, Girvin is interested in quantum many-body physics, and quantum and classical phase transitions, particularly in disordered systems. Much of his work has been on the quantum Hall effect, but he has also worked on issues including superconductor-insulator transition, the vortex glass transition in high Tc superconductors, superfluid helium in fractal aerogel, the Anderson localization problem, the Coulomb blockade problem in mesoscopic device physics, and on quantum spin chains.

“That he is an exceptional citizen, gifted teacher, caring mentor and delightful colleague is widely known throughout Yale,” said Ramamurti Shankar, professor and chair of physics at Yale.  “His well-deserved election to the National Academy of Sciences now broadcasts to the world that the high regard in which he is held by his colleagues at Yale is also shared by the community at large.”

Author on over 150 research papers, Girvin is co-editor of the book “The Quantum Hall Effect,” which has been translated into Japanese, Russian and Chinese. He is co-founder of the Boulder Summer School in Condensed Matter and Materials Physics in Colorado. Girvin is also a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

After completing high school in a class of five students in the small village of Brant Lake, N.Y., Girvin went on to obtain a B.S. in physics from Bates College and master’s degrees in physics from the University of Maine and Princeton University, where he also received his Ph.D. He did postdoctoral research at Indiana University and at Chalmers University in Göteborg, Sweden. After serving as a physicist at the National Bureau of Standards from 1979 to 1987, and earning a bronze medal for superior federal service from the Department of Commerce in 1983, Girvin joined the faculty of Indiana University in 1987 and was named a Distinguished Professor of Physics there in 1992. He came to Yale in 2002.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the Academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

Those newly elected bring the total number of active members to 2,013; there are also 371 foreign associates who are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States. For additional information about the Academy and its members visit National Academy of Sciences online.

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Janet Rettig Emanuel: janet.emanuel@yale.edu, 203-432-2157