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Chan Elected a Member of the National Academy of Sciences

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Moses Chan, Evan Pugh Professor of Physics at Penn State, has been elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U. S. scientist or engineer.  Sixty new members were elected today, bringing the total number of active members to 1,843.

"Moses Chan is respected and admired internationally for his outstanding research achievements in low-temperature physics and also for the quality and depth of his contributions to the physics profession as a colleague and a mentor," comments Daniel J. Larson, dean of the Penn State Eberly College of Science.  Chan's research is aimed at answering, or raising, fundamental questions about matter in its various phases or states such as liquid, solid, and gas.  He is particularly interested in phase transitions--the conditions under which a material changes from one phase to another--in quantum fluids, in reduced dimensions, and in the presence of disorder.  The principles he and his research group have helped to establish have proven to be useful in understanding a wide variety of problems in condensed-matter systems undergoing phase transitions.

"I know the entire Penn State community joins me in congratulating Professor Chan on his achievement," says Rodney Erickson, executive vice president and provost.  "Membership in the National Academy of Sciences is a fitting tribute to his many accomplishments as a distinguished scientist, mentor, and teacher."

A major achievement of Chan's research group in 1984 was the confirmation of one of the most important theories in modern statistical mechanics, known as the two-dimensional Ising Model, which until the work of Chan and his group had not been tested experimentally since it was first proposed 40 years earlier.

One of the ongoing interests of Chan's group is the attempt to understand the effect of disorder and impurities on phase transitions in fluids, particularly liquid helium.  Most recently, Chan and his group have introduced fluids into aerogels--highly porous glasses in which atomically thin silica strands interconnect at random sites, forming the skeleton of a very open structure.  In spite of its low density of silica strands--as little as 0.5 percent of the total volume--they found that the highly porous aerogel has profound effects on the nature of the superfluid transition and on the liquid-vapor ordering transition of helium.  Chan's group discovered that in a mixture of helium-3 and helium-4, the aerogel produces a new superfluid phase rich in helium-3 in addition to the expected helium-4-rich superfluid.  These surprising results have attracted considerable interest and ongoing research efforts within the theoretical physics community.

"Moses Chan has given us a series of exceptional discoveries that each reflect his style of very thoughtful experimental design, very careful execution, a focus on the most significant problems, and no fear of the unknown," adds Milton W. Cole, distinguished professor of physics and a colleague of Chan at Penn State.  "Moses is truly an inspiring colleague," adds Jayanth Banavar, professor and head of the Department of Physics.  "In addition to his scientific prowess, he is a wonderful human being and a terrific role model."

Chan earned a bachelor's degree in physics, magna cum laude, at Bridgewater College in Virginia in 1967, then enrolled in the physics department at Cornell University, where he earned a master's degree in 1969 and a doctoral degree in 1974.  He was an assistant lecturer at the University of Hong Kong from 1969 to 1970, a research associate and instructor at Duke University from 1973 to 1976, and an assistant professor of physics at the University of Toledo from 1976 to 1979, when he joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor of physics.  At Penn State, he was promoted to associate professor in 1984 and to professor in 1986, then was honored with the titles of Distinguished Professor of Physics in 1990 and Evan Pugh Professor of Physics in 1994.  Chan has trained nearly twenty graduate students in his laboratory and has sponsored nine postdoctoral scholars at Penn State in addition to developing and teaching physics courses at the introductory, advanced undergraduate, and graduate levels.

Chan has received a Senior Research Fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in 1982 and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986, he was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1987, and he received the Fritz London Prize in Low-Temperature Physics in 1996.

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.  The academy was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln, which calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

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