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Collins Named Distinguished Professor of Physics

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Collins.gifJohn Collins, professor of physics, has been named Distinguished Professor of Physics at Penn State. This title is presented in recognition of his exceptional record of teaching, research, and service to the University community.

A theoretical physicist, Collins focuses on the theory of strong nuclear interaction in elementary particles, known as quantum chromodynamics (QCD). His research has been key to developing an understanding of phenomena that occur on distance scales smaller than the size of a proton, exploiting the weakness of the interactions that is a consequence of "asymptotic freedom," where long-distance interactions are strong, but shorter-distance interactions become progressively weaker.

Originally, calculations in QCD were possible only for a few exotic processes. As experiments on elementary particle collisions have progressed to much higher energies, the products of the collisions have become more complex, probing much shorter distances. The quantitative predictions that now can be made are, for a wide range of processes, in substantial agreement with experiment. Collins has played a vital role in formulating and proving many of the mathematical results-called factorization theorems-that underly the calculations. Without the aid of these results it would not be possible to interpret experimental data produced by modern high-energy particle accelerators or to use the accelerators to search for new phenomena. The result is that these accelerators now can be used, in effect, as microscopes to probe fundamental physics at distance scales on the order of a hundredth or a thousandth the size of a proton. Collins hopes to discover what lies inside known "elementary" particles and what causes them to have the properties that they have.

Collins is a member of the American Physical Society and the Society for Neuroscience. Since 1990, he has been a member of the CTEQ Collaboration-a collaboration of experimental and theoretical physicists who work on quantum chromodynamics.

Collins has been recognized with a Humboldt Research Award for Senior Scientists in 2000 and a Faculty Scholar Medal at Penn State in 2002. In 1985, he was named a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. In 2005, he served on the International Advisory Committee for "Transversity 2005: the International Workshop on Transverse Polarisation Phenomena in Hard Processes" in Italy. In 1990, he served on the organizing committee for the "Polarized Collider Workshop" at Penn State.

He joined Penn State in 1990 as a professor of physics. From 1980 to 1990, he worked at Illinois Institute for Technology as an assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. He was at Princeton University as assistant professor from 1976 to 1980 and as a research associate from 1975 to 1976. He was a scientific associate at the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) Particle Physics Laboratory on the French-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland, in 1996 and 1997. In 1984, he was a visiting professor at the Argonne National Laboratory as part of the the Faculty Research Leave at Argonne (FRLA) Program. He also was a visiting professor at the State University of New York in Stony Brook in 1989 and was a Mercator Visiting Professor at Ruhr-Universität in Bochum, Germany, in 2005. He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics at King's College in Cambridge, England, in 1971, and a doctoral degree in theoretical physics at Cambridge University in 1975.

Collins has written 172 scientific papers and authored a book, titled Renormalization: An Introduction to Renormalization, The Renormalization Group and The Operator Product Expansion, that was published by Cambridge University Press in 1984. The book was translated into Russian in 1988.

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