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Abhay Ashtekar honored as an Evan Pugh Professor

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11 May 2018

Abhay AshtekarPenn State Professor of Physics Abhay Ashtekar, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Physics and Director of the Penn State Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos, has been named an Evan Pugh Professor, an elite and prestigious distinction conferred by the University on only 72 faculty members since the establishment of the designation in 1960.

Named for Penn State’s founding president Evan Pugh, a renowned chemist and scholar who was at the helm of the University from 1859 to 1864, the Evan Pugh Professorships are awarded to faculty members who are nationally or internationally recognized leaders in their fields of research or creative activity; demonstrate significant leadership in raising the standards of the University with respect to teaching, research or creativity, and service; display excellent teaching skills with undergraduate and graduate students who go on to achieve distinction in their fields; and receive support from colleagues who also are leaders in their disciplines.

An advisory committee of seven Penn State faculty members, including three Evan Pugh professors, reviews nominations for the honor and makes recommendations to the University president. Of the 72 Evan Pugh Professors, 29 are still actively teaching and pursuing research or creative work at Penn State.

Ashtekar's research focuses on classical general relativity and quantum gravity. Thanks to his groundbreaking work, loop quantum gravity -- a quantum theory of spacetime -- has become a leading approach to the unification of general relativity and quantum physics that is being pursued in dozens of research groups worldwide. Ashtekar has continued to play a seminal role in the development of this field, as well as its sub-field, loop quantum cosmology. Ashtekar also has made contributions to quantum field theory, gauge theories, general relativity, and gravitational-wave science. In broad terms, his contributions are at the interface between geometry and physics.

Renowned as one of the most-cited researchers in the field of relativity, Ashtekar has given over 160 plenary lectures at national and international conferences and workshops. Ashtekar was honored at the Loops 11 Conference "Celebrating 25 years of Loop Quantum Gravity," which in 2011 commemorated the 25th anniversary of the publication of his landmark scientific paper about loop quantum gravity that sparked a revolution within the field of spacetime physics. His previous awards and recognitions include honorary doctoral degrees from the Université de la Méditerranée in Aix-Marseille, France in 2010 and from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany in 2005. In addition, in 2004, he received a Forschungspreis Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. He has written or co-written over 260 scientific papers and written or co-edited 9 scientific books. He has served on the editorial boards of all the major journals in his field.

In 2016, Ashtekar was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation, signed by Abraham Lincoln, election to the Academy is one of the highest honors accorded to U.S. scientists or engineers by their peers. Ashtekar is a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. He is one of only 51 Honorary Fellows of the Indian Academy of Sciences drawn from the community of scientists living outside of India. He has held the Krammers Visiting Chair in Theoretical Physics at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands; a Senior Visiting Fellowship of the British Science and Engineering Research Council; and the Sir C. V. Raman Chair of the Indian Academy of Science. In addition, he holds a visiting professorship at the Beijing Normal University and at the Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, India.

Ashtekar's research also has been described widely in popular and semi-popular media, sometimes as cover stories. Publications and media outlets that have reported on his research include Nature, Science, The Economist, U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, New Scientist, Fox News, MSNBC, and many other international publications and news sources. In addition, Ashtekar was featured in the 2008 German documentary Kosmos, which was prepared in celebration of German physicist Max Planck's 150th birthday. He also was featured prominently in a documentary shown at the year-long Berlin Einstein Exhibit in 2005.

Ashtekar has mentored more than 25 Ph.D. students and over 70 post-doctoral scholars. More than 60 of his advisees hold faculty positions all over the world, many holding prestigious Chairs. Before joining the faculty at Penn State, Ashtekar held positions as professor, distinguished professor, and the Erastus Franklin Holden Professor of Physics at Syracuse University from 1984 to 1993. Previously, he was professor and chair of gravitation at the University of Paris VI in France.

[ S J S ]

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