Ames Scientist Receives APS McGroddy Prize

The American Physical Society (APS) has awarded Professor Paul C. Canfield, a senior scientist at the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, with its James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials. The prize is intended to stimulate the discovery of new classes of materials, the observation of novel phenomena in known materials that lead to both fundamentally new applications and scientific insights and theoretical and experimental work that contributes significantly to the understanding of new materials phenomena.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this prize,” says Canfield. “It allows me to join the ranks of researchers who have provided inspiration and influence to my career. In specific, Zachary Fisk (1990 McGroddy Prize), who introduced me to solution growth and Joe Remeika (1984 McGroddy Prize) who, in turn, taught Zachary many of this technique’s finer points.”

Canfield, who is also a Distinguished Professor and the Robert Allen Wright Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University, was selected for the prize “for development and use of solution growth of single crystalline intermetallic materials to design, discover and elucidate new heavy fermion, superconducting, magnetic and quasicrystalline states.” APS will present Canfield the prize, which consists of a certificate and honorarium, at the 2017 APS March meeting in New Orleans.

“Each year, the American Physical Society recognizes leading physicists through a variety of prizes and awards,” says Homer Neal, APS president. “We are proud to honor a spectrum of recipients, including outstanding early-career researchers, exceptional communicators and educators and accomplished theorists and experimentalists working in every major field of physics.”

Canfield’s research interests include the design, discovery, growth and characterization of novel electronic and magnetic compounds—often in single crystal form—and the study of associated electrical, magnetic and thermal properties. Over the past three decades, he has helped discover, understand and optimize materials with ferromagnetic and superconducting states as well as more exotic systems that have fragile magnetism that can be manipulated so as to shed light on basic questions addressing the very origins of magnetic behavior.

“This award is further confirmation of the outstanding scientific ability Paul brings to the study of new materials,” says Adam Schwartz, laboratory director at Ames. “His leadership role in understanding and addressing scientific challenges in this area has resulted in great advances in the science of new materials. All of us at the Ames Laboratory congratulate Paul on receiving this important recognition.”

The McGroddy Prize is not Canfield’s first American Physical Society award. In 2014, APS presented him with the David Adler Lectureship Award in the Field of Materials Physics and in 2001, he was elected to be an APS Fellow. Canfield has also received numerous awards and citations for his work, including the 2015 Humboldt Research Award, the 2014 Gordon and Betty Moore Materials Synthesis Investigators Award, the 2011 Department of Energy Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award and numerous professional awards from Iowa State University.

Over the past decade, Canfield has created and taught courses about the fundamentals of new materials discovery and characterization in a number of universities and summer schools. His hope, he says, is to inspire and educate as many researchers as possible to join the vital search for new materials that will alleviate humanity’s growing energy and environmental needs.

“It has really simply been a joy to develop, use and teach solution growth over the past decades,” Canfield says. “It is a powerful tool for the growth and discovery of new materials and, at the same time, wonderfully pleasing in its simplicity and elegance.”