Winners Announced for 2017 Fritz London Memorial Prize

Duke University has announced recipients of its 2017 Fritz London Memorial Prize, choosing Jeevak Parpia of Cornell University and William P. Halperin and James A. Sauls, both from Northwestern University.

Awarded every three years, the London Prize recognizes scientists who have made outstanding experimental and theoretical contributions to the field of low-temperature physics. Eleven previous winners have also received the Nobel Prize in Physics. The 2017 prize will be presented at the 28th International Low Temperature Physics Conference, held August 9 -16 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Duke first awarded the prize 1957. Fritz London was a distinguished European scientist who in 1939 emigrated to the United States where he became a professor of chemistry and physics at the university.

The selection committee cited Parpia, Halperin and Sauls for their pioneering work on the influence of disorder on the superfluidity of helium-3, saying their results have provided “deep insights into the understanding of complex symmetry breaking in unconventionally paired condensed matter in the presence of disorder.”

Parpia is the third Cornell faculty member to win the prize: John Reppy received it in 1981, and Seamus Davis in 2005.

Parpia came to Cornell and joined the low-temperature group as a physics graduate student, studying the viscosity and superfluid density of helium-3 near the superfluid transition. He has continued his work on helium-3, and expanded his research interests to confined films. His other areas of interest include nano- and micro-mechanics and the physics of glasses, with the goal of combining these with ultra-low temperatures.

“This is one of the most prestigious prizes in condensed matter physics,” says Eanna Flanagan, physics chair and a professor of astronomy at Cornell. “We are delighted that Jeevak’s groundbreaking work has been recognized in this way.”

At Northwestern, Halperin’s research focuses on liquid helium-3 and superconductivity, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies of high-temperature superconductors and fluid transport in porous media. Sauls’ research is in theoretical physics, currently focused on the role of symmetry breaking and topology on the properties of condensed matter. It involves the discovery of new concepts related to the collective behavior of enormous numbers of atomic constituents, combined with the application of statistical mechanics and quantum theory to describe the behavior of macroscopic matter.

“Bill Halperin and Jim Sauls are pillars of the department,” says Michael Schmitt, chair of Weinberg College’s department of physics and astronomy. “It makes us extremely proud to see their work recognized with the Fritz London Memorial Prize. This special distinction is well deserved and reflects well on them, the department and Northwestern.”