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American Physical Society honors outstanding achievements of two Brandeis scientists

Brandeis University

Two Brandeis researchers have won the top prizes in their fields from The American Physical Society (APS), the most prestigious and influential scholarly organization in physics. Physicist Robert Meyer won the 2006 Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize, and physical biologist professor emeritus Alfred G. Redfield was awarded the 2006 Biological Physics Prize.

Both Meyer and Redfield pioneered their fields, liquid crystals and biological physics, respectively, developing and advancing fundamental scientific ideas that reverberate today in the spectacular technological growth of these areas. The APS cited Meyer "for groundbreaking experimental and theoretical contributions to the fundamental science and applications of liquid crystals, particularly their ferroelectric and chiral properties."

Redfield was cited ''for his seminal contributions to the theory and technical development of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and for pioneering applications of this technique to the study of biological molecules.''

Both physicists responded to the APS announcement by saying that winning the prizes is a great honor, but that many others helped in the research and development of their ideas.

"Advances in science start with an idea--a belief that you can really make your idea a reality - but it's the work of all the other people afterwards that makes the first step important," said Meyer, who also won the 2004 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, widely regarded as the American Nobel Prize.

Meyer's early research focused on the basic physics of liquid crystals, rod-like molecules that share properties of both conventional liquids and solid crystals. Liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, today a ubiquitous, multi-billion dollar technology used in countless devices from cell phones to computers and TVs, began as research into how to manipulate liquid crystals with electric fields to change their optical properties.

Meyer pioneered the ferroelectric properties of chiral liquid crystals, whose molecules are not identical to their mirror image, leading to several new applications. One is an invention by Professor Noel Clark of the University of Colorado, who shares the Buckley Prize with Meyer, of a new class of LCD technology that effectively triples the quality of the display's resolution. Meyer's work laid the foundation for the creation of more than 50,000 new liquid crystal materials, fueling a mini-industry in the chemistry and applications of ferroelectric liquid crystals.

Redfield's research on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy goes back five decades to his seminal work on spin dynamics and investigation into normal and superconducting metals using field-cycling NMR. Several years before he joined the Brandeis faculty in 1972, Redfield began to research biological macromolecules using NMR. With his help at Brandeis, the university established itself as a leader in the application of NMR to biological macromolecules that continues to distinguish Brandeis today, in part through Redfield's current NIH-funded research further developing field cycling NMR in biopolymers.


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