Two more UCSB professors will help advise the nation on scientific issues after being recently elected into the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
Anthony G. Evans, a professor of materials in the College of Engineering, researches materials to be used in the aerospace industry, while Joseph G. Polchinski, a professor of physics, specializes in theoretical physics. The NAS announced the two researchers’ election on May 3 – bringing UCSB’s total number of faculty members in the academy to 25. The academy is the country’s most prestigious scientific organization, and membership in the society is considered one of the highest honors a United States scientist or engineer can receive, Polchinski said. College of Letters and Sciences Dean of Sciences Martin Moskovits said the university’s number of members in the NAS outstrips other comparable universities.
“UCSB, for its size, has an unusually large number of academy members,” Moskovits said. “The recent induction is a marvelous achievement that continues the university’s upward trajectory.”
According to the academy’s website, it has almost 2,000 members – 190 of whom are Nobel Prize winners – to discuss and elect new members. Polchinski, a permanent member of the UCSB Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, said congressional members rely on the academy for its expert knowledge when discussing legislation involving scientific matters.
Polchinski has a doctorate from UC Berkeley and has previously worked at the University of Texas, Harvard University and Stanford Linear Accelerator. He researches particle physics and applications of quantum field theory.
Polchinski said he did not expect to be elected but is tremendously honored to be a member of the academy.
“I was expecting it maybe when I was a bit older,” he said. “It means that you leave your mark. I hope it doesn’t mean that they think you’re done with all of your good work, because I plan to do a lot more work. Other scientists know about how hard it is to discover something new.”
Evans has a doctorate from Imperial College in London and has held positions at Princeton and Harvard, among others. His research interests include the thermochemical performance of structural materials used in aerospace, automotive and electronic applications.
“It’s really a privilege to get this,” Evans said. “Needless to say, I’m really delighted.”
Besides aerospace materials, Evans said he develops anti-terrorist designs for protecting ships against explosions.
Polchinski was elected to the academy for creating a more comprehensive understanding of how different components in the field of string theory relate. String theory is a “grand unified theory” explaining what the universe consists of at the most basic level. Most scientists acknowledge it as the most accurate theory concerning the fundamental level of materials. It is named after the countless “strings” that supposedly make up all matter in the universe. Variation between materials results from different string vibration patterns. If real, these strings would be drastically smaller than the atom, which is only visible through a microscope.
Both Evans and Polchinski will attend the academy’s official induction ceremony in Washington, D.C., later this year.
“I’ve been told by five different people that the food is very good [at the ceremony], so I’m looking forward to that,” said Polchinski.