November 2005: Michael Thoennessen and Thomas Glasmacher elected APS fellows

  • Nov 1, 2005

EAST LANSING, Mich. Two Michigan State University faculty members have been named fellows of the American Physical Society, one of the world's largest and most respected physics organizations.

Thomas Glasmacher, professor of physics and associate director for operations at the MSU National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, and Michael Thoennessen, professor of physics and associate director for nuclear science at the laboratory, were among this year's group of new fellows, all of whom were selected for their outstanding and innovative research.

The selection as a society fellow is considered one of the highest honors a physicist can receive, largely because it demonstrates accomplishments and contributions to physics that are judged exceptional by colleagues who are best able to judge their value. Typically, fewer than one in 200 society members will achieve the designation in a given year. With the addition of Glasmacher and Thoennessen, more than half of the physicists at the laboratory have been designated as fellows.

Glasmacher and Thoennessen are joining a relatively small club of distinguished scientists, said Konrad Gelbke, University Distinguished Professor and director of the MSU National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory. The fact that we have two faculty members receiving this honor in a given year shows that MSU is a preeminent institution in nuclear science.

The 2005 fellows were approved at the most recent society board meeting, held the week of Nov. 14.

Both Glasmacher and Thoennessen were recognized for their work studying atomic nuclei, core building blocks of matter composed of tiny particles protons and neutrons. The MSU cyclotron, which speeds up atomic nuclei to nearly half the speed of light, allows for the creation of rare nuclei that played an important role in the formation of the cosmos.

The created fragments of matter exist for only a small fraction of a second. These nuclei are so short-lived that they have all decayed since the earth was formed.

Glasmacher and Thoennessen have made advances in measuring the properties of this matter during its brief existence. The data the MSU pair collects help the worldwide physics community answer fundamental questions, including what forces keep nuclei s protons and neutrons stuck together and how many of these particles can be joined together before nuclei fall apart.

Studying these fleeting, novel bits of matter helps physicists to test their theories in new ways.

"When you just study particles that are common in nature, you're in a sense standing in a little box," said Glasmacher. "We're working with particles with more extreme properties and doing much more than just speculating about what's outside the box - we're measuring it directly."

The campus-based laboratory yields more than just technical advantages, the scientists say.

"There's a huge benefit to working at a national laboratory situated on a university campus," said Thoennessen. "We attract some of the best students who, even as undergraduates, can work with faculty and contribute to world-class nuclear physics experiments."

Students also have been involved in building the equipment used in laboratory experiments, including the million-dollar Modular Neutron Array, called MoNA. Thoennessen uses MoNA to gather information about the nuclei he studies.

Both Glasmacher and Thoennessen play important leadership roles at the MSU National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, which conducts advanced research in fundamental nuclear science, nuclear astrophysics and accelerator physics. Important applications of the research conducted at the laboratory include new tools for radiation treatments of cancer patients and more durable high tech components for space flight.

Glasmacher received his doctorate in experimental nuclear physics at Florida State University in 1992. Thoennessen received his doctorate in experimental nuclear physics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1988.

The American Physical Society was founded in 1899 to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics. Today, the society has more than 40,000 members, publishes the world s most prestigious and widely-read research journals and conducts more than 20 professional meetings annually.

Additional information about the MSU National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at MSU is available online at


Founded in 1855 as an experiment in higher education focused on advancing new fields of scientific study and extending the promise of higher education, MSU has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for nearly 150 years. MSU enrolls more than 44,000 students in 200 programs of undergraduate and graduate study, and its 15 degree-granting colleges attract scholars from around the world who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving. With more than 319,000 alumni worldwide, MSU is recognized as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact.

The above article was reproduced (with slight edits by W.B.) from the original posted at

The complete list of all active MSU Physics/Astronomy faculty member who have been desinated as fellows is (in alphabetic order, with year of election in brackets after the name): Maris Abolins, Wolfgang Bauer (2003), Walter Benenson, Martin Berz (1998), Norman Birge (2003), Chip Brock (2000), Alex Brown (1987), Sekhar Chivukula, Mark Dykman (2001), Konrad Gelbke (1985), Thomas Glasmacher (2005), Brage Golding, Mike Harrison (1972), Bill Lynch (1997), Bhanu Mahanti (1994), Bernard Pope, William Pratt (1993), Wayne Repko, Stan Schriber (1997), Brad Sherrill (1998), Elizabeth Simmons (2002), Michael Thoennessen (2005), David Tomanek (2004), Wu-Ki Tung (1987), Gary Westfall (1999), Vladimir Zelevinsky (1997)

Several emeriti also carry this distinction: Sam Austin, Jack Bass, Aaron Glonsky, Tom Kaplan, Ed Kashy, Peter Parker, Gerald Pollack, Michael Thorpe.




Contact: Geoff Koch, University Relations, (517) 432-0924,