Physicist Awarded 2012 Bardeen Prize

UC Riverside’s Chandra Varma is recognized for his scientific contributions in the field of superconductivity

Photo shows Chandra Varma.

Chandra Varma is a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy and Chancellor’s Chair at UC Riverside. Photo credit: Varma lab, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Chandra Varma, a distinguished professor of physics at the University of California, Riverside, has been awarded the 2012 Bardeen Prize for his outstanding contributions to explaining the intriguing phenomenon of superconductivity.

The Bardeen Prize is awarded triennially by the international superconductivity research community.   Of the 13 previous winners of the prize, three have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Sponsored by the Department of Physics of the University of Illinois and by the Friends of Bardeen, the prize recognizes theoretical work that has provided significant insights on the nature of superconductivity and has led to verifiable predictions. Specifically, Varma is recognized for his work on “the identification of the pairing symmetry, pairing mechanism, and multiple superconducting phases in heavy-fermion superconductors.”

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with near-zero resistance below a specific temperature, known as the critical temperature. They typically find use in electric power transformers and magnetic resonance imaging machines. Understanding superconductors has changed scientists’ view of matter, from ordinary metals to nuclei to neutron stars to elementary particle physics.

“This recognition of Dr. Varma’s outstanding contributions to superconductivity was long overdue,” said Umar Mohideen, the chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “This is the first Bardeen Prize at UC Riverside and is a giant step in terms of improving the visibility of our campus on the national and international stage.”

Varma shares the prize with two other physicists: James Avery Sauls at Northwestern University and Steven Allan Kivelson at Stanford University.  They will receive the prize at the Materials and Mechanisms of Superconductivity Conference to be held in Washington D.C. this summer.

Varma is internationally known for his work in theoretical physics of collective quantum properties of matter such as superconductivity and magnetism.  His lab conducts research in high-temperature superconductivity and quantum critical phenomena.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including an honorary doctorate by the University of Minnesota, and being named a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Third World Academy. He has received the Distinguished Service Award from Bell Laboratories, and the Humboldt Prize of the German Academy of Sciences.

After obtaining his doctorate in physics at the University of Minnesota in 1968, Varma joined the Theoretical Physics Research Department of Bell Laboratories, N.J., as a postdoctoral researcher, and served there later as the head of the Theoretical Physics Department. In 2003, he joined UCR, where he holds the Chancellor’s Chair.

He has been a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, at College de France in Paris, at Cambridge University, at the University of Karlsruhe, at Stanford University. In 2000, he held the Lorentz Chair in Leiden.

He has published more than 160 papers in various aspects of theoretical condensed matter physics and has been cited more than 16,000 times.

The John Bardeen Prize was established in 1991 in honor of John Bardeen, the only scientist to win the Nobel Prize in physics twice, one for the discovery of the transistor and the other for the theory of superconductivity.

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