Stuart Solin named first Charles M. Hohenberg Professor of Experimental Physics

At a formal installation on April 3, Stuart A. Solin, professor of physics, became the inaugural holder of the Charles M. Hohenberg Professorship of Experimental Physics in Arts & Sciences.

The ceremony, which was held in Holmes Lounge, featured remarks from Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Chairman of the Board of Trustees John F. McDonnell. Also present to commemorate the occasion was Charles M. Hohenberg, professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, who, with his mother, Alice, made the gift to Washington University in memory of his father.

“Professor Hohenberg’s generous gift to Washington University will serve as a lasting tribute to his father and as a permanent reminder of the extraordinary generosity and spirit of collegiality that exists among our faculty,” Wrighton remarked. “This endowment demonstrates his deep appreciation for and commitment to the University and the physics department. We are grateful for this wonderful gift.”

Edward S. Macias, executive vice chancellor and dean of Arts & Sciences, said: “The new chair in physics will enhance the department, Arts & Sciences, and the University as a whole. Professor Hohenberg serves as a model of generosity to us all.”

When the senior Charles Hohenberg, a leading industrialist and philanthropist, died in 1984, his widow, Alice, and son, Charles, pondered appropriate ways to honor the life and integrity of this remarkable man. “The physics department had become my family, too, and there seemed no better memorial than the excellence of the physics department itself,” Hohenberg said. “My mother agreed, and together we created a special endowed chair to honor such excellence. It became our wish that the Charles M. Hohenberg Professorship be used to enhance the quality of our department and the prestige of Washington University, by attracting an exceptional scientist in experimental physics,” he added.

His father’s firm, Hohenberg Brothers Company of Wetumpka, Al., specialized as an interface between cotton farmers and the textile industry. In 1950, the company expanded to many countries and became the leading name in cotton worldwide. In 1975, Cargill, Inc, the world’s largest privately held company, acquired the business.

Although Alice Hohenberg died in 1996, the plan for making the gift had already been set in motion. Last year, the right person to fill the chair, Stuart Solin, joined the physics department, and the professorship became a reality.

“Stuart Solin is truly a world-class physicist and adds significant distinction to our faculty in physics,” said John Clark, department chair. “As an eminent scientist with a teaching and research career spanning more than 30 years, he is well-deserving of this honor.”

Solin joined Washington University’s department of physics in 2002. In addition to teaching and research activities, he is chairing a task force to establish a new materials center at Washington University that will be interdisciplinary in nature and will bring together leading faculty from Arts & Sciences, Engineering and Applied Science, and other schools.

A leading figure in condensed matter physics and materials science, Solin’s research focus is in fundamental physical phenomena in ordered solids, such as diamonds, and disordered solids, such as window glass. His contributions to the advancement of physics include the development of a number of experimental techniques for studying solids, including electron energy loss spectroscopy, field-emission analytical electron miscroscopy, time resolved femtosecond luminescence and Raman scattering spectroscopy. He led a research group that recently discovered the new phenomenon of Extraordinary Magnetoresistance (EMR), which has impacted many important technologies and was selected as one of the most significant discoveries of 2002 by the American Physical Society.

He received his bachelor’s degree in physics in 1963 (in three years) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Purdue University in 1965 and 1969, respectively. He joined the University of Chicago faculty and became co-director of the National Science Foundation Materials Research Laboratory and served as a distinguished professor. Ten years later, Solin went to Michigan State University, where he organized and directed the Center for Fundamental Materials Research. He then joined the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, NJ, as a fellow, the highest scientific rank in the company. While there, he served as chair of its governing body.

As the author of more than 230 scientific articles and a host of scholarly reviews, and as editor or co-editor of several books, Solin has been widely published in his areas of specialization. In addition, he is a principal editor of the Journal of Materials Research and a member of the U.S. editorial advisory board for the Journal of Physics:Condensed Matter. Furthermore, he holds 15 patents and received the Best Patent Award in 1998 as well as the NEC’s Technology Impact Award in 2000.

In addition to those honors, Solin is a former Sloan Fellow and is currently a fellow of the American Physical Society and a fellow and a chartered physicist of the United Kingdom’s Institute of Physics.

For more than a half century, Charles Hohenberg’s parents were tireless supporters of many charitable institutions in their community. Undoubtedly their son learned the value of philanthropy by example.

He joined Washington University in 1970 as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 1978. His area of specialization focuses on noble gases, and he has established a laboratory here for that purpose. He is the recipient of many awards, including several from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and in conference proceedings. Throughout his career, Hohenberg has been active in national and international organizations and has served on a number of federal organizations to advise on scientific policies.