The award is the highest honor presented by the society, which has more than 6,000 members who promote the use of vacuum and other controlled environments to develop new materials, process technology, devices and related understanding of material properties for the betterment of humanity.
Plummer was cited "the development of novel instrumentation, its use to illuminate new concepts in the surface physics of metals and the mentoring of promising young scientists."
The award was established in 1969 to commemorate the pioneering efforts of Welch, founder of the American Vacuum Society. It consists of a $10,000 cash prize, struck gold medal, certificate and honorary lectureship at the society's international symposium. The award will be presented Oct. 31 in San Francisco.
Plummer joined ORNL and UT in 1993. His recent research has focused on surfaces of highly correlated electron systems using variable temperature scanning microscopy. Last year, he was named director of the Tennessee Advanced Materials Laboratory, a Center of Excellence funded by the state of Tennessee.
Plummer was a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow and later a staff scientist at the National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The latter organization chose one of his papers as one of its top 100 articles of the 20th century.
Plummer was a member of the Physics Department at the University of Pennsylvania from 1974 to 1993. His work there focused on angle-resolved photo emission, momentum-resolved inelastic electron scattering and nonlinear optical responses from surfaces.
In 1990, Plummer was named director of the Materials Research Laboratory for Research on Structure of Matter, funded by the National Science Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania.
Plummer is nationally and internationally recognized for his research. He has received numerous scientific honors, including the Davisson-Germer Prize from the American Physical Society, the Crown-Zellerbach Fellowship, the Cornell Fellowship, the Wayne Nottingham Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Humboldt Senior Scientist Award.
He serves on many national and international committees and boards to help identify future directions for science and technology. He most recently was named to the Department of Energy's Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee.
Plummer is author or co-author of more than 300 scientific articles and is included in the list of the 1,000 Most Cited Physicists. He has also served as a mentor for young scientists, advising the doctoral theses of some 40 graduate students and hosting more than 25 postdoctoral fellows.
In honor of his 60th birthday last year, many of these students and fellows hosted a special symposium, "Frontiers in Surface Physics."
Plummer earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Lewis and Clark College and a doctorate in physics from Cornell University.
He and his wife, Betty, are residents of Oak Ridge. They have two adult children.
ORNL is a multiprogram science and technology laboratory operated by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.