April 15, 2013 — Two researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been elected to fellowship in the American Physical Society (APS). Xiaoguang Zhang and Eliot Specht were named APS fellows in recognition of their outstanding contributions to physics.
APS fellowship is limited to no more than one half of one percent per year of the society's more than 50,000 members.
Zhang, a researcher in ORNL's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences Division and Computer Sciences and Mathematics Division, was recognized "for pioneering work in the development and application of the scattering theory and computational methods to materials studies, in particular to the study of electron transport in magnetic tunnel junctions."
Based on modeling research conducted in the 2000s Zhang and former colleague W.H. Butler predicted a magnetic tunnel junction made with a crystalline magnesium-oxide insulating layer would have a very large tunneling magnetoresistance. The prediction was confirmed by experimentalists several years later. Today, most device designs in magnetic read heads and MRAMs rely on the magnesium-oxide based tunnel junctions.
Zhang grew up in Beijing, received a B.S. from Peking University in 1983 and a doctorate from Northwestern University in 1989, both in physics, and now has 122 publications and more than 4000 citations. He was a member of the team that achieved the first ever teraflop scientific application, earning recognition as a Computer World Smithsonian Laureate in 2000, and was co-winner of the Gordon Bell Prize in 1998. Zhang lives in Oak Ridge with his wife Jiechun and their two children, Katherine and Lawrence.
Eliot Specht, a researcher in ORNL's Material Sciences and Technology Division, was recognized "for contributing to the understanding of how crystallographic alignment in polycrystalline materials affects current flow, and how thermomechanical processing can be used to control crystallographic alignment."
Specht is part of a team that developed high-temperature superconductors into practical wires for use in applications such as motors, generators, and power transmission cables. This work led to the licensing of 19 patents to six companies.
Specht's 255 publications have generated 5544 citations. Among his other accomplishments, Specht has received three R&D 100 awards, one Nano-50 award, a Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer, and a DOE Materials Science Research Competition Award.
Specht grew up in Berkeley, Calif., where he received an A.B. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1981. He received a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986. Specht lives in Knoxville with his wife Irene Vogel.
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