Q. Charles Su, a professor in the Physics department, has been named the University Professor at Illinois State University. The title honors faculty members who are nationally recognized scholars and teachers. The title of University Professor will be officially bestowed upon Su at Illinois State’s Founders Day Convocation at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17.
Su is a computational and theoretical physicist specializing in the area of laser-atom interactions. The co-director of the Intense Laser Physics research group at Illinois State, Su has obtained external funding from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy and the Research Corporation. His National Science Foundation grants, along with Rainer Grobe, are the largest research grants at undergraduate institutions in the field and rank in the top five of atomic and optical theory grants given to all institutions. He has acquired external funding of over one million dollars at Illinois State and shared the 2006 Prize for Faculty Research in an Undergraduate Institution given by the American Physics Society.
Su’s early work focused on what happens when atoms are bombarded with intense laser light, suggesting a surprising region of atomic stability at high laser intensities. Su and Grobe discovered cycloatoms, a new form of atom in which a laser is used to excite atomic electrons to produce an atypical ring-shaped electron cloud in which electrons move at nearly the speed of light and have a very large spatial extent. Su’s research group has expanded into the fundamental quantum physics of particle-antiparticle creation from the vacuum and into theoretical and experimental study of laser scattering in biological materials, a project which has potential for application to non-invasive medical imaging of tumors and other internal body structures.
Su has more than 120 refereed articles with many in the flagship physics journal, the Physical Review. His work has had over 2,000 citations. Su has presented at international conferences and research institutes in 16 countries. His research work has been featured in the national and local press, television and radio. His students have co-authored more than 50 refereed journal articles and have presented at more than 200 local, national and international conferences. Several of his students have received honors, including Goldwater scholarships and the American Physical Society’s LeRoy Apker Award, the highest honor an undergraduate physics major can receive for research.
Su referees for eight major journals and three agencies. His Intense Laser Physics Theory Unit has gained international visibility and has attracted leading scientists from around the world to Illinois State University.
J.H. Eberly, the Carnegie Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester and an internally known scholar in Su’s field, cites the “strikingly novel direction” Su is taking in “searching for understanding of the most fundamental interactions of single electrons and positrons due to radiative excitation in an unconventional and quite creative way.”
The designation of University Professor enables Illinois State to honor individual faculty members or administrators who hold the rank of full professor and who have achieved national recognition for scholarly research, creative production or leadership in creative or scholarly activities. Individuals who are identified by students, colleagues or external agencies as outstanding teachers are also eligible for the title.
Up to two University Professors can be appointed each year from within the Illinois State community, with the recipients holding the title throughout their years of service at the University. Appointments to University Professor may also be made to help recruit outstanding faculty members from other colleges or universities. The title, endorsed by Illinois State’s Academic Senate, is a companion honor to the long-standing Distinguished Professor designation.