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Brockhouse Medal recognizes groundbreaking scientists


Ottawa, ON – The 2013 Brockhouse Medal is being awarded to Kari Dalnoki-Veress and James Forrest, professors at McMaster University and University of Waterloo respectively, for their collaborative work in the physics of macromolecules in thin films, as well as near surfaces as interfaces. The medal is being awarded by the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) on the recommendation of a selection committee set up by the Division of Condensed Matter and Materials Physics.

The award, which was established in 1999, is named for Bertram Brockhouse, a celebrated scientist at McMaster University who earned the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1994.

Internationally renowned experts in the field of soft condensed matter physics, Drs Dalnoki-Veress and Forrest have made seminal contributions to problems pertaining to dynamics and morphology of confined soft materials. In a statement, CAP notes that they are trail-blazers in setting new research methodologies to study soft condensed matter systems in thin films as well as near surfaces and interfaces.

The two physicists began their collaboration at the University of Guelph in John Dutcher’s group, which led to ground breaking work published in a 1996 Physical Review Letters article (co-authored with J.R. Stevens and J.R. Dutcher, University of Guelph), in which they report on the discovery that the glass transition temperature of very thin polymer films can be dramatically renormalized by the film thickness.

Their discovery and continuing work on how thickness can dramatically affect the glass transition of polymer thin films has had significant repercussions in the field of polymer physics. It attracted the attention of P.G. de Gennes (Physics Nobel Prize, 2001) who brought it to the attention of the broader community, hence motivating numerous researchers to take on the investigation of that phenomenon – a worldwide research activity that has remained unabated for 15 years.

In addition to their collaborative investigation of the polymer glass transition, they have each gone to impact the field individually, but always from benefitting synergistically from each other’s expertise, advice and critique. For example, using an elegant method employing gold nanoparticles, Forrest illustrated in a Science 2008 paper why dynamics in very thin films can be so rapid. In a 2004 Physical Review Letter, Dalnoki-Veress introduced a brilliant methodology combining spin-coated thin polymer films on silicon and advanced image processing techniques to demonstrate a rare example of homogeneous crystallization.

They will be presented with the medal at the 2013 CAP Congress (hosted by the Université de Montréal in Montréal, Québec, from May 27-31) at the end of their plenary talk and will be recognized during the Congress banquet being held on May 30.