Symposium honors quasicrystal founder Shechtman's 70th

Image In honor of the 70th birthday of Daniel J. Shechtman, a celebration symposium was held July 29 to recognize his career achievements. Shechtman, an Anson Martson Distinguished Professor in materials science and engineering, and an Ames Lab associate scientist, discovered quasicrystals in 1982.

According to publicity for the symposium, that discovery "ignited a scientific revolution that changed the way we understand solid matter. His courage and clarity of vision during that turbulent, exciting period are an inspiration to scientists everywhere."

In opening the symposium, Ames Laboratory Director Alex King praised Shechtman's commitment in believing what he observed experimentally in the face of often harsh opposition. He also commended Shechtman for his ability to communicate on a human level to convince others that what he had observed was real even though it ran counter to conventional wisdom.

In remarks to the symposium audience, Shechtman talked about how his discovery came about.

"It took working with a material that wasn't of much interest because it's brittle, like glass," he said. "And it took the right instrument, an electron microscope, because while X-ray diffraction is great for studying many aspects of crystals, it can't show you rotational symmetry."

"I'm positive that others had to have seen what I saw many, many times before," he said. "The difference is they only paid attention to what they expected to see."

Shechtman urged those present, particularly the students, to focus on the unexpected.

"It may be that you're seeing something that you're just unaware of or haven't learned about yet," he said, "but it could also be that you've found something new that could lead to whole new areas of study."

The symposium program featured four internationally-renowned leaders in quasicrystal research:

  • "Fascinating Quasicrystals," Walter Steurer (ETH-Zurich)
  • "Mesoscopic Quasicrystals," Ron Lifshitz (University of Tel-Aviv)
  • "A Prehistory of Quasicrystals," David Rabson (University of South Florida)
  • "No Pain, No Gain. Expanding the Understanding of Quasicrystals with Surfaces, and Vice-versa," Pat Thiel (Iowa State University/Ames Lab)

The symposium was organized by Thiel, Richard LeSar and Ames Laboratory Director Alex King.

Ames Lab Director Alex King
Guest of honor Danny Shechtman

Shechtman receives a congratulatory handshake from
ISU Engineering Dean Jonathan Wickert