Ames Laboratory’s Canfield Wins DOE Lawrence Award

Contacts:                                                                                    For Release: Nov. 30, 2011
Paul Canfield, Materials and Engineering Sciences, 515-294-6270
Breehan Gerleman Lucchesi, Public Affairs, 515-294-9750


ImagePaul Canfield, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, has won a 2011 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award in recognition of his outstanding work in synthesizing and characterizing materials in single crystal form. Canfield is the first Ames Laboratory scientist to win a Lawrence Award.

Canfield, who is also a Distinguished Professor and the Robert Allen Wright Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University, will accept the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., early next year. He is one of only nine winners named for 2011.

“Paul Canfield's work has had consistently high impact on the understanding of newly emergent materials, which are always the hardest ones to work on,” said Ames Laboratory Director Alex King. “Paul has an unusual experimental touch and an outstanding scientific ability, which he combines a tremendous instinct for picking really interesting problems to work on. While others are struggling to make or find enough material to test in the lab, Paul is usually off and running with high-quality samples, usually made with his own hands, and is moving on to solving the ‘big questions.’”

The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Award recognizes contributions in research and development supporting the DOE. The Lawrence Award was established in 1959 to honor the memory of Dr. Ernest Orlando Lawrence, who invented the cyclotron, a particle accelerator. The award includes a gold medal and an honorarium.

Canfield’s research interests include the design, discovery, growth and characterization of novel electronic and magnetic compounds - often in single crystal form - and the study of their electrical, magnetic and thermal properties. Over the past three decades he has helped discover, understand, and optimize materials with ferromagnetic and superconducting states as well as more exotic system that have fragile magnetism that can be manipulated so as to shed light on basic questions addressing the very existence of magnetic behavior.

“Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University have provided the ideal environment for this type of basic research,” said Canfield. “History, combined with careful stewardship, has allowed a highly collaborative, highly interdisciplinary environment to exist here that has fostered and supported world class, new materials research. Between Ames Laboratory and ISU Department of Physics and Astronomy we have a super-critical mass of researchers interested in growth, characterization, theory and modeling of magnetic and electronic systems for both basic and applied work.”

The Lawrence Award citation reads, “Paul C. Canfield will be honored for innovative syntheses and high-quality single crystal solution growth of novel new materials and the collaborative consummate elucidation of their fundamental properties using a range of techniques.”

The latter part of the citation is exceptionally appropriate according to Canfield.

“I have been truly fortunate to enjoy a host of friends, colleagues and collaborators over the past 20 years at Ames Lab,” said Canfield. “We can, and have repeatedly, formed groups and teams to tackle problems that would be too large for a single researcher or group. This is not only efficient, but also fun, like sharing an intense obsession or hobby with friends”

One of Canfield’s closet collaborators, Ames Lab physicist Sergey Bud’ko, said Canfield’s success is due to his broad interests and ability to quickly move into new areas of study.

“It is fun to work with Paul, in a very mobile and adaptive research group. Paul’s work with his collaborators on novel superconductors, heavy fermions and quasicrystals is a part of what makes Ames Laboratory one of the main condensed matter physics centers in the world,” said Bud’ko. “On a different note though, I value the opportunity to have mixed and broad topics of conversations with Paul over morning coffee, from visual art to cooking, to motivations for doing everything, to cutting edge science. This breadth of interests helps to keep the research going in new directions.”

Bruce Harmon, Ames Laboratory deputy director and physicist, also remarked on Canfield’s collaboration with other scientists at Ames Lab.

“Paul is a remarkable scientist, and this prestigious award is great recognition of his incredible drive and instinct in pursuing forefront science, and also for his remarkable ability to motivate a cadre of superb collaborators to investigate all aspects of new materials properties so the collective results look more like a promising teenager than a new-born child,” said Harmon.

Likewise, Ames Lab physicist Alan Goldman commented on Canfield’s research in the newest science questions facing the field.

"I am delighted that Paul is receiving recognition for the pioneering work he has done for so many years at Iowa state university and the Ames lab,” said Goldman.

Canfield’s work includes teaching physics courses at ISU, and his colleagues at ISU join in congratulating him on his award.

“The Department of Physics & Astronomy is proud to congratulate Canfield on being named a 2011 Lawrence Award laureate,” said Joe Shinar, chair of the ISU department of physics and astronomy. “He joins a group of outstanding scientists who received this award since its inception in 1960.”

Canfield received a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Virginia and a doctorate in physics from the University of California at Los Angeles. After postdoctoral work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, he joined the Ames Laboratory in 1993 and the Iowa State University Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1994.

In recognition of his research and teaching accomplishments, Canfield has received several awards from Iowa State University, including the ISU Early Excellence in Research award, Mid-career Achievement Award and Master Teacher Award. He also received a DOE Outstanding Scientific Accomplishment Award for Solid State Physics. Canfield is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Canfield is an author of over 700 peer reviewed articles and has also written general science review of superconductivity in Physics Today, Physics World and Scientific American. He has written essays in Nature Physics about the basic esthetics that drive the research physicist and has compared experimental, new materials research to his other passion, cooking. He also serves on the National Academies’ Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Research Committee, which advises the U.S. government on new scientific trends and issues to help set the nation’s scientific agenda.

The Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. The Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.