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Stavola, Gunton receive endowed chairs in physics

Michael Stavola, professor and department chair, and James Gunton, professor, have recently been named to endowed chairs in the department of physics.

Stavola, an expert in the physics of semiconductor defects, is the new Sherman Fairchild Chair in physics. The chair is supported by an endowment from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, which was established in honor of the late inventor, investor and pioneer in photography, aviation and sound engineering.

Gunton, an expert in phase transitions and nonlinear, nonequilibrium systems, was appointed to the Joseph A. Waldschmitt Chair in Physics. The chair was established in 1990 by a gift from Alice Waldschmitt in honor of her husband, Joseph Waldschmitt ’39, a successful and innovative entrepreneur.

Stavola: Focus on hydrogen in semiconductors

Michael Stavola

Stavola, who joined the faculty in 1989, uses innovative spectroscopic methods to gather experimental data on atomic-scale properties related to problems in semiconductor-defect physics. His work has led to the solution of several long-standing materials problems where physics and applications intersect.

Stavola has devoted much of his research career to studying hydrogen in semiconductors. He and his students have used infrared techniques to study the vibrational modes of different hydrogen-containing defects in semiconductors. They have helped improve scientists’ experimental understanding of the wide variety of ways in which hydrogen is involved in defect reactions that affect the electrical properties of semiconductors.

Stavola has recently collaborated with Beall Fowler, professor emeritus of physics, to solve perplexing puzzles concerning a defect known as the interstitial hydrogen molecule in silicon. Their success surprised the scientific community working on semiconductor-defect physics. Their complementary experimental and theoretical work elegantly revealed the rotational motion of this defect.

Although most of Stavola’s research focuses on basic physics questions, he has extended his fundamental investigation of defects to include such applications as the detection of hydrogen that is introduced into silicon by processes that are used to improve the efficiency of solar cells.

A fellow of the American Physical Society, Stavola received a Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists in 2003, which supports a collaboration with a research group in Dresden, Germany. He has co-authored or edited 150 technical articles, two books and two conference proceedings.

Stavola received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Rochester in 1980 and was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories from 1980 to 1989.

Gunton: Probing protein condensation

James Gunton

Gunton, who served as dean of Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences from 1988 to 1994, recently won a major grant from the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation, which supports basic research in the life sciences.

Gunton is interested in the condensation mechanisms involved in certain human diseases, including cataracts, sickle cell anemia and Alzheimer's disease, which are thought to involve the undesired condensation of globular proteins from solution. He is seeking to gain a better understanding of the statistical physics of this condensation, including the nucleation and growth of crystals of the proteins, which are crucial to the function of living cells and biological processes.

Gunton has received research grants from organizations in Japan, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, and has been continuously funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation for more than three decades. He has been a Rhodes Scholar, a Danforth Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow (Honorary), and a Stanford Research Fellow. As an NSF visiting scientist in Japan, he received a fellowship to work at Kyoto University’s Research Institute for Fundamental Physics.

In addition to his service at Lehigh, Gunton has been a visiting professor at Kyushu University (Japan), at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), at the Institut fur Festkorperforschung de Kernforschungsanlage (Germany), at the Troisieme Cycle de la Physique en Suisse Romande in Lausanne (Switzerland), at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble (France) and at the University of the Balearic Islands (Spain), where he was Iberdrola Professor.

A fellow of the American Physical Society, Gunton has mentored more than 35 doctoral and postdoctoral students and published almost 200 articles in refereed journals. He is the author of Introduction to the Dynamics of Metastable and Unstable States.

Gunton earned his Ph.D. from Stanford in 1967 and served on the faculty of Temple University before his appointment in 1988 as dean of Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences. He served as provost at Kenyon College from 1994 to 1995, before returning to Lehigh.

The Waldschmitt Chair supports an outstanding established physicist at Lehigh. Waldschmitt retired in 1973 as president and CEO of Page Communications Engineers, Inc., a Washington, D.C. area-based builder of integrated telecommunications systems for the U.S. and foreign governments. Until his death in 1988, Waldschmitt remained a steadfast supporter of Lehigh and of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, now the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Waldschmitt was chairman of his class’s 50th reunion and served Lehigh in many other volunteer capacities. He received the Alumni Award, the highest honor given by the Lehigh University Alumni Association, and was granted the honorary doctor of engineering degree by Lehigh in 1987.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Wednesday, November 02, 2005

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