Los Alamos Scientist Is New Physics Chair

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

Kevin Bedell, an internationally known physicist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, has joined the Physics Department as chairman and professor.

Bedell, whose research focuses on high-temperature superconductivity, was chosen for the post after a lengthy national search and arrived this month. At Los Alamos, where he has worked since 1986, he has headed a group of leading researchers since 1990.

Administrators and science faculty expressed enthusiasm as Bedell arrived on campus. His leadership, and network of connections to many of the world's leading physicists, is expected to ratchet up the level of research and graduate study in the department in the near future, they said. His first order of business is hiring two junior faculty members.

"He brings extraordinary credentials on the international level," said College of Arts and Sciences Dean J. Robert Barth, SJ. "But he also brings a sense of vision of what a small department can do if carefully focused. He will develop a well-recognized, well-focused research program together with a solid undergraduate program."

Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smyer said, "We're very fortunate to have lured him away from Los Alamos. He has a great understanding of the field and where it's heading, and an ability to bring along junior colleagues - both faculty and students - in their research and careers."

"There is a real sense of excitement in the department, which I share," Fr. Barth added. "Moving the Physics Department forward to a new level of production and excellence will help the other science departments and raise our profile as a university that takes science very seriously."

Bedell's field is many-body physics, which focuses on the interactions between many electrons. In his research, Bedell examines the superconductive properties of materials at about 100 degrees Kelvin, which is considered high-temperature for superconductors (water freezes at 273 degrees Kelvin).

While leading the many-body theory research effort at Los Alamos, Bedell was the principal investigator on about $1.3 million in funded research last year. The group he led included Nobel Prize laureates and several members of the National Academy of Sciences. He will continue to co-direct that program.

Bedell earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Dowling College in Oakdale, NY, in 1971; a master's degree in applied mathematics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1972; and a doctorate in physics from Stony Brook in 1979.

He taught physics at Dowling College and Stony Brook while a graduate student, and has taught physics as an adjunct professor at the University of Florida, Gainsville, and at Florida State University, Tallahassee, since 1991.

"Boston College is one of the few places in the country that has taken a real positive attitude toward building the sciences and I am impressed with that commitment," said Bedell.

"My first goal will be to build up graduate research. I'd like to see first-rate researchers who are also first-rate teachers join the department."

Since he was named to the post last year, Bedell has been appointed editor of the journal Advances in Physics and was accepted in Who's Who in Science and Engineering. He has authored over 70 articles.

Prof. J. Christopher Hepburn (Geology), who chaired the search committee which identified Bedell, said the panel was impressed with his qualifications as a scientist and administrator.

"Los Alamos is really where it's at, especially in the kind of physics that Kevin does," said Hepburn. "He works with a who's-who in the field. In fact, the day I called to offer him the job, he was sitting across the desk from a Nobel Prize winner having coffee. That's the kind of company he keeps."

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