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Eric Mazur

Eric Mazur

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Eric Mazur is a prominent physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and educator at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. Mazur is known for his work in experimental ultrafast optics and condensed matter physics
Condensed matter physics
Condensed matter physics deals with the physical properties of condensed phases of matter. These properties appear when a number of atoms at the supramolecular and macromolecular scale interact strongly and adhere to each other or are otherwise highly concentrated in a system. The most familiar...

 and a national leader in science education. Born in Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, the Netherlands, he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Leiden University
Leiden University
Leiden University , located in the city of Leiden, is the oldest university in the Netherlands. The university was founded in 1575 by William, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch Revolt in the Eighty Years' War. The royal Dutch House of Orange-Nassau and Leiden University still have a close...

 in the Netherlands.

Education


Mazur studied physics and astronomy at Leiden University
Leiden University
Leiden University , located in the city of Leiden, is the oldest university in the Netherlands. The university was founded in 1575 by William, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch Revolt in the Eighty Years' War. The royal Dutch House of Orange-Nassau and Leiden University still have a close...

. He passed his "doctoraal examen" (equivalent to a master's degree
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

) in 1977 and continued his graduate studies at the same institution. In 1981 he obtained his Ph.D on a thesis entitled "The structure of non-equilibrium angular momentum polarizations in polyatomic gases". Although he intended to go on to a career in industry with Philips
Philips
Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. , more commonly known as Philips, is a multinational Dutch electronics company....

 N.V. in Eindhoven, he left Europe at the urging of his father, Peter Mazur
Peter Mazur
Peter Mazur was an Austrian-born, Dutch physicist and one of the founders of the field of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. He is the father of Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur.-Family:Peter Mazur was born on December 11, 1922 in Vienna, Austria...

, to pursue a postdoctoral study with recent Nobel laureate Nicolaas Bloembergen
Nicolaas Bloembergen
Nicolaas Bloembergen is a Dutch-American physicist and Nobel laureate.He received his Ph.D. degree from University of Leiden in 1948; while pursuing his PhD at Harvard, Bloembergen also worked part-time as a graduate research assistant for Edward Mills Purcell at the MIT Radiation Laboratory...

 at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

.

Career


After two years as a postdoc, Mazur was offered a position of assistant professor at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. In 1987 he was promoted to associate professor and obtained tenure
Tenure
Tenure commonly refers to life tenure in a job and specifically to a senior academic's contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause.-19th century:...

 three years later in 1990. Mazur currently holds a chair as Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics
Applied physics
Applied physics is a general term for physics which is intended for a particular technological or practical use.It is usually considered as a bridge or a connection between "pure" physics and engineering....

 jointly in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and in the Physics Department. He is also the Dean of Applied Physics.

Research


Mazur's early work at Harvard focused on the use of short-pulse lasers to carry out spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

 of highly vibrationally excited molecules. Mazur and his group have made many pioneering contributions to the field of ultrashort laser pulses and their interactions with matter ("femtosecond material science"). In 1989 his group was one of the first in academia to build a colliding-pulse mode-locked laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

, which generated pulses of only 70 femtosecond duration. After early measurements by Mazur’s group demonstrated conclusively that solids can undergo a structural phase transition without appreciable heating of the lattice
Crystal structure
In mineralogy and crystallography, crystal structure is a unique arrangement of atoms or molecules in a crystalline liquid or solid. A crystal structure is composed of a pattern, a set of atoms arranged in a particular way, and a lattice exhibiting long-range order and symmetry...

, Mazur’s group developed a technique to measure the full dielectric function of highly excited semiconductors. Since then the group’s use of this technique and various nonlinear optical probes to study laser-induced structural phase transitions.

In parallel to the work on semiconductors, Mazur began studying the interaction of intense femtosecond pulses with transparent materials. By tightly focusing a laser pulse in the bulk of a transparent material nonlinear optical
Nonlinear optics
Nonlinear optics is the branch of optics that describes the behavior of light in nonlinear media, that is, media in which the dielectric polarization P responds nonlinearly to the electric field E of the light...

 absorption
Absorption (electromagnetic radiation)
In physics, absorption of electromagnetic radiation is the way by which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter, typically the electrons of an atom. Thus, the electromagnetic energy is transformed to other forms of energy for example, to heat. The absorption of light during wave propagation is...

 occurs inside the material, leading to extreme high temperatures and material changes at the focus. This femtosecond laser micromachining
Micromachinery
Micromachines are mechanical objects that are fabricated in the same general manner as integrated circuits. They are generally considered to be between 100 nanometres to 100 micrometres in size, though that is debatable. The applications of micromachines include accelerometers that detect when a...

 technique is now widely used for data storage
Data storage device
thumb|200px|right|A reel-to-reel tape recorder .The magnetic tape is a data storage medium. The recorder is data storage equipment using a portable medium to store the data....

, fabrication of integrated optical components, and microsurgery.

In 1998 a serendipitous discovery in Mazur's laboratory led to the development of a new methode to form a silicon
Silicon
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...

 surface modification, called "black silicon
Black silicon
Black silicon is a semiconductor material, a surface modification of silicon with very low reflectivity and correspondingly high absorption of visible light. The modification was discovered in the 1980s as an unwanted side effect of reactive ion etching...

" because of its very low reflectivity. After irradiation by a train of femtosecond laser pulses in the presence of a halogen
Halogen
The halogens or halogen elements are a series of nonmetal elements from Group 17 IUPAC Style of the periodic table, comprising fluorine , chlorine , bromine , iodine , and astatine...

 containing gas, the surface of silicon develops a self-organized microscopic structure of micrometer-sized cones. The resulting material has many remarkable properties, such as an enhanced absorption
Absorption (electromagnetic radiation)
In physics, absorption of electromagnetic radiation is the way by which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter, typically the electrons of an atom. Thus, the electromagnetic energy is transformed to other forms of energy for example, to heat. The absorption of light during wave propagation is...

 that extends to the infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 below the band gap
Band gap
In solid state physics, a band gap, also called an energy gap or bandgap, is an energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist. In graphs of the electronic band structure of solids, the band gap generally refers to the energy difference between the top of the valence band and the...

 of silicon. The material has found commercial applications in a number of photodetectors.

Mazur's research continues to focus on ultrashort laser pulse interactions and novel nonlinear optical devices. In collaboration with a group from Zhejiang University
Zhejiang University
Zhejiang University , sometimes referred to as Zheda, is a national university in China. Founded in 1897, Zhejiang University is one of China's oldest institutions of higher education...

 in Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Mazur's group was the first to develop a technique for pulling subwavelength diameter silica optical fibers. These wires guide light in the form of an evanescent wave
Evanescent wave
An evanescent wave is a nearfield standing wave with an intensity that exhibits exponential decay with distance from the boundary at which the wave was formed. Evanescent waves are a general property of wave-equations, and can in principle occur in any context to which a wave-equation applies...

, permit very sharp bending of the light.

Peer instruction


In 1991, Mazur began designing an instructional strategy for teaching called peer instruction
Peer instruction
Peer Instruction is an evidence-based teaching method developed by Harvard Professor Eric Mazur in the early 1990s. Originally used to improve learning in introductory undergraduate physics classes at Harvard University, Peer Instruction is an interactive teaching method that involves flipping the...

. In 1997, he published a book called Peer Instruction: A User's Manual which provides details on this strategy.

Peer Instruction
Peer instruction
Peer Instruction is an evidence-based teaching method developed by Harvard Professor Eric Mazur in the early 1990s. Originally used to improve learning in introductory undergraduate physics classes at Harvard University, Peer Instruction is an interactive teaching method that involves flipping the...

 (PI) has been found to be more beneficial than class-wide discussion or lecture. In fact, according to an article in the March/April 2009 edition of Complexity, over 90% of instructors who have tried PI plan to continue to use it and incorporate it more into teaching. The seating arrangement plays an important role in the outcome of this method. For example, when low-performing students are seated in the front, their chance to do better increases. Meanwhile, the results of high-performing students who are seated in the back are not affected. In addition, when high-performing students are seated in the outer four corners of the classroom, the performance of the class as a whole increases.

Awards


Mazur has been widely recognized for his scientific work and leadership.
  • 1988 – Awarded the Presidential Young Investigator Award
    Presidential Young Investigator Award
    The Presidential Young Investigator Award was awarded by the National Science Foundation. The program operated from 1984 to 1991, and was replaced by the NSF Young Investigator Awards and Presidential Faculty Fellows Program...

     by President Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

    .
  • 1989 – Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society
    American Physical Society
    The American Physical Society is the world's second largest organization of physicists, behind the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. The Society publishes more than a dozen scientific journals, including the world renowned Physical Review and Physical Review Letters, and organizes more than 20...

    .
  • 1999 – Award for excellence in educational research by the Council of Scientific Society Presidents
  • 2006 – selected as one of 75 most outstanding American physicists by the American Association of Physics Teachers
    American Association of Physics Teachers
    The American Association of Physics Teachers was founded in 1930 for the purpose of "dissemination of knowledge of physics, particularly by way of teaching." There are more than 10,000 members that reside in over 30 countries. AAPT publications include two peer-reviewed journals, the American...

  • 2008 – Awarded the Esther Hoffman Beller Medal by the Optical Society of America
    Optical Society of America
    The Optical Society is a scientific society dedicated to advancing the study of light—optics and photonics—in theory and application, by means of publishing, organizing conferences and exhibitions, partnership with industry, and education. The organization has members in more than 100 countries...

    .

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