Skip to content

Physics Honors & Highlights


Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

AAAS fellows are elected by their peers and recognized for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications. The UT Physics Department faculty includes three members who have earned this honor:

APS Logo

Fellows of the American Physical Society

Election as an APS Fellow is based on exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise; e.g., outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education. Fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one's professional peers. The following UT faculty members are APS fellows:

Cristian Batista

Robert Grzywacz

Lee Riedinger

Elbio Dagotto

Anthony Mezzacappa

Soren Sorensen

Geoff Greene

Adriana Moreo

Hanno Weitering

Mike Fitzsimmons

Thomas Papenbrock

Selected Physics Honors (2010-2017)

  • Professor Kate Jones and Associate Professor Haidong Zhou were recognized for excellence in research and creative achievement at the College of Art and Sciences awards ceremony in December 2017. This was the fourth year out of five that physics professors have won a senior research award. It’s also the second award for Jones, who was recognized in 2009 with a junior-level honor.
  • Undergraduate Peyton Nanney was recognized for giving the best student oral presentation at the 2017 SESAPS meeting.
  • Physics Major Louis Varriano was named a 2017 Torchbearer, the highest honor the university bestows on undergraduate students
  • Undergraduate Meg Stuart—a triple major in physics, honors math, and computer science—was one of nine UT students offered prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards for the 2017–18 academic year.
  • Graduate Students Gray Yarbrough and Andrew Mogan won awards from the Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program to work on the MicroBooNE experiment at Fermilab, while Ryan Rawl won an award from the same program to work on neutron scattering research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Gray also won a Fermilab Neutrino Physics Center (NPC) fellowship for Summer 2017.
  • Matthew Musgrave (PhD, 2014) won a 2017 Infinite Kilometer Award at MIT, where he’s a postdoc with the Laboratory for Nuclear Science.
  • Professors Stuart Elston, Robert Grzywacz, and Marianne Breinig were honored at the Arts and Sciences annual Faculty Awards Banquet for excellence in advising, research, and teaching
  • Robert Grzywacz was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society
  • Lucas Platter won an NSF CAREER grant, bringing the department's total to five in five years
  • The physics department won several top honors at the annual Chancellor's Banquet, including Macebearer and the Alexander Prize
  • UT Physicists were among the scientists who won the Breakthrough Awards Fundamental Physics Prize
  • UT's Society of Physics Students won the national Blake Lilly Prize
  • The US Department of Energy recognized UT-Related Neutrino Experiment Recognized by
  • Meg Stuart won a Best Presentation award at the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics
  • Thomas Papenbrock and Soren Sorensen Recognized with College Honors at Winter Convocation
  • Thomas Papenbrock was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society
  • Richard Prince won a National Society of Physics Students Leadership Scholarship
  • Haidong Zhou won an NSF CAREER Award (the third for UT Physics in three years)
  • UT's Society of Physics Students was selected as an Outstanding Chapter
  • Witek Nazarewicz, UT’s James McConnell Distinguished Professor in Physics, was named a UT-Battelle Corporate Fellow
  • Assistant Professor Jaan Mannik won a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation
  • Professor Pengcheng Dai was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Physics Professor Witek Nazarewicz won the 2012 Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Distinguished Scientist Award
  • Assistant Professor Norman Mannella won a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation
  • Professor Lee Riedinger was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Physics Professor Witek Nazarewicz named the 2012 Tom W. Bonner Prize honoree by the American Physical Society
  • UT’s Society of Physics Students was named an Outstanding Chapter for 2011 by the national SPS
  • Graduate Student Jun Zhao won a prestigious Miller Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Soren Sorensen was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

A Few Numbers of Interest
  • Three fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and 11 fellows of the American Physical Society
  • $8.3M in annual research expenditures
  • 67 University Chancellor’s Honors (2010-2017) plus one Torchbearer Award
Expertise and Contributions to Ground-Breaking Science
  • Professor Yuri Efremenko played a key leadership role in the COHERENT collaboration’s work to build the world’s smallest neutrino detector: The technology was featured in Science Magazine and was a finalist for its “Breakthrough of the Year” honor.
  • Assistant Professor Andrew Steiner’s work figured into the LIGO collaboration announcement that they had detected both light and gravitational waves. This connection was via predictions his group has made about the tidal deformability of neutron stars (which he describes as "squishiness"). When these stars get close enough to one another, tidal forces are created and deform, generating a “squishiness” that affects the gravitational wave signal in a merger. A LIGO paper published in Physical Review Letters cites these predictions in helping calculate the upper limit for this deformability.
  • Professor Geoff Greene has been appointed to the Department of Energy/National Science Foundation Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC). His term runs through April 30, 2020. Greene is the second member of the current UT Physics faculty member on the current 21-member committee: Professor Kate Jones is the other. Established in 1977, the NSAC provides advice and recommendations on scientific, technical, and programmatic issues relating to the nuclear physics program.
  • Professor Michael Fitzsimmons began 2018 as vice president of the Materials Research Society, taking over as president in 2019 and past president in 2020. With a worldwide membership of more than 14,000, the MRS promotes communication and collaboration among researchers to advance interdisciplinary materials research and technology.
  • Professor Robert Grzywacz was among the scientists who helped confirm one of the newest elements on the periodic table: Tennessine, which pays homage to our state. He helped develop a process that measures the decay of nuclear materials down to one millionth of a second, which was vital in proving the existence of the new element.
  • Our department won five National Science Foundation CAREER grants in three years: Andrew Steiner and Lucas Platter (both in 2016), Haidong Zhou (2014), Jaan Mannik (2013), and Norman Mannella (2012), as well as two Outstanding Junior Investigator Awards from the Department of Energy (Kate Jones in 2009 and Thomas Papenbrock in 2007).
  • At CERN, our faculty and students built and maintain particle tracking detectors at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) as part of the historic effort to find the Higgs Boson. The relativistic heavy ion group studies the properties of the Quark Gluon Plasma produced in high energy heavy ion collisions via the ALICE experiment.
  • UT physicists are part of the 210-member NOvA team from all over the world set on demystifying neutrinos. In 2014 the experiment caught sight of their first neutrinos and they now have evidence that these subatomic particles are oscillating—or transforming—from one “flavor” to another.
  • Our faculty have written invited reviews for prestigious journals (Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Physics, Reviews of Modern Physics) on condensed matter physics. They have also published high-profile papers on their own work and are pursuing the promise of nano-scale superconductivity, magnetic nanowires, and hydrogen storage—all of which have the potential to revolutionize how we create and use energy.
Strong Ties with Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • The department’s relationship with researchers and facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory gives our students access to some of the most powerful computing in the world.
  • Of the 13 initial projects chosen for Summmit, the next-generation of high-performance computing at ORNL, are ventures into long-standing questions in nuclear physics and astrophysics, both of which involve UT-affiliated faculty.
  • UT physicists are directors or co-directors of four UT-ORNL joint institutes: the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (Hanno Weitering), the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (Anthony Mezzacappa), the Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences (Alan Tennant), and the Joint Institute of Nuclear Physics and Applications (Robert Grzywacz).
  • Our faculty and students work at the Spallation Neutron Source and the High Flux Isotope Reactor, as well as other research facilities all over the world.
A Commitment to Outreach
  • Our Saturday Morning Physics and Physics for Everyone programs offer non-technical lectures, especially for high school students and teachers. We have also started a QuarkNet outreach program at UT to tie area high schools and teachers to research at Fermilab.
  • Physics Professor George Siopsis is the Director of UT’s Governor’s Schools for Sciences and Engineering, which serves the top high school students in Tennessee through a four-week non-credit program each summer.
  • Our planetarium provides the lab setting for astronomy students and a powerful outreach tool for the department. Regularly-scheduled observation sessions on the roof of the physics building, along with special events such as the Venus Transit viewing, make our resources available to the public in an approachable, engaging fashion.
  • Our Society of Physics Students is among the most successful in the country, having won outstanding chapter awards every year since 2012 and the national Blake Lilly Prize in 2015 for their outstanding outreach efforts.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.