(May 20, 2011)--Miguel Jose Yacaman, UTSA professor of physics and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has received the John Wheatley Award. The award is presented by the American Physical Society with support from the Forum on International Physics, and recognized Yacaman for his work in the field of physics throughout Latin American countries.
Presented every other year at the general meeting of the American Physical Society, the award recognizes a physicist who has made an outstanding contribution to the development of physics in a developing country by working with local physicists in research or teaching.
For seven years, Yacaman has directed the International Center for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (ICNAM), which promotes partnerships between scientists and engineers in Mexico and the University of Texas System. Yacaman's laboratory has hosted numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from Mexico and other Latin American countries, and he believes the experience benefits all parties involved.
"Scientists from abroad can learn a lot about the American entrepreneurial spirit," said Yacaman, who grew up in Mexico. "Also, practicing science abroad strengthens a number of skill sets including language and cultural understanding."
At UTSA, a Hispanic-serving institution at which total Hispanic enrollment constitutes a minimum of 25 percent of the total enrollment, interactions with scientists from Latin America provide great value. Students working with international scientists here or abroad can develop a new perspective of how successful Hispanic scientists can be.
Hard work is important, Yacaman said, but higher education opens doors that hard work alone cannot. During the 1950s and 1960s, attaining higher education was a guarantee for a better life for people in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Yacaman believes it is important to students in Texas and hopes to instill that value in his students at UTSA.
UTSA College of Sciences Dean George Perry agrees. "Real examples of successful Hispanic scientists will help our students visualize themselves as succeeding," he said. "Miguel is doing a great job of connecting people and making stronger bonds throughout Latin America."
In addition to receiving the award at the American Physical Society's meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Yacaman gave a talk, "Picometer Resolution Electron Microscopy: A New Tool to Tailor Materials at the Atomic Scale," in which he discussed his research and connections to Latin America.
The American Physical Society was founded in 1899, when 36 physicists gathered at Columbia University with the goal to create a society that would advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics. APS is active in public and governmental affairs, and in the international physics community. The society has 46,000 members within 14 divisions and nine topical groups covering all areas of physics research.
The John Wheatley Award is given to a physicist, generally from a developed country, who at personal or professional cost, goes to a less-developed country and promotes physics, as John Wheatley did in Argentina.
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