J. David Litster PhD ’65

Professor of Physics, Emeritus
Research interests have been the experimental study of phase transitions in unusual states of matter.
(617) 253-6801
Office: 13-2030

Research Interests

Physics of condensed matter; optical and light scattering studies of phase transitions; liquid crystals; X-ray scattering using synchrotron radiation.

Biographical Sketch

Professor Litster, a native of Toronto and a graduate of McMaster University, joined the MIT faculty in 1966 as an Assistant Professor of Physics, shortly after he received the PhD from MIT (1965). He became an Associate Professor in 1971 and full Professor in 1975.

From 1988–91, Professor Litster was director of the MIT Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory. For five years prior, he was director of the MIT Center for Materials Science and Engineering. From 1979–83, he headed the Division of Condensed Matter, Atomic and Plasma Physics in the MIT Department of Physics.

From 1991–2001, Professor Litster served as Vice President and Dean of Research. From 1996–99, he also served as Dean for Graduate Education.

Professor Litster served a four–year term on the Executive Committee of the American Physics Society’s Division of Condensed Matter Physics, which he chaired from 1998–99. He was a member of the National Research Council’s Solid State Sciences Committee from 1986–95 and served as its Chair from 1991–93. He was regional editor of Molecular Crystals and Liquid Crystals from 1986–93.

Professor Litster is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received an honorary doctorate from McMaster University in 1992 and the Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics from the American Physical Society in 1993.

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Awards & Honors

  • 2002 // Irwin Sizer Award for the Most Significant Improvement to MIT Education
  • 1993 // Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics from the American Physical Society "For pioneering experimental and theoretical studies of the phases and phase transitions of thermotropic liquid crystals."
  • 1971 // John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship

Key Publications

  • Alsnielsen J, Litster JD, Birgeneau RJ, et al. “Observation of Algebraic Decay of Positional Order in a Smectic Liquid-Crystal,” Phys Rev B 22 (1): 312-320 1980.

  • Stinson TW, Litster JD “Correlation Range of Fluctuations of Short-Range Order in Isotropic Phase of a Liquid-Crystal,” Phys Rev Lett 30 (15): 688-692 1973.

  • Birgeneau RJ, Litster JD “Bond Orientational Order Model for Smectic B-Liquid Crystals,” J Phys Lett-Paris 39 (21): L399-L402 1978.