Robert J. Birgeneau

Professor of Physics, Emeritus
Primarily concerned with the phases and phase transition behavior of novel states of matter.
(617) 253-4937
Office: 6C-429

Research Interests

Professor Robert J. Birgeneau’s research is primarily concerned with the phases and phase transition behavior of novel states of matter. These include one- and two- dimensional magnets, liquid crystals, physisorbed and chemisorbed surface monolayers, clean metal and semi-conductor surfaces, graphite intercalates, highly disordered magnets and most recently, lamellar CuO2 superconductors. He uses both neutron and X-ray scattering techniques to probe these systems. Professor Birgeneau and his collaborators pioneered the use of X-ray synchrotron radiation for high resolution studies of condensed matter. For the past decade, he and collaborators have carried out a comprehensive research program aimed at elucidating the microscopic properties of the high Tc superconducting materials.

Biographic Sketch

A Toronto native, Professor Robert J. Birgeneau received his B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Toronto in 1963 and his Ph.D. in Physics from Yale in 1966. He was on the faculty of Yale for one year and then spent one year at Oxford University through the National Research Council of Canada. Professor Birgeneau was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories from 1968 to 1975, then joined MIT as a Professor of Physics. In 1982, he was named the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics. In 1988, he was named Head of the Department and in 1991 was appointed Dean of Science. Professor Birgeneau became the 14th president of the University of Toronto on July 1, 2000, where he served four years. Birgeneau served as the ninth Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley from 2004-2013, where he was known for his promotion of diversity and equity in the academic community, while advancing a vision of “access and excellence.” Under his leadership, UC Berkeley became the first major university in the United States to provide comprehensive financial aid to undocumented students.

Professor Birgeneau has received many honors for his research. In 1987, he was awarded the O. E. Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society. In 2000, he received the J. E. Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, given to a physicist who both has made outstanding contributions to physics and also has exceptional talent at explaining physics to diverse audiences. In 2012, he was awarded the Karl T. Compton Medal for Leadership in Physics of the American Institute of Physics; in 2015, the Institute of Government Studies of the University of California, Berkeley honored him with the Darius and Susan Anderson Distinguished Service Award. Professor Birgeneau is a fellow of the Royal Society of London, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences and is one of the most cited physicists in the world for his work on the fundamental properties of materials.

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Awards & Honors

  • 2016 // Vannevar Bush Award “For exceptional public service and scientific leadership, including lifelong, high caliber research committed to the public good and tireless advocacy for the nation’s research universities together with unrelenting efforts to advance equity and inclusion in higher education and science.
  • 2015 // Darius and Susan Anderson Distinguished Service Award of the Institute of Governmental Studies
  • 2012 // Karl T. Compton Medal for Leadership in Physics
  • 2006 // American Academy of Arts and Sciences Founders Award
  • 2001 // Fellow of The Royal Society, UK
  • 2000 // Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize (APS) ""For using neutron and x-ray scattering to elucidate the structure, phase transitions, and excitations of materials that are paradigms of important statistical mechanical models, and for his ability to convey the excitement of physics to a broad range of audiences."
  • 1997 // IUPAP Magnetism Award And Néel Medal "For achievements in the field of magnetism, and in particular for the identification of model magnetic systems and the experimental elucidation of their behavior using neutron scattering techniques."
  • 1987 // Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (APS) ""For his use of neutron and x-ray scattering experiments to determine the phases and phase transitions of low dimensional systems."
  • 1981 // American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow

Key Publications

  • T.R. Forrest; P.N. Valdivia; C.R. Rotundu; E. Bourret,Courchesne and R.J. Birgeneau. The effects of post,growth annealing on the structural and magnetic properties of BaFe2As2; J. Phys. C 28; 115702; 2016.

  • M. Yi; M. Wang; A.F. Kemper; S.,K. Mo; Z. Hussain; E. Bourret,Courchesne; A. Lanzara; M. Hashimoto; D.H. Lu; Z.,X. Shen; and R.J. Birgeneau. Bandwidth and Electron Correlation,Tuned Superconductivity in Rb0.8Fe2(Se1,zSz)(2); Physical Review Letters 115; 256403; 2015.

  • M.G. Kim; M. Wang; G.S. Tucker; P.N. Valdivia; D.L. Abernathy; S. Chi; A.D. Christianson; A.A. Axcel; T. Hong; T.W. Heitmannn; S. Ran; P.C. Canfield; E.D. Bourret,Courchesne; A. Kreyssig; D.H. Lee; A.I. Goldman; R.J. McQueeney; and R.J. Birgeneau. Spin Dynamics near a putative quantum critical point in Cu,substituted BaFe2As2 and its relation to high temperature superconductivity; Phys. Rev. B 92; 214404; 2015.