Pioneering Professor Establishes Physics Chair
The Rutgers University Foundation has received a $1.5 million pledge to fund a new faculty position in the Department of Physics and Astronomy – the first gift toward a $27 million challenge grant to establish 18 new endowed chairs at the university.
The pledge was made by Claud W. Lovelace, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences and a world-renowned expert in the field of physics known as string theory. The position will be named The Professor Claud Lovelace Endowed Chair in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics.
“Because I feel I’ve done enough for theory, I decided to establish a chair in experimental solid state physics – that’s the opposite extreme from my work,” said Lovelace. “The experimental physicists at Rutgers are very practical, and I felt they needed to be strengthened. They produce things which are of immediate practical use.”
The 18 chair challenge is funded by an anonymous gift – the largest in the university’s history – to recruit and retain outstanding faculty in a wide range of academic disciplines, including business education and the sciences. For every $1.5 million raised for an endowed chair that meets the donor’s criteria, the donor will match the gift with an additional $1.5 million. A total endowment of $3 million is needed to create an academic chair.
“We are honored that Professor Lovelace, a longtime and valued member of the Rutgers’ physics faculty, wanted to make a meaningful contribution to his department,” said Rutgers University Foundation President Carol P. Herring. “The challenge made it possible for him to establish this profound symbol of his dedication and career.”
The challenge grant and Lovelace’s gift are part of the university’s historic seven-year, $1 billion “Our Rutgers, Our Future” fundraising campaign.
Lovelace, who joined Rutgers in 1971, is one of the world’s original experts in string theory, a branch of physics that aims to provide a unified understanding of the basic forces and fundamental particles in nature. These include gravity, electromagnetism and forces responsible for the stability and decay of atomic nuclei. He was instrumental in the founding of the Rutgers New High Energy Theory Center, which turned Rutgers into an internationally recognized leader in the development and exploration of string theory.
Before joining Rutgers, he was a theorist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. CERN today operates the world’s largest particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC. A study published in 2009 ranked him as the 14th most influential physicist in the world for the period 1967-73.
A native of England, Lovelace attended high school in Switzerland and did his undergraduate work at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He returned to London in 1958 to pursue graduate studies at Imperial College. He cites two Nobel Prize winners as influencers of his career: Allan Cormack, his physics lab instructor at Cape Town who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing computer assisted tomography, or CAT scans; and Abdus Salam, his mentor at Imperial College who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for theories of subatomic particle interactions.
His early grasp of physics, however, was mostly self-taught.
“I used to go to Zurich for orthodontist appointments,” he said. “I would buy graduate-level physics books there and read them on my train trips home.”
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