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UF physics professor Peter Hirschfeld attracts attention

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Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 12:19 am

Peter Hirschfeld is the new UF Teacher-Scholar of the Year for 2012-2013. Hirschfeld, a 55-year-old physics professor, was chosen for his performance in teaching and scholarly activities.

“I’m touched and astonished,” he said.

The award, which started in 1960, is granted to one UF faculty member each year by the Award Committee.

Hirschfeld, a Princeton University alumnus, became part of the UF faculty in 1988.

“Peter Hirschfeld is a superb physicist,” wrote UF President Bernie Machen. “He’s a great researcher, a great teacher and a true asset to UF.”

In conjunction with the award, Hirschfeld will receive $5,000. He said he wants to put the money toward his children’s college tuition.

Yan Wang, a 28-year-old physics fifth-year graduate student, said he took Physics of Solids II with Hirschfeld last Spring.

“His teaching is very clear,” he said. “The class is very welcome to the discussion.”

Wang said Hirschfeld deserved the award because of his dedication to his students and his research.

Hirschfeld received his doctorate in 1985. His research focuses on superconductivity. This happens when two electrons, both of which have a negative charge, pair up in certain materials, allowing electricity to flow through. The pairing of two electrons is abnormal. Typically, an electron will only pair with a proton, which has a positive charge, Hirschfeld said. His research focuses on why this phenomenon occurs.

“It’s like something moves without any resistance,” Hirschfeld said. “How can that possibly happen?”

Hirschfeld said his graduate students help with his research.

“I’m grateful for a lot of people that did a lot of work on my behalf,” he said.

Wang said he is happy to help Hirschfeld.

“He’s definitely one of the most significant scientists studying in the research area,” he said.

Welcome to the discussion.