Argonne Distinguished Fellow receives Buckley Prize for physics research

By Jared SagoffOctober 13, 2010

Juan Carlos Campuzano, an Argonne National Laboratory Distinguished Fellow, together with P. Johnson of Brookhaven National Laboratory and Z.X. Shen of Stanford University, was awarded the prestigious Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize by the American Physical Society for 2011.

Campuzano, who hails from Paraguay and now lives in Oak Park, Ill., was nominated for his innovations in angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, an experimental technique used to observe electrons within solids.

He and the two other winners of this year's prize advanced this technique to the level where one could use it to understand the nature of high-temperature superconductors, two-dimensional materials that could revolutionize technology.

Campuzano said there are many practical applications for his work.

"It can greatly contribute to the energy problem by transmitting electric current from where it can be obtained from the sun and wind in the west, to where it is used in the east," he said. "Although cables are currently made with these superconductors, much research and much serendipity is needed to improve the conduction of very large amounts of power."

There are health-related applications, too.

"The superconductors are also used in MRI machines, where they can greatly improve the image quality—which helps the radiologists better diagnose problems, or shorten the time the patient spends confined in the tube," he said. "It has applications in many other areas; the list is long."

Campuzano joined Argonne in 1987 as a physicist in the Materials Science Division; he became a senior physicist 12 years later.

He also has a long teaching career. He became a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago in 2007, having previously worked as an associate professor in the department of physics there.

Campuzano started his career as a postdoctoral fellow at Donnan Laboratories at the University of Liverpool in the U.K. in 1978. He earned a Ph.D. degree in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that same year.

He's been working in this area of study since he graduated, saying that he loves trying to solve "physics puzzles." But he said he can't do it alone.

"It is a great honor for all members in the group with whom I work," Campuzano said, adding that “This prize really belongs to them.”

Campuzano, who was born in Asuncion, came to the United States in 1969 on a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"That was the year of the moon landing, and it was very, very exciting for me to learn about science and technology," he said.

He and his wife spent seven years in Liverpool and Cambridge, but returned to the U.S. when they decided to start a family.

"We thought that it might be nice to be near grandma, who lived in Wisconsin," he said. "I had several job offers, and it was very difficult to decide. Around that time the BBC had a three-hour interview of Studs Terkel, where he waxed lyrical about Chicago's charms. After that, Chicago it was."