West Virginia University will host a Canadian physicist for this year’s Cooper Lecture to touch on his research regarding light-matter interactions, specifically the spin Hall effect for electrons and photons in semiconductors.

The speaker will be Professor Henry van Driel of the Department of Physics and Institute for Optical Sciences at the University of Toronto in Canada.

“The Cooper Lecture is the highest profile lecture on the physics department calendar,” said Alan Bristow, assistant professor of physics at WVU.

“It is with pleasure that we welcome a distinguished scientist such as Professor Henry van Driel,” Bristow said. “He will share with us his latest results on light-matter interactions. These results highlight how quantum-mechanical (interaction between matter and energy) information is shared between the electrons and the light, or photons.”

The Cooper Lecture will be held on Friday, Feb. 18, at 3:30 p.m. in Hodges Hall, room 259. Refreshments will be served at 3 p.m. in Hodges 202.

Bristow also said that van Driel’s research is complementary to that of many researchers at WVU who study both fundamental and applied questions regarding light-matter interactions.

“In the modern world, light-matter interactions have become increasingly important,” he said. “From a scientific perspective, they allow us to capture new physical phenomena in a nondestructive manner. And from a technological perspective they allow us to improve the performance of devices such as lasers, displays, computer chips or solar cells, to name but a few. These photonic devices have a huge impact in energy, medicine, defense and communications.”

Van Driel received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Arizona, he returned to Toronto to join the faculty.

He has been a full professor since 1985, and served as associate chair and chair of his department. He is also currently the president of the Canadian Association of Physics and editor of the “Journal of the Optical Society of America B.”

He has been a fellow of the American Physical Society since 2001, Optical Society of America since 1989, and Royal Society of Canada since 1997. He was the recipient of a Killam Fellowship from the Canada Council from 1997-1999, a von Humboldt Senior
Scientist Award in 1999 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986.

While running an active research group he has also been a visiting scientist at Harvard University, the National Research Council of Canada, Max Planck Institute and the University of Amsterdam.


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