Visiting geologist Mao to share Balzan PrizeBy Steve Koppes
David Mao, a Visiting Professor in Geophysical Sciences, will receive the International Balzan Prize in Mineral Physics at a Friday, Nov. 11 ceremony in the Swiss Parliament Building in Berne, Switzerland. He will share the prize with a longtime collaborator and colleague from his home institution, Russell Hemley of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C.
Mao and Hemley will share 1 million Swiss francs (approximately $795,000 in U.S. currency), half of which will be donated to research projects of their choice involving young researchers.
The duo specializes in investigating the properties displayed by substances under high temperatures and pressures. In 1976, Mao and his colleagues were the first to create a pressure of one megabar, which is one million times greater than the pressure at sea level and double what had previously been achieved in the laboratory.
Since 1985, in collaboration with Hemley, Mao has further improved the technique of creating high pressures, along with the methods needed to analyze what happens to the substances exposed to them.
Together they have observed and described numerous extreme-pressure phenomena. These include the creation of new, extremely hard materials, superconductors and magnetic structures. The scientists are particularly interested in studies that provide new insights into the processes taking place within Earth and other planets.
Mao began a five-year appointment at the University in 2002. He already has received two other awards this year, the Aminoff Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Roebling Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America.