Professor of physics receives honorary doctorate from France

December 17, 2010

Abhay Ashtekar, professor of physics at Penn State, holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Physics, and director of the Penn State Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos, has received an honorary doctoral degree from the Université de la Méditerranée in Aix-Marseille, France. The presentation took place on Nov. 18, 2010.

Ashtekar's research focuses on general relativity and quantum gravity. In addition, he has made contributions to quantum-field theory, gauge theories, and theories concerning the interface between geometry and physics. His reformulation of general relativity as gauge theory led to a proposed quantum theory of spacetime -- loop quantum gravity -- an approach to the unification of general relativity and quantum physics that now is being pursued in dozens of research groups worldwide. He has continued to play a seminal role in the development of this field, as well as its sub-field -- loop quantum cosmology.

Renowned as one of the most-cited researchers in the field of relativity, Ashtekar has given plenary lectures at over 110 international conferences. His previous awards and honors include an honorary doctorate in 2005 from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. In 2004, he received a Forschungspreis Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany. He has written or co-written more than 200 scientific papers and 7 scientific books, and he has served on the editorial boards of all the major journals in his field.

Ashtekar is a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. He is one of only 51 Honorary Fellows of the Indian Academy of Sciences drawn from the international community. He has held the Krammers Visiting Chair in Theoretical Physics at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands; a Senior Visiting Fellowship of the British Science and Engineering Research Council; and the Sir C. V. Raman Chair of the Indian Academy of Science. In addition, he holds a visiting professorship at the Beijing Normal University and at the Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, India.

Ashtekar's research also has been publicized widely in popular and semi-popular media, sometimes as cover stories. Publications and media outlets that have reported on his research include Nature, Science, the Economist, U.S. News and World Report, the New York Times, New Scientist, Fox News, MSNBC, and many other international publications and news outlets. He also was featured prominently in a documentary shown at the year-long Berlin Einstein Exhibit in 2005. In addition, he was featured in the 2008 German documentary Kosmos, which was prepared in celebration of German physicist Max Planck's 150th birthday.

Before joining the faculty at Penn State, Ashtekar held positions as professor, distinguished professor, and the Erastus Franklin Holden Professor of Physics at Syracuse University from 1984 to 1993. Prior to that, he was professor and chair of gravitation at the University of Paris VI in France. He earned a doctoral degree in physics at the University of Chicago in 1974 and a bachelor's degree with honors in physics and mathematics at the University of Bombay, India, in 1969.

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