Boltzmann Medal Winner Kyozi Kawasaki Earned PhD at Duke

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kyozi Kawasaki, winner of the Boltzmann Medal in 2001, earned his PhD in physics at Duke in 1959. The Boltzmann Medal is awarded by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics Commission on Statistical Physics (C3) every three years at the International Conference on Statistical Physics (STATPHYS). According to C3, Kawasaki received the Boltzmann Medal for “his contribution to our understanding of dynamic phenomena in condensed matter systems, in particular the mode-coupling theory of fluids near criticality, and nonlinear problems, such as critical phenomena in sheared fluids and phase separations.”

Kawasaki came to Duke from Japan in 1957 to study with Professors Michael Buckingham and Bill Fairbank (the brother of Prof. Henry Fairbank). Kawasaki says, “My research career afterwards was fundamentally influenced by my experience [at Duke.] My work till my retirement basically emphasized the experimental relevance of my theoretical efforts.” He chose Duke because he was interested in low-temperature physics, and physicists at Duke were making exciting new discoveries regarding the properties of helium isotopes at temperatures near absolute zero. Kawasaki says he admired the achievements of the experimental group, “such as the pioneering work on precision measurements of specific heat near the Lambda point of superfluid transition,” and he also greatly admired the work of Buckingham, his thesis advisor. Living in the United States was a big change for Kawasaki. He says, “This was my first experience outside Japan. Japanese people were still feeling the effects of the Second World War with poor qualities of life, and my experience of affluent life in the United States was a great amazement for me.” Since leaving Duke in 1959, Kawasaki has taught at several universities in the United States and Japan. He taught at Kyushu University from 1976-1994. He has also received the Nishina Memorial Prize (1972), the Humboldt Prize (1992), and the Toray Award for Science and Technology (2001). Kawasaki is now retired and living in Fukuoka, Japan. He says, “I reached 80 last year and am too old to be scientifically active. Still, I am trying to follow the latest developments of glassy behavior, which is my current interest.”