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UC Davis Physicist Earns Swedish Honor

June 26, 2009

UC Davis physics professor Charles Fadley has been elected as a foreign member of the Royal Society of Sciences at Uppsala, Sweden. (Roy Kaltschmidt/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory photo)

Charles Fadley, a distinguished professor of physics at UC Davis, has been elected into the Royal Society of Sciences at Uppsala. Founded in 1710, this prestigious Swedish institution has counted as members some of the world’s most renowned scientists, including Anders Celsius, Carl von Linnaeus, Johann Gauss, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Leon Foucault, and the Swedish father and son Nobel laureates in physics, Manne and Kai Siegbahn.

Fadley is widely regarded as one of the foremost practitioners of photoelectron spectroscopy, a technique used for studying the composition and electronic state of a material using X-ray beams to excite electrons and a spectrometer to measure their energies. In recent years he has been a leader in the development of methods for studying very thin “nanolayers” of materials buried below surfaces, work that is integral to the development of next-generation computers, memory storage devices and other applications in the emerging field of nanotechnology. He holds a joint appointment as senior faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and conducts his research at a facility there called Advanced Light Source.

Fadley’s long association with Sweden’s eminent physics community dates to his years as a doctoral student with David A. Shirley at UC Berkeley in the mid-1960s. There he became the first American student to work on the kinds of photoelectron spectroscopy investigations that Kai Siegbahn and his group were pioneering in Sweden. In 1969, Fadley spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher in Göteborg, Sweden, with Stig Hagström, a physicist who had earned his doctorate with Siegbahn’s group. Since then, he has returned to Sweden many times on a variety of academic missions.

While he and Siegbahn worked in friendly rivalry in the early years, Fadley said, they soon took their work in different directions. “Siegbahn’s group and I had a long, good relationship,” he said. Siegbahn shared a Nobel Prize in 1981 for his work in photoelectron spectroscopy.

In 2008, a year after the Nobel laureate’s death, Fadley was the only foreigner invited to present a paper at a seminar held in conjunction with the opening of a permanent exhibit honoring Siegbahn at Uppsala University.

Membership in the Royal Society of Sciences at Uppsala is one in a series of distinguished international awards Fadley has earned. He is also a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, a fellow of the Institute of Physics in London, the recipient of a coveted Helmholtz-Humboldt Award from the German-based Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and an awardee of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science.

The Uppsala society limits its membership to some 130 Swedish and 100 foreign members, who are elected for life. Fadley’s election brings to 14 the number of U.S.-based scientists in the society.

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