May 10, 2024

Distinguished Professor Chris Greene selected as 2024 Morrill Award winner

Chris Greene, a theoretical physicist and the Albert Overhauser Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has been named Purdue’s Morrill Award winner for 2024. Greene was recognized Tuesday (May 7) with other 2024 award winners at Purdue’s annual Faculty Honors Ceremony and Reception.

The Morrill Award is the highest honor that Purdue confers on a faculty member and recognizes faculty who best exhibit excellence in teaching, research and engagement. It was initiated in 2012 to honor the Morrill Act of 1862, which allowed for the establishment of land-grant colleges and universities, and it comes with a $30,000 prize.

Greene was selected for the award based on his significant contributions to the field of atomic, molecular and optical physics, and his achievements in the physics of few-body systems. One of Greene’s nominators described him as a driver in the field and stated that his work has elevated not only the field of atomic, molecular and optical physics, but also the university’s reputation globally.

“Professor Greene’s contributions as a researcher, educator and community leader make him an invaluable asset to Purdue University,” said Provost Patrick Wolfe. “His innovative research and relentless pursuit of advancing discoveries in atomic, molecular and optical physics has not only elevated Purdue’s academic stature but ignited a passion for scientific inquiry.”

Greene, who came to Purdue in 2012, is best known for his research in ultracold few-body and many-body quantum systems, electron-molecule collisions and dissociative recombination, ultrafast laser interactions with atoms and molecules, photofragmentation of atoms and molecules, and novel Rydberg molecules and multichannel Rydberg atoms.

He also founded and continues to mentor Purdue’s Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics group, which spurred a revamp of the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s curriculum and led to the department’s hiring of several top faculty members in the field. Nominators praised Greene for his work with the group and for being an exceptional pedagogical and detail-oriented teacher, active community organizer, and academic leader. 

Greene has been honored with numerous top-level awards throughout his career. In 2019 Greene was inducted as a member of the National Academy of Sciences for his distinguished and continued achievements in original research, one of three NAS members at Purdue. He is also the recipient of two awards from the American Physical Society, the I.I. Rabi Prize in Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in 1991 and the Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics in 2010. He was awarded the Hamburg Prize for Theoretical Physics in 2013 for his prediction of a new class of diatomic long-range Rydberg molecules held together by a new binding mechanism. In 2017 he was named a Martin Gutzwiller Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany. In 2020 he was selected for Purdue’s Herbert Newby McCoy Award, and for three consecutive years, from 2021-2023, Greene received the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“Purdue has been tremendous,” Greene said, “not only for enabling my own group’s efforts in atomic, molecular and optical physics, but also for investing in this subfield and seeing all things quantum grow and flourish here.”

Greene received a Bachelor of Science in physics and mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Master of Science and PhD in physics from the University of Chicago.

Learn more about Greene’s career, awards, honors and publications.

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