Physicist Peter Young elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Peter Young

Peter Young, distinguished professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz, has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's most prestigious honorary societies.

Young joins 25 other current UCSC faculty members who are fellows of the academy. The 220 new members elected to the academy this year are accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts. They include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos, journalist Judy Woodruff, actor Clint Eastwood, and playwright Neil Simon. The 2012 class will be inducted at a ceremony on October 6 at the academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Young is known for his pioneering research in theoretical condensed-matter physics.  A major focus of his research involves numerical studies of phase transitions in disordered magnetic systems called spin glasses. Spin glasses are used as experimental platforms for research because they can be probed precisely with magnetic fields, and because they are relatively simple to simulate. The properties of these unusual materials change when they undergo phase transitions, analogous to the transition of liquid water to ice. Young studies these transitions, including their effects in superconducting materials. His work in spin glasses provides a foundation for solving many similar problems in other fields, such as protein folding in biology and optimization problems in computer science. Recently Young has been applying techniques from the spin glass field to investigate what kinds of problems could be solved efficiently by a quantum computer.

Young earned his M.A. and D.Phil. in physics from Oxford University. He joined the UCSC faculty in 1985 and has been honored by UCSC with the 2003 Excellence in Teaching Award and by the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences with its 2004-2005 Outstanding Faculty Award. A fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), he was awarded the APS Aneesur Rahman Prize in 2009. Young received a Humboldt Research Award earlier this year.

Since its founding in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected leading "thinkers and doers" from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.