LANL physicist among Early Career honorees

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By Carol A. Clark

Physicist Eric D. Bauer of Los Alamos National Laboratory is among the recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers recently announced by the Obama Administration.
This is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are early in their independent research careers.
“I am very honored to be selected for this particular award,” Bauer said. “I’ve worked at LANL for eight years including my post doc work and I love working here very much. I get to do cutting-edge science with a large impact on the field and we’re doing really good science through the discovery of new materials.”
Bauer, 38, is a former Director’s, Seaborg and Reines postdoctoral fellow. He is part of a group of scientists focused on materials in which strong interactions between electrons lead to interesting and potentially useful properties such as superconductivity or superconductivity coupled with magnetism.
“A focused research effort like this is extremely rare,” Bauer said. “It could never happen at a university, for example, where each professor pursues his own special interest.”
In high school, Bauer apprenticed to become a pastry chef but a great high-school physics teacher led him to a
career in physics, although he still makes pastries and is a gourmet cook.
Bauer’s skill at cooking up exotic materials grew from a comment by Frank Bridges; Bauer’s mentor his senior year while still a physics major at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Bridges and Bauer were working at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to study high-temperature superconductors. In the course of their experiment, Bridges noted that a colleague was getting poor results with a sample he got from elsewhere rather than making it himself. Bridges said if Bauer went on to graduate school, he might think about studying materials synthesis. Bauer took the suggestion to heart.
“You put all these metals in the oven and beautiful crystals come out – like baking a cake,” Bauer said.
Bauer grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He completed his doctorate on superconductivity at the University of California, San Diego. His grandfather was a chemist and his father is a retired biologist now working at the University of California at Davis.
Bauer is one of 13 U.S. Department of Energy researchers selected for the Presidential Early Career. They are being recognized for their research efforts in a variety of fields from research to help the nation achieve energy independence, to exploring the realms of space to identify dark matter. These awardees are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Bauer is being recognized for pioneering condensed matter physics research through the discovery and synthesis of new materials, especially strongly correlated and f-electron systems and the elucidation of their novel physical properties; and for outreach activities with students and the scientific community.
 “Science and technology have long been at the core of America’s economic strength and global leadership,” President Obama said in a news release. “I am confident that these individuals, who have shown such tremendous promise so early in their careers, will go on to make breakthroughs and discoveries that will continue to move our nation forward in the years ahead.”
DOE Secretary Steven Chu said the gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in the country.
“The awards recognize ingenuity, dedication, diligence and talent. I congratulate the 2009 awardees and wish them continued success towards new discoveries and advances in science, energy research and national security,” Chu said.
The scientists are among 85 researchers supported by 10 federal departments and agencies receiving the award. In addition to a citation and a plaque, each winner will continue to receive DOE funding for up to five years to advance his or her research.  
The recipient scientists and engineers will receive their awards at a White House ceremony Dec. 13.