2009 Florida State Physics News
Serbia lauds native son with award in physical science
A Florida State University physicist who is a native of Serbia has been awarded that nation’s highest professional award in the field of physical science for his "exceptional research in physics."
Professor Vladimir Dobrosavljevic, who directs the Theory Program at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, received the Marko V. Jaric Prize for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Physics for his contribution to the development of the theory of correlated disordered electronic systems.
The award was presented during a March 17 ceremony at the University of Belgrade by Bozidar Djelic, Serbian deputy prime minister for European Union integration and minister of science and technological development.Dobrosavljevic studies the fundamental properties that tell electrons to stop or go. This is important in the design of electronics — from TVs to iPods — where electrical currents need to be turned on and off inside increasingly miniaturized parts.
In metals, electrons move around freely at high velocities, conducting electricity. In other materials known as insulators, electrons can be trapped, stopped dead in their tracks.
Understanding a correlated disordered electronic system hinges on understanding how effectively electrons can repel each other. Electrons can move only if other electrons get out of the way.
Deputy Prime Minister for EU integration and Minister of Science and Technological Development Bozidar Djelic presented Vladimir Dobrosavljevic with the award for exceptional research in physics, established by the Professor Marko Jaric Fund.
"Imagine that you are on Fifth Avenue in New York City the day before Christmas," Dobrosavljevic said. "There is a huge crowd of people trying to find their way to the stores, but it’s very hard for you to move around unless the person next to you moves out of your way. You can’t just freely move, but you have to look where the others let you bump into them."
When electrons are correlated or synchronized in a particular way, they can either move around or, under certain conditions, stop.
"The electrons form this kind of quantum dance," he said. "It’s very coordinated, like an troupe of choreographed belly dancers moving together, instead of individual belly dancers doing whatever they want."
Former Marko V. Jaric Prize laureates and members of Dobrosavljevic’s family attended the March 17 award ceremony, along with scientists representing all of Serbia’s national research institutions, including the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Serbian Physical Society.
Dobrosavljevic left Serbia for the United States almost 26 years ago after earning his bachelor’s degree.
"My friends threw me a big going-away party where they broke all the furniture in my parents’ house," Dobrosavljevic joked. "If I had come back as a failure, my parents wouldn’t have been happy! So it was a good feeling to come back with some measure of success."
Now that he has attained such distinction in his career, Dobrosavljevic is enthusiastic about the new opportunities it will afford him, especially in terms of giving back to his native Serbia. After wrestling with the challenges of privatization in a post-communist economy, Dobrosavljevic says Serbia is striving to develop scientific programs with grants it has received from the European Union with which to reach out to scientists around the world.
"Serbia has built a very large supercomputer, which is larger than the one we have at FSU," he said. "So now, they are seeking collaborations and projects. In fact, one of my former Ph.D. students is now an assistant professor in Serbia. The two of us have started a cooperative effort. I’m very excited about it because Serbia has a lot of very well-trained younger students, so I think this will be a source of cooperation for me, and it will also be helpful to them."