NEWS | Dec. 1, 2015

Dr. Ira Schwartz Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society

By Daniel Parry

Dr. Ira Schwartz, head of the Nonlinear System Dynamics Section in the Beam Physics Branch, Plasma Physics Division at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), has been elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). Schwartz is recognized by the APS for his pioneering contributions to the understanding and development of topological insights into the dynamics, fluctuations, and control of strongly nonlinear physical and population systems.

Well known for his fundamental and extensive contributions to the theory of nonlinear dynamical systems, Schwartz's innovative work has stimulated many new experiments in a variety of fields as well as further theoretical research. His theory combines deep mathematical insight and sophisticated novel techniques with detailed understanding of the underlying physics, says colleague Mark Dykman, professor, Michigan State University. He pioneered the application of feedback techniques to enable the stabilization of unstable states in chaotic systems over a wide parameter range. This technique is quite general and allows accessing to hard to reach dynamical regimes.

Schwartz has developed theoretical tools and topological insight into the effect of driving for a broad class of nonlinear systems, which can display chaotic bursting. The results explained the nontrivial behavior of such systems with varying parameters, including switching between dynamical chaos and periodic stable states. They have been used in laser physics, theory of Josephson junction arrays, and found numerous applications in population dynamics such as epidemic outbreaks and their suppression.

A fundamentally important and novel contribution made by Schwartz is in the theory of stochastic phenomena in dynamical systems, in particular, the topological approach to the problem of spontaneous extinction in population dynamics and in other discrete-variable physical and chemical systems. This general approach has been extended by Schwartz and used in analyzing fluctuations and extinction in adaptive networks, which has recently led to new methods of controlled disease eradication in large populations. Moreover, Schwartz has shown how social behavior works in conjunction with treatment policy, and has opened new areas of network analysis.

Schwartz holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from the University of Hartford (1973), a master's in physics from the University of Connecticut (1975) and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland (1980). He began his career at NRL in 1983 in the Optical Sciences Division, and at present is head of the Nonlinear System Dynamics Section. He is inventor and co-inventor of six patents, most recently robotic tracking of Lagrangian Coherent Structures, and of the over 100 archival papers he has published, Schwartz and co-authors have published 11 Physical Review Letters for the APS.

Schwartz has mentored many post doctoral Fellows, graduate and undergraduate students in the nonlinear sciences, has been the invited lecturer at more than 20 major physics and applied mathematics symposiums, and has been awarded more than 10 meritorious citations given by the U.S. Navy and the APS.

The APS is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics. APS Fellows are elected on the criterion of exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise that are comprised of outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education.