December 1, 2008 — The International Committee on Atomic Collisions in Solids has presented University of Virginia engineering professor Raul Baragiola a lifetime achievement award for his work on ion-solid interactions.
Baragiola, the Alice and Guy Wilson Professor of Engineering Physics and Materials Science in the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science, holds degrees from the Instituto Balseiro, Argentina, and has served as a faculty member of engineering physics since 1990, first in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics and then in Materials Science and Engineering at U.Va. His multidisciplinary research interests are in the areas of atomic physics, solid state physics, chemical physics, and astrophysics and space sciences.
"Many people think of physics as a subject only, but it is, in fact, a method as well," Baragiola said in an interview that appeared in Libra, a publication of the University of Virginia Library. "The method is to define the simplest elements of a problem and then to 'build up' to get a whole picture. This is why the methods of physics have applications in a wide array of subjects, even those that are outside science."
A man with an avid curiosity, Baragiola describes himself as "someone who is always looking for questions," and he is particularly fascinated with the initial moments in research when the beginnings of an idea form.
Baragiola's current research focuses on the properties of condensed gases — ices — in the outer solar system and interstellar space to understand observations made by telescope and spacecraft. Since 1990, he has been a member of NASA's Cassini mission, which is currently touring Saturn and its moons.
Another topic of interest is space weathering of asteroids and the chemical alteration of their surface due to exposure to the space environment. In surface science, his research has focused on understanding mechanisms for electronic excitations in metals, semi-metals and insulators.
He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics (London). He previously held the Iberdrola Chair at the Universidad Autonoma de Madris and received the Interamerican Prize in Exact Sciences from the Organization of American States and the Argentina National Physics Prize. He was the co-chairman of U.Va.'s Faculty Forum for Scientific Research in 2007-08, and this summer delivered the Lindhard Lecture at the International Conference on Atomic Collisions in Solids, where he was presented with the lifetime achievement award.