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Professor of Physics Paulo Acioli

Friday, April 6, 2018

Paulo Acioli earns Northeastern research professor award

Professor of Physics Paulo Acioli has been honored with Northeastern Illinois University’s 2018 Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor award.

Bernard J. Brommel, Professor Emeritus of Communication, Media and Theatre, established the award to be given annually to the tenured or tenure-track member of the Northeastern faculty who best demonstrates excellence in research and scholarship.

Acioli’s research is in the frontier of chemistry and physics—specifically computational atomic and molecular physics. Computational physics is the area that bridges pure theoretical and experimental physics. It can be used to create and test new theoretical approaches as well as to simulate and visualize situations that are not yet possible with pure experimental methods.

“The Brommel award is a tribute to Dr. Acioli’s body of impressive research during his tenure at Northeastern Illinois University,” Acting Provost Mark McKernin said. “He is a great asset and a strong leader for his department, and we look forward to his future contributions to physics.”

Some of Acioli’s more prominent contributions are in the study of the vibrational spectrum of the weakly bonded H5+ molecule and its deuterated forms. This is an important molecule in the interstellar medium. The work helped explain the observed hydrogen/deuterium ratio in space; the explanation of the transition from non-metallic to metallic behavior in magnesium clusters and a similar transition to half-metallicity in manganese clusters; the limit of exciton diffusion in organic polymers and charge transport in graphene, which are very important systems in the study of organic solar cells and energy conversion devices; use of computer simulations to study classical mechanics; and inclusion of research components in the calculus-based introductory physics sequence (Physics I and II).

Acioli is currently working on a project to explain experimental spectra of mixed metal clusters. This combination of theoretical and experimental analysis allows us to select specific clusters with well-defined properties to assemble nanomaterials with great technological potential. This is an extension of the recent work “Theoretical Analysis of Photoelectron Spectra of Pure and Mixed Metal Clusters: Disentangling Size, Structure, and Composition Effects,” published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C. During the summer he is planning to involve undergraduate students in work on spiral spin waves and a pedagogical project to develop new mini-research modules to be implemented in the University Physics sequence.  

The Brommel award is being presented this year for the 21st time, and will be formally presented at the May 2018 Commencement ceremony.

Acioli came to Northeastern in 2005 as an instructor and was later hired as an assistant professor in 2006. He was promoted to associate professor in 2009 and to full professor in 2015. Acioli has chaired the Departments of Earth Science and Physics since 2011. 

As the Brommel Distinguished Research Professor, Acioli will receive a cash award of $5,000. He will make a presentation about his research and creative activities to the Northeastern community during the Fall 2018 semester.

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