On Nov. 29, a workshop was held at MIT to honor the career and achievements of Sow-Hsin Chen, emeritus professor of nuclear science and engineering, and to celebrate his 80th birthday. The one-day workshop on “Topics in Soft Condensed Matter” featured talks by 10 speakers from around the world and brought together his former collaborators, students, and other researchers in the field.
“It is a great honor to have studied with Professor Chen as an MIT student many years ago,” said Yun Liu, a former graduate student, currently a professor at the University of Delaware. “We are very excited to celebrate his 80 birthday with this workshop. The breadth and depth of his scientific contribution to the neutron scattering field and soft condensed matter physics is tremendous and far-reaching.”
Chen is a pioneer in using neutron scattering to study a wide range of scientific problems such as microemulsion, cement, proteins, surfactants, hydrogen storage materials, and water. He is especially well-known internationally for his contributions to understanding the dynamic properties of supercooled and interfacial water with the use of neutron-scattering techniques. His lifelong achievements have been recognized by the international community — as noted by many prestigious awards he has received. Of note, he won the 2008 Clifford G. Shull Prize for his seminal contributions to understanding the dynamical properties of supercooled and interfacial water, and the 2015 Guinier Prize for his scientific contributions to soft condensed-matter physics. Also as an educator, Chen has been recognized for his training of young scientists in the use of those same techniques.
Chen received his BS in physics from National Taiwan University in 1956, and his MS in physics from National Tsing Hua University in 1958. He arrived in the U.S. under an International Atomic Energy Agency fellowship, and che ompleted an MS in nuclear science at the University of Michigan in 1962, and his PhD in physics at McMaster University in Canada in 1964 under the Nobel laureate Bertram N. Brockhouse. He joined the faculty of the MIT Department of Nuclear Engineering in 1968. Chen continues to be a valuable contributor and influencer in the field and the department.