Celebrating the Retirement of Professor Irving P. Herman

Feb 23 2024

After a long and distinguished career at Columbia University, Professor Irving P. Herman has retired and is now the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor Emeritus of Applied Physics.

Professor Herman graduated with SB and PhD degrees in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972 and 1977. From 1977-1986 he was a member and section leader in O-group within the Physics Department at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he was engaged in research in laser isotope separation of deuterium and tritium, and the use of direct laser writing in thin film processing. In 1986, he joined the faculty in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics (APAM) of Columbia University and was named the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Applied Physics in 2016. He directed the Columbia Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) from 1998-2010 and was Director of the Columbia Optics and Quantum Electronics IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program) from 2015-2019. From 2006-2012, he was chair of the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and he was re-elected chair in 2018. He has served in the Columbia University Senate since 2017.

Professor Herman’s research advanced fundamental aspects and applications of laser interactions with matter, optical diagnostics of thin film processing, including by real-time monitoring, and nanoscience. His research included properties of nanocrystals and films composed of nanocrystals, van der Waals layers, optical physics of the solid state, molecular and chemical physics, thin film processing, and optical spectroscopy. His group studied the optical properties of semiconductor and metal oxide nanocrystals and how to assemble them into films by controlled evaporation and electrophoretic deposition (electric field directed assembly).

Professor Herman is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society and of Optica, the former for "distinguished accomplishments in laser physics, notably the development and application of laser techniques to probe and control materials processing".

Professor Herman has written two comprehensive books: the monograph "Optical Diagnostics for Thin Film Processing" (Academic Press, San Diego) and the textbook "Physics of the Human Body" (Springer, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York), now in its second edition. In 2020, Professor Herman also published "Coming Home to Math: Become Comfortable with the Numbers that Rule Your Life" (World Scientific), an explanatory book designed to help adults become more at ease using math.

At Columbia, he developed three interactive seminars on ethics which were presented annually to students in the APAM Department at Columbia Engineering. Professor Herman is also known for his witty and humorous writings about academia, including “The Laws of Herman”, as well as his extensive writings on running, humor, and music.

The APAM Department warmly congratulates and thanks Professor Herman for his dedication, service, and outstanding leadership over the years. He inspired and touched the lives of countless people during his time at Columbia and he will be greatly missed.

Current APAM Department Chair, Professor Marc Spiegelman, said, "Professor Herman’s wisdom, integrity and leadership has been integral to APAM's success. And personally, his friendship and guidance has been, and will continue to be invaluable. I am forever grateful. We wish him the best in his post retirement adventures and look forward to seeing him frequently in the Department." 

A photo of a white man with brown and gray hair. He is sitting in a lab and wearing a suit coat and tie.

Irving P. Herman, the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor Emeritus of Applied Physics

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