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Gopinathan Named Fellow of Leading Physics Organization

September 28, 2020
Professor Ajay Gopinathan

Physics Professor Ajay Gopinathan has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). This prestigious recognition is for physicists who have made exceptional contributions in physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics or significant contributions to physics education.

“It means a lot to me as it signifies appreciation from my peers and colleagues for our contributions to the field of physics,” Gopinathan said.

Gopinathan joined UC Merced in 2006 and was among the first occupants of the first Science and Engineering 1 labs. He has helped build the Department of Physics in the School of Natural Sciences from the ground up, and now serves as chair.

He is also the co-founder and co-director of the CREST Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Machines, a National Science Foundation Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology.

Gopinathan was nominated and recommended for the fellowship by peers and colleagues. The APS Council of Representatives upheld the recommendation of the APS Division of Biological Physics “for important contributions to our understanding of how the structure, dynamics, and interactions of biopolymers and their assemblies lead to function in the context of intracellular transport and cell shape.”

His group pursues theoretical and computational research on a wide range of topics from animal foraging to cancer-cell-cluster motility. Among these, his most substantial, impactful contributions include new insights into the role of protein filaments in the regulated transport of material through pores in cellular membranes, the molecular motor-driven transport of vesicles across cells, and in sensing curvature to direct the shape, dynamics and growth of cells.

“This is a tremendous honor for Professor Gopinathan, in recognition of his truly stellar contributions to physics. And when we add this to other recent honors our faculty have received, there is no question that UC Merced is now identified by our colleagues nationally and internationally as a top research university,” interim Vice Chancellor of Research and Economic Development Marjorie Zatz said.

APS is the leading professional organization for physicists working to advance and share the knowledge of physics through research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities. The organization represents more than 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the United States and throughout the world. The number of APS Fellows elected each year is limited to no more than one half of 1 percent of the membership.

“This well-deserved and hard-earned honor not only recognizes the impact of Professor Gopinathan’s own research program, it speaks to the remarkable strength of biophysics as a whole on our campus,” School of Natural Sciences Dean Betsy Dumont said. “His blend of scientific and community leadership is emblematic of our campus and part of what will take us to R1.”