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Socrates Citation in Honor of Gregory S. Adkins

The microscopic world described by quantum theory does not draw attention to itself overtly; rather, its unique and spectacular qualities become clear through the effects we observe indirectly. Much the same could be said about Greg Adkins, a brilliant and humble theoretical physicist whose work has quietly but substantially advanced our understanding of the quantum realm, and whose influence on students and colleagues continues to spark intellectual curiosity.

Professor Adkins’ scholarly life has been dedicated to fundamental problems in quantum field theory. One of these is the theory of hyperfine splitting, a tiny but observable shift in the color of light emitted by atoms due to the interaction of the magnetic properties of the nucleus with the magnetic field created by the electrons in orbit. Greg has also done influential work on the decay rate of positronium, an atom-like combination of an electron and its positively charged anti-matter counterpart, a positron. When joined together, they co-exist for only about 100 nanoseconds before annihilating each other. His impressive publication record includes 68 articles in peer-reviewed journals and in 2022 he published the textbook “Quantum Field Theory: Atoms, Lasers, and Gravity.” His work has been supported in part by 11 grants from the National Science Foundation,and his expertise and scholarly contributions have been recognized by the American Physical Society, which elected him as a Fellow in 1998, and awarded him the Prize for a Faculty Member for Research at an Undergraduate Institution in 2016.

Like his contributions to science, Professor Adkins’ contributions to the College over his 40-year career have been numerous and significant. His colleagues have recognized him with the Dewey Award in 2000, the Lindback in 2012, and he has held the William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral Professorship in Physics since 2007. He has served as Associate Dean as well as Chair of Physics and Astronomy twice. Greg has also been a regular and beloved actor, singer, and dancer in Fum Follies, often joined by his family members. His delight and enthusiasm for all things theatrical made him a role model for his fellow cast members.

Professor Adkins’ most enduring legacy is undoubtedly the generations of students he has guided as an instructor and mentor. When asked about his style as a teacher, students frequently cite his enthusiasm. In the classroom, it’s obvious that he is both “thrilled about physics” and “passionate about teaching and his work.”

He has mentored dozens of F&M students in research projects, more than 30 of whom are listed as co-authors on his publications. Greg’s ability to guide so many undergraduate students through the abstract and difficult calculations attendant to his work continues to astonish his colleagues. A colleague has noted that “He mentors in a quiet, humble way that sometimes goes undetected by the very people he is influencing. This gentleness is what empowers and inspires his students to go on to achieve great things in their chosen careers.”

Socrates Citation in Honor of Gregory S. Adkins

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