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Research experience from a physicist

Joseph X. Zhou's picture

Just back from Prof. Mahir Hussein's seminar. He is really one of best physicist I  have ever met. In past 30 years, he published more than 200 papers in the field of nuclear resonance, laser accelerated particles etc. There are more than 30 papers published in PRL alone. When input his name " M.Hussein" in, you can easily found 95 papers by him.

However, today's topic is relatively easy. He is talking about his life in science. He was educated in Baghdad in 1970s, then went to Harvard for his PhD. At his time, the nuclear rainbow pattern has been first observed  in the elastic α-nucleus scattering. He was so absorbed by this topic, he showed to us clearly how he introduced the mixturue of Quantum Mechanics and classic concepts to successfully remove the singularities near the rainbow, and he backed to this topic again and again with some new ideas so that he published 8 papers about nuclear rainbow in PRL and Phy Report. After working as visiting scientist in MIT and Harvard for 2 years, he went to Univeristy St Paulo to teach Classic physics and QED. he said that teaching is always a rewarding processed because you have to think carefully before you can clearly explain to others. Also during his teaching, he got the idea, instead of accelerating particles with tradition electric or magnetic field, how about using high energy laser to accelerate the particle. He got excited about this idea and immediately began to write down a non-linear equation to predict how to drive a particle with a high energy laser. At that time, US Texas super collider was estimated to cost 10 billion US dollar. He estimated that it would have been 1/10 of the cost if the laser is used. When he sent this paper to the journal Nature, the editor threw it back to him since then Super Collider had already been in construction. It had already been contravercial and the nature won't want to add more. (Hehe, even Nature could be influenced by politics :-) So it ended up with his first patent of laser particle accelerator.

Since Iraq was in constant chaos, he couldn't back to his country. He stayed in University St Paulo to teach physics and supervised more than 30 PostDoc, Phds and masters. He continued to work diligently in Nuclear physics, consult industries ( He had another patent of inventing a system to detect the small earthquake). When at the end of his seminar, asked why he is so profligate and how to work at the different problems at the same time. He said that it is simple: you have to work hard. He also has a wide interests and participate different courses and talked to many different people and collaborate with them for different problems. He said, even they are different problem, if you really understand physics, in the root they are quite similar to each other. This can not come within one night, collaborating and profligate production come from years of experience of research, and you build up on it. He really  has a wide interests. In his time, there is heated debate about economic policy between Freedman school and Kayns school. So he went to the economy course by Samuelson and really appreciated S's historical view about economics. He advocate good science has boundaries. It is perfectly ok for some physicists to analysis the economics purely from the Thermodynamics.

When he was asked how to deal with doing fundamental science and doing engineering. He said that fundamental science is much more important. You have to do it good enough to sell. He explained with his experience to develop laser accelerating machine and developing software of analysis of earthquake. If you can do good science, the good engineering comes naturally.

Finally he tell us that he couldn't back to Iraq in all these year. It is forever his heartache when he mentioned this. You can not believe that each time he backed to Iraq, he just bring back pencils and school bags for his sister's children since even these things are rare in Baghdad. He was even bared to consult US companies just for his Iraq background. However, I can still do my lovely physics, he smiles. :-)


You write very nicely, your other posts motivated me to look up your track record and read this.



Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Amit:  I like Joseph's posts, too.  English must be his second or third language, but he conveys the thoughts with grace.  I don't know him in person, and am delighted every time to see his post.

If you like the posts of any particular iMechanician, you can locate all his entries (posts and comments) by clicking his photo, and then click the tab Track.  Here is Joseph's track:

Also, if you use a RSS feed reader, you can subscribe to his blog.  Here is Joseph's RSS feed:  

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