The Professional Achievement Award recognizes outstanding achievement in any professional field. This award honors alumni whose achievements in their fields have brought distinction to themselves as well as credit to Illinois Institute of Technology.
B.S. Physics (’93), Illinois Institute of Technology; Ph.D. Physics (’97), Princeton University
Romalis, an atomic physicist, has developed ingenious “table-top” methods of physics experimentation to answer questions that are normally tackled with giant accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider. He has accomplished this by designing the most sensitive magnetometers in the world. These highly precise magnetometers have applications in many other fields, including geology and brain imaging. Romalis is working to develop these uses with different partners, among them the Princeton Center for Brain, Mind, and Behavior. He employs his devices to test for the violation of fundamental laws of physics. Such violations could explain why matter dominates anti-matter in the universe and whether properties of the theory of relativity, such as the maximum speed of matter relative to the speed of light, are always consistent. His work has set new limits on the violation of physical laws that support the theory of relativity—and thereby all of modern physics. Romalis has conducted his latest experiments at the South Pole to reduce the effects of the Earth’s rotation.
Winner of the American Physical Society (APS) 2011 Francis M. Pipkin Award for his work on violations related to the ratio of matter versus anti-matter, Romalis is also a fellow of the APS, a title awarded to less than one percent of the society’s members. He was also the recipient of a 2001 Packard Fellowship, which supports the most innovative young scientists in the United States.
Romalis grew up in Voronezh, Russia, where his father, Valery Kaplan, was an engineer and his mother, Natalya Romalis-Reytblatt, was a mathematics professor. When his mother took a position as an adjunct professor at Illinois Tech, Romalis followed her to the United States. She later followed him to the East Coast while he obtained his Ph.D. at Princeton, where she became chair of the mathematics department at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.
Princeton’s Lyman Page, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Physics, nominated his colleague Romalis. “Mike is one of the leaders of his generation of atomic physicists and one of the world’s experts on precision measurement,” says Page. “He is the complete package.”
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