2012: Professor Matthew Comstock Installed as Second Jerry Cowen Chair of Experimental Physics
In an investiture ceremony at MSU, Dr. Matthew Comstock was installed as the Department of Physics and Astronomy's second Jerry Cowen Chair of Experimental Physics. Professor Chih-Wei Lai was installed as the first holder of this Chair in 2008 (he continues to hold this Chair). The Chair's donor and Jerry Cowen's son, Randy Cowen, two of Jerry's daughters, as well as his widow Elaine, were in attendance to help celebrate the occasion. MSU Provost Kim Wilcox, College of Natural Science Dean James Kirkpatrick and Department of Physics and Astronomy Chairperson Wolfgang Bauer took turns at the podium to highlight the importance of the new endowed chair before Matt gave a brief overview of his research program (Matt's presentation can be downloaded here).
Dr. Comstock earned his undergraduate degree in physics from The University of Chicago and received a physics Ph.D. in condensed matter from the University of California, Berkley, with research focused on optically controlled molecular machines. At the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Matt jumped into biological physics during a postdoctoral fellowship, where he constructed a novel microscope capable of observing in real-time both the structure and the function of individual biological molecular motors at the angstrom scale. In August 2012, Matt joined the faculty at MSU. As an assistant professor and the Jerry Cowen Chair of Physics, he will continue to advance the frontiers of single molecule biology experimental techniques.
Jerry Cowen received his Ph.D. in physics from Michigan State University in 1954. In 1955, Jerry and his wife Elaine moved to Okemos when he returned to teach in the department - a position he held until weeks before his death in 1999.
Professor Cowen excelled in both materials science research and teaching, particularly at the undergraduate level. His research spanned five decades and included many international collaborations.
Randolph Cowen donated $2.5 million to create the Jerry Cowen Endowed Chair of Experimental Physics in memory of his father's life and physics career at Michigan State University. In creating this endowed chair, the Cowen family is recognizing Jerry's love for research and instruction in the area of experimental physics.
“His commitment to research inspired all the members of the family to strive to have an impact in a field that we love,” explains Randy Cowen. “My father dedicated his life to research in the field of solid state physics. He was always looking for new techniques and materials. With this endowed chair, Michigan State University will have one of the best research efforts in the country in the field of solid state physics so that cutting-edge research can attract a new generation of graduate students like my father.”