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Close up of the gold University Distinguished Professor medal
University Distinguished Professor medal. | Image: Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications

Dr. Alexei V. Sokolov, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University, has been appointed as a University Distinguished Professor, effective September 1, 2024.

Sokolov, who joined the Texas A&M faculty in 2002 and previously earned selection in 2017 as one of Texas A&M’s inaugural Presidential Impact Fellows, holds the Stephen E. Harris Professorship in Quantum Optics and also serves as associate director of the Institute of Quantum Science and Engineering (IQSE). He is widely renowned for his experimental expertise in fields ranging from laser physics and nonlinear optics to ultrafast science and spectroscopy.

During the past two decades, Sokolov has made numerous transformational contributions to the field of molecular physics, perhaps none bigger than his field-opening work on molecular coherence, wherein molecules vibrate in sync, that enabled the first-ever detection of anthrax in real-time — groundbreaking work for which he holds a patent. This pioneering achievement evolved from Sokolov's foundational efforts as a member of Texas A&M’s world-class quantum optics group to perfect maximal coherence preparation and usage, first by tailoring light pulses to make an ensemble of molecules vibrate in unison and then utilizing these coherent vibrations to control light.

“Alexei invented a technique for using molecular oscillations to produce new intense combs of light frequencies,” said Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Physics and IQSE Director Dr. Marlan O. Scully. “Furthermore, he has used these coherent molecular oscillations to advantage in experiments ranging from detecting anthrax-type endospores at range and improving the precision of spectroscopy, to what has been referred to in the literature as ‘incredible precision.’ Clearly, Alexei is the sort of person that young people aspire to emulate and senior scientists admire.”

Texas A&M University physicist Alexei V. Sokolov
Dr. Alexei V. Sokolov | Image: Arts & Sciences Marketing & Communications

Sokolov earns recognition along with seven additional Texas A&M faculty announced Tuesday (Jan. 30) as the latest recipients of the coveted title: Dr. Robert Ambrose, professor in the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering within the College of Engineering; Dr. Mladen Kezunovic, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering within the College of Engineering; Dr. Mansoor Khan, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences within the Irma Lerma Rangel School of Pharmacy; Dr. Frances Ligler, professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering within the College of Engineering; Dr. John Mullet, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Dr. Ashok Shetty, professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Genetics within the School of Medicine; and Dr. Peter Yu, Regents Professor of Law and Communication within the School of Law who also holds a dual appointment in the Department of Communication and Journalism.

The 2024 University Distinguished Professor honorees join a select group of more than 100 current faculty members who hold the prestigious title — one bestowed in perpetuity that identifies faculty members who are preeminent in their fields and have made at least one landmark contribution to their disciplines. Their work is considered central to any narrative of the field and is widely recognized to have changed the direction of its scholarship. Past recipients of the lifetime title participate in the selection process, growing the ranks of distinguished professors by just a handful of scholars each year.

Collectively, this year's cohort has made significant contributions and inspired innovative thought in intellectual property rights, experimental high-energy physics, space systems, automated power systems and smart grids, drug delivery systems, optical biosensors, building genome maps and enhancing brain function after injury, disease or aging. They will be recognized later this spring for their achievements during an April 18 induction ceremony and reception jointly hosted by the Offices of the President and Faculty Affairs.

“Dr. Sokolov is a brilliant scientist and a natural leader in the field of quantum optics with several major discoveries and breakthrough developments under his belt," said Dr. Grigory Rogachev, professor and head of Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy. "We are proud and delighted that he received this award. It highlights the leadership role of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the field of quantum optics, which now features four Distinguished Professors.”

Texas A&M University physicist Alexei V. Sokolov
Sokolov, presenting his research on the applications of molecular coherence, from ultrafast physics to biophotonics, in December 2019 at the University of São Paulo São Carlos campus. | Image: São Carlos Institute of Physics

Sokolov received his doctorate in physics in 2001 from Stanford University, where he served as a research assistant in the Edward L. Ginzton Laboratory and investigated quantum coherence effects in molecular systems, which led to efficient generation of short pulses of light — expertise he brought with him to Texas A&M upon completion of his doctoral studies. His current research interests center around applications of molecular coherence to quantum optics, ultrafast laser science and technology, including generation of sub-cycle optical pulses with prescribed temporal shape and studies of ultrafast atomic, molecular and nuclear processes, as well as applications of quantum coherence in biological and defense-oriented areas. In addition, he is a core member of a multi-million-dollar Department of Energy-funded hub, known as RISE, currently working to harness nuclear laser fusion for limitless energy.

A fellow of the American Physical Society (2015) and Optical Society of America (2009), Sokolov has been recognized with the 2020 Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics, a 2020 Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research, the Texas A&M Research Foundation Board of Trustees 2011 JoAnn Treat Research Excellence Award, the Texas Section of the American Physical Society’s inaugural Robert S. Hyer Award in 2007, the OSA’s 2003 Adolph Lomb Medal and a 2003 Research Corporation for Science Advancement Research Innovation Award. A respected educator as well as researcher, he has served as an adviser to the Texas A&M student chapter of OSA since its inception in 2008 and is renowned as an adviser and mentor to dozens of award-winning postdoctoral and graduate students.

Learn more about Sokolov and his teaching, research and professional accomplishments or faculty excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences.