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6/2/14 - Mississippi State professor named Fellow of American Physical Society

Mississippi State physics professor Anatoli Afanasjev is one of 13 newly appointed Fellows of the American Physical Society's Division of Nuclear Physics.

"Very few people are getting this honor, and I am definitely happy to get this kind of recognition," the Latvian native said. "For me, what is important is simply the recognition of my achievements."

The APS, founded in 1899 in New York state, is the world's second largest organization for physicists; it has approximately 50,000 members.

Anatoli Afanasjev

Afanasjev said his curiosity about how the universe is built drives his professional interest in theoretical nuclear physics. On campus, he received the 2010 State Pride Award, the 2012 James W. Bagley Faculty Award and the 2014 College of Art and Sciences Research Award.

In addition to a doctorate from the Latvian Academy of Sciences, Afanasjev graduated from Latvian State University -- both located in Riga, the nation's capital. He held an engineering position in his homeland before deciding to focus on his two true passions, research and education.

Migrating across Europe and, eventually, to the United States, he worked as a scientist in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, as well as the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, and University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He came to MSU in 2005.

Whether or not his research offers immediate practical implications, Afanasjev's work expands the overall scientific understanding of how atomic nuclei operate, he said.

"When you have a collective of nucleons, they can behave in different ways because they're not acting as single nucleons," he explained. "We try to understand those properties and what can be created from these different physical processes."

Not only does Afanasjev's work offer clues about the properties of nuclei and their role in neutron stars, it also may impact future scientific studies. He has published more than 130 research articles in refereed journals and presented his findings at close to 160 conferences and seminars worldwide.

"Sometimes, discoveries come unexpectedly, and they may seem to be not important even though they're interesting," Afanasjev said. "In a sense, these kinds of discoveries are driving development of our civilization.

"We try to understand these things, even though they are not of practical importance, because they have an impact on the general understanding of the universe."

Afanasjev said he hopes receiving the APS fellowship will serve to encourage students and others to get more excited about studying science simply for the sake of curiosity.

"I like to understand things, and there will always be people interested in science just because they're curious," he said.

Learn more about the physics and astronomy department at

Leah Barbour | Public Affairs

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