Physicist wins one of three national Killams

by Bruce Mason
Staff writer

Physics Prof. Walter Hardy is one of three 1999 recipients of a $50,000 Killam Prize, one of Canada's most distinguished annual awards. It is given to Canadians in the natural sciences, health sciences and engineering by the Canada Council for the Arts.

"Walter Hardy has an impressive ability to probe the frontiers of scientific knowledge in his field," says Bernie Bressler, UBC's vice-president, Research. "The Killam Prize is a most suitable recognition of his pioneering contributions to research in condensed matter physics."

Among Hardy's breakthroughs is the nature of superconductivity in copper oxides. These materials have wide-ranging applications in telephone and satellite communications, high-speed computer elements, ultra-sensitive magnetic sensors and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

High temperature superconductors are exotic materials that conduct electricity with no energy losses, at temperatures that can be attained using inexpensive liquid nitrogen.

Hardy and colleagues at UBC, Physics Assoc. Prof. Douglas Bonn, who was awarded a $180,000 NSERC Steacie Fellowship earlier this year, and Ruixing Liang, a material scientist in UBC's Physics and Astronomy Dept., used their superb samples to make the first accurate measurements of the depth to which microwaves penetrate a superconducting crystal. This discovery is essential to future applications, and also helps to show how electrons interact to become superconductors.

Hardy is also the first recipient of the Brockhouse Medal from the Canadian Association of Physicists for outstanding contributions to condensed matter physics. The medal honours Canadian scientist and UBC alumnus Bertram Brockhouse, who was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics. Hardy earned the medal for his recent microwave studies of high temperature superconductors.

Born in Vancouver, Hardy earned BSc and PhD degrees at UBC in 1961 and 1965. He has received numerous major awards and in 1980 was elected to the Royal Society of Canada.