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Weiss named chair of Physics Department

Alexander Weiss has been a faculty member of UT Arlington for 26 years.
Alexander Weiss has been a faculty member of UT Arlington for 26 years.

Although he is at heart a researcher and an educator, Dr. Alexander Weiss enjoys wearing the multiple hats necessary to chair a dynamic department at a university striving toward Tier I status. A department chair has a large administrative role - maintaining a budget, approving expenses, recruiting new faculty and trying to maximize department funding and supporting faculty and staff. This is in addition to research and teaching.

Weiss was named chair of the College of Science's Department of Physics on Jan. 1. He had served as interim chair since early 2009, following the death of the former chair, Dr. James Horwitz.

"I'm honored. It's a major challenge," said Weiss, a UT Arlington faculty member for 26 years. "It's a lot of responsibility. I saw it as an opportunity to use the experience I've gained in being here for so long. I have a lot of specialized knowledge about the way things operate around here."

The formal search for a new chair began with organization of a committee comprised of three Department of Physics faculty members. A list of internal candidates was compiled by the committee, and the candidates made presentations to department faculty, who then voted by secret ballot. Dr. Pamela Jansma, College of Science dean, reviewed the results and appointed Weiss as chair.

"Dr. Weiss is a thoughtful person who cares deeply about the department, its faculty, staff, and students," Jansma said. "He is respected by his colleagues in the department, the college, and the scientific community. He is an outstanding researcher and educator, who can lead by example and continue the excellence that we expect from the department as the College of Science and UTA move toward Tier 1."

Weiss said he wants to continue to increase the department's research funding, strengthen its doctoral program and recruit more top-notch faculty. Accomplishing these will help move UT Arlington closer to its goal of becoming a Tier I university.

"I see myself and my job as coordinating the various efforts of the department to try and achieve the goals we've set," Weiss said. "I enjoy the role of supporting and helping faculty, talking to students, and being a point-man for seeking resources for the department."

Born in Manhattan and raised in New Rochelle, N.Y. and New York City, Weiss graduated summa cum laude from City College of New York with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., in 1983. He was a teaching assistant while at Brandeis, teaching a course in Electronics for Physicists. After earning his doctorate, he spent over a year at Harvard University as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Division of Applied Science before accepting an assistant professor position at UT Arlington in 1984.

He became a full professor in 1993 and served as department associate chair from 2000-08. He stepped down from that position to focus more on his research but accepted the interim chair post last year.

Among his research interests is development of new analytic tools for the study of surfaces, interfaces and nanostructures, making use of low energy beams of positrons. As part of UT Arlington's Positron Surface Group, he was the inventor and a principal developer of Positron annihilation induced Auger Electron Spectroscopy (PAES), a surface spectroscopic tool capable of one monolayer depth resolution.

"We're studying the top layers of surfaces to see what elements are present," Weiss said. "It's important because when things grow, they grow from the surface out."

He has been awarded $2.8 million in research contracts since 1985, authored or co-authored 95 papers in refereed journals, authored or co-authored over 120 abstracts (complete but concise descriptions of work to entice potential readers into obtaining a copy of the full paper) and delivered over 55 talks at conferences and universities around the world. He has supervised the postdoctoral work of seven students, directed doctoral theses for 13 students and directed master's theses for 15 students. He is a member of the UT Arlington Experimental Condensed Matter and Positron Surface groups.

"Dr. Weiss brings decades of experience at UTA and in the Department of Physics to his position," Jansma said. "He is pro-active in leading the department and is thinking constantly about how to grow toward the future. His dedication to physics as a discipline is evident not only in his research, but also in his teaching."

"The Physics Department is in great shape. Its research and education activities are top-notch and thriving. I look forward to seeing what the department can and will do in the next five years."