In Memoriam: Mark Stockman

13 November 2020
Mark Stockman_Seefeld_obit
A view from the top of a black diamond slope in Seefeld, Austria on one of Mark Stockman's ski trips. Credit: Matthias Kling

Mark Stockman, a physics professor and researcher at Georgia State University (GSU), passed away recently at the age of 73.

A major direction of his research was theoretical nanoplasmonics and strong-field ultrafast optics, and he was a co-inventor of the spaser (nanoplasmonic laser).

His primary goals were to develop the science of nano-optics at GSU as well as to increase awareness and funding for the field. He also wished to enhance and encourage the teaching of nano-sciences and enrich the education of students interested in the field.

Stockman founded the Center for Nano-Optics (CeNO) at GSU, and became its director in 2013. CeNO expanded GSU's nanotechnology focus and advanced the development of both the spaser and the nanoplasmonic metal funnel. At the time, Stockman noted that these inventions could lead to major breakthroughs in technology and biomedicine, including brighter headlights for cars and bicycles; faster computers that aid in national security; and brighter lasers that identify cancer cells.

Mark Stockman at Center for Nano-Optics at GSU

Mark Stockman at the Center for Nano-Optics at Georgia State University. Credit: GSU

An SPIE Fellow since 2014, Stockman had chaired the conference on "Plasmonics: Metallic Nanostructures and Their Optical Properties" at SPIE Optics + Photonics since 2006. He also taught SPIE short courses on nanoplasmonics.

"Mark made truly pioneering, breakthrough contributions to the fields of optics of random media, plasmonics, and ultrafast photonics," says Vladimir Shalaev, professor of electrical and computer engineering and scientific director at Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue University. "He was a true leader, a hero for a large scientific community. I'm happy that I had a chance to work closely with him in the early stage of my career when I had a chance to learn a lot from him. He was indeed a world-changing scientist and his seminal contributions will stay in the history of science. He inspired people around him to think big and conduct truly disruptive studies that would change the very basic fundamentals and open new scientific avenues."

Alexandra Boltasseva, Shalaev's wife and a fellow professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, expressed her grief via Twitter: "Such a terrible loss... The father of plasmonics and nanoptics -- he will be so missed at each and every conference."

She adds that Stockman was "such an interesting person and could talk endlessly about literature, classical music, travels, history - anything."

And passionate skier and outdoorsman, Stockman's profile page at GSU includes topics such as "What I do for living" with links to his scientific works, and "What I do for life" which includes images and home movies of ski trips in North America and Europe.

"Mark loved good food, fast skiing, singing Ukrainian songs and, most dearly, great science," says Anatoly Zayats, head of the Photonics and Nanotechnology Group at King's College London. "He was always full of new ideas. He did so much for the plasmonics and nanophononics community, establishing the Plasmonics conference at SPIE meetings in San Diego, which for many years charted the course of the field. We will always remember him in the first row of every conference he attended, asking questions and offering invaluable comments to young scientists as well as senior colleagues. He was avid skier, travelled widely, enjoyed life to its full and discussed science and writing papers until very last moment."

Mark Stockman skiing in Seefeld Austria

Mark Stockman negotiating the slopes in Seefeld, Austria in 2009. Credit: I. Tsukerman

Stockman was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine. He received his BSc and MSc degrees from Novosibirsk State University, and PhD and DSc degrees from institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan; as a Visiting Professor at Ecole Supérieure de Physique and de Chimie Industrielle; and as a Guest Professor at University of Stuttgart, Max Plank Institute for Quantum Optics, and Ludwig Maximilian University.

He authored more than 190 research papers and presented numerous plenary, keynote, and invited talks at major international conferences. He gave lectures and taught courses on nanoplasmonics and ultrafast optics at several major international meetings, schools, and scientific institutions in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

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