Date September 11, 2023
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Brown physicist Brad Marston elected to presidential line of the American Physical Society

A condensed matter physicist who also studies Earth’s climate, Marston will lead the premier physics society in the U.S.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University physics professor Brad Marston has been elected to the presidential line of the American Physical Society.

The nonprofit professional society represents more than 50,000 physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the U.S. and around the globe. Marston will serve as its vice president in 2024, president-elect in 2025 and president in 2026. He will be the second Brown faculty member elected to serve as the society’s president in the past five years.

The APS president leads the society’s board of directors, which is responsible for its overall management. The society’s mission is to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its research journals, scientific meetings, as well as through education, outreach, advocacy and international activities.

Marston says he’s honored and excited by the opportunity.

“I look at the list of past presidents of the APS and see the names of some really amazing people who have served,” he said. “I can only hope to live up to the high standards that these predecessors have set.”

Marston also hopes to help the society continue to engage members of the public and scientists in the field on how physics can impact the world’s most pressing problems.

“I want to continue doing what I have been doing with APS in terms of trying to interest a broader range of physicists in thinking about the climate problem, and possible ways to reduce climate change,” he said.

Marston joined the Brown physics department in 1991 after earning a Ph.D. from Princeton University and completing postdoctoral research at Cornell University. Originally trained as a condensed matter physicist, Marston has also worked on climate science since 1990. He currently directs the Brown Theoretical Physics Center. 

He has been recognized for work including furthering fundamental understanding of quantum systems, such as Mott insulators and quantum spin-liquids, and applying non-equilibrium statistics to the physics of atmospheres and oceans to better understand climate and climate change. Marston has also has garnered attention for work looking at problems in classical physics, like turbulence, and has recently been helping to launch Brown’s Initiative for Sustainable Energy.

Marston has earned a number of honors during his academic career including being named an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, a recipient of a National Young Investigator Award, and a fellow and lifetime member of the American Physical Society. In 2008, Marston was designated a National Science Foundation American Competitiveness and Innovation Fellow.

Marston sees physics as key to advancing humanity — transcending differences of opinion, background and origin — and plans to offer that perspective during his time in the presidential line.

“An understanding of physics endows us with critical perspectives to address the global threats of nuclear warfare and climate change and respond to the urgent call for global equity and sustainable sources of energy,” Marston said in his candidacy statement for the APS presidency. “It prepares us to confront emergent challenges such as quantum information and the rapid ascendance of artificial intelligence. In times of political tension, such as during the Cold War, physics brought people together to advance not just our understanding of science but also our mutual empathy and respect.”

Other Brown faculty members that have served as APS president include Carl Barus, a former dean of Brown’s graduate school who served as APS president in 1905 and 1906, and renowned physics S. James Gates Jr., who was elected to the presidential line in 2018 when he was a physics professor at Brown and served as president in 2021.

Marston is slated to assume the post of vice president on Jan. 1, 2024, and become president in 2026.