Science & Tech

Texas A&M Physicist Valery Pokrovsky Earns 2018 Landau Gold Medal

March 29, 2018

Dr. Valery L. Pokrovsky nhas been selected to receive the 2018 Landau Gold Medal.
By Shana K. Hutchins, Texas A&M University College of Science

Dr. Valery L. Pokrovsky, distinguished professor of physics and holder of the William R. Thurman ’58 Chair in Physics at Texas A&M University, has been selected to receive the 2018 Landau Gold Medal, the highest award in theoretical physics presented by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

An expert in condensed matter theory and a faculty member in the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy since 1992, Pokrovsky is cited “for fundamental contribution to statistical physics and quantum mechanics.”

Remarkably, Pokrovsky is a two-time recipient of the prestigious award, established in 1971 in honor of Soviet physicist and 1962 Nobel laureate Lev Landau and, prior to 1992, awarded by the Soviet Academy of Sciences as the Laudau Prize. He and A.Z. Patashinkskii (whose doctoral advisor was Landau) earned the 1983 Landau Prize for their fundamental work on phase transition theory – vital contributions that were acknowledged in the official citation for Dr. Kenneth G. Wilson’s 1982 Nobel Prize in Physics. Moreover, Pokrovsky’s original scaling theory of the second-order phase transition – one of the major results in statistical physics – as well as his famous theory of a new topological phase transition – known in literature as the Pokrovsky-Talapov transition – were also recognized with the American Physical Society’s 2005 Lars Onsager Prize celebrating his original and important contributions in statistical physics.

“We congratulate Professor Pokrovsky on this well-deserved honor,” said Texas A&M Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Carol A. Fierke. “It is worth noting that this award is given out only once every five years and only to the top minds in the field of theoretical physics, and that he’s earned it twice. His contributions will no doubt open many other doors that could answer critical scientific questions in the years to come. He is an outstanding credit to his profession and to Texas A&M.”

Pokrovsky received a master’s of science degree from Kharkov University in 1953 and a doctorate from Tomsk State University in 1957 in the former Soviet Union. He earned a second doctoral degree in physics and mathematics from Novosibirsk University in 1962 and served three years as head of the Laboratory for Theoretical Physics at the Institute of Radiophysics and as a scientist at the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. In 1966, Pokrovsky was invited to join the newly founded Landau Institute of Theoretical Physics as a section head, where he continues to serve as a member of the institute’s scientific council. He was a professor of theoretical physics at the Moscow Institute for Physics and Technology for 26 years prior to coming to Texas A&M.

Pokrovsky’s many fundamental research contributions have been recognized with awards ranging from the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award in 2000 to a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research in 2001. In addition, he was named an APS fellow in 1999. His more recent results on Landau-Zener tunneling in condensed matter systems, Bose-Einstein condensation of magnons and effects of disorder in physics of cold atoms are in the center of interest in contemporary physics and are lauded by the international condensed matter community.

Pokrovsky’s former Ph.D. students include such luminaries as the California Institute of Technology’s Dr. A.I. Kitaev, a leading world expert in quantum computing and winner of the MacArthur, Milner and APS Buckley Prizes, as well as Russian Academy of Sciences members A.M. Dykhne (deceased) and A.V. Chaplik. In total, he has supervised about 50 Ph.D. students – 10 of whom are either full professors at U.S.-based institutions or scientists at national laboratories and 30 who became full professors at Russian universities or work in Russian Academy of Sciences institutes.

To learn more about Pokrovsky and his teaching, research and service contributions, visit


Media contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or or Dr. Valery L. Pokrovsky, (979) 845-1175 or


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