Robert B. Hallock

Robert B. Hallock

Fellow: Awarded 1992
Field of Study: Physics

Competition: US & Canada

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Robert Hallock received his B.S. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1965, his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1969, and joined the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1970 following a postdoctoral year at Stanford. His research efforts have centered on experimental studies of thin films of superfluid liquid helium. These studies have been directed toward an understanding of the metastable flow properties of the films, the behavior of third sound for pure 4He and for 3He-4He mixtures, the Kosterlitz-Thouless two-dimensional phase transition, the dynamical behavior of such films on patterned and disordered substrates, the behavior of 3He-4He mixture films, the wetting properties of helium to alkali-metal surfaces, capillary condensation and avalanche phenomena in porous materials invaded by liquid helium, localization phenomena and adsorption studies of helium in the context of one-dimensional and two-dimensional substrates. He has also done x-ray scattering measurements on bulk 4He with an emphasis on changes in the spatial structure of the liquid associated with the superfluid transition. In addition to his work with helium, he has carried out studies of high transition temperature superconductors prepared by novel polymeric techniques, studies of the adsorption of He and H to carbon nanotube bundles, and studies of macromolecular adsorption to surfaces at room temperature. These latter studies have contributed substantially to the understanding of behavior and the development of techniques necessary to the development of a highly sensitive technique for immunological and other macromolecular testing. He has also recently initiated work on solid helium, and area of considerable current activity and much controversy. His work has resulted in more than two hundred research publications.

His interests in teaching have led to the introduction of new courses in Superfluidity and Superconductivity, the Physics of Fluids, introductory physics courses for students interested in Natural Resources and Nursing, and contribution to the development of a new course "Seeing the Light" for art, photography, and other students interested in a basic understanding of the physics of light, which he teaches periodically. He has been active in cooperative work with Five Colleges Inc. (among Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts) where he helped to create a modular Advanced Laboratory for Physics, an Undergraduate Colloquium series, and an initiative that led to a successful Five College proposal to Pew. His teaching-related activity, in addition to regular classroom teaching, has involved the collaborative development of a pilot course on the subject of Pictographic and Graphical Literacy, "Envisioning Information: The Population Dilemma," designed to improve access to the higher curriculum for entering students.

He has served the University of Massachusetts in a number of capacities in addition to his eight years of service as Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and one year as Interim Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. At various times he has been, among other things, the chair of search committees for a Chancellor, a Provost (co-chair), and a Graduate Dean. He has also chaired the University Research Council, served as a member of the Chancellor’s Commission on Graduate Education and Research, and the Advisory Board of the University of Massachusetts Press. He was Chair of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Personnel Committee, a member of the faculty committee that drafted a proposal for periodic multiyear faculty review, which was adopted by the faculty and accepted by the University administration, and a member of two of the search committees for Vice Chancellor for Research. Currently he is Director of the Laboratory for Low Temperature Physics, Faculty Advisor to the Center for Teaching, Chair of the College of Natural Sciences, and Mathematics Distinguished Professor Screening Committee. Some of his wider service roles have included membership on the Buckley Prize Award Committee of the American Physical Society, membership on the evaluation committee that carried out an evaluation of the Council for Undergraduate Research, membership on the Fundamental Physics Discipline Working Group that advises NASA, membership on various international conference organizing committees, chair of the international Quantum Fluids and Solids 1998 conference, and member and past Chair of the Steering Committee for the yearly Quantum Fluids and Solids international conferences. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Research Corporation and was recently Chair of its Task Force on Strategic Planning. He is also currently the United States representative to the IUPAP Commission C5, and served as the IUPAP-C5 Secretary (2005-2008) and is the Chair for the period 2008-2011.

He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and has held AFOSR-NRC, A. P. Sloan, and Distinguished University Faculty Fellowships. In 1992 he was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Research at the University of Massachusetts, and in 1998 was designated a University Distinguished Teacher of the Year. He is a Professor of Physics. He was awarded the title Distinguished Professor in 2001,  the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean’s Leadership Award in 2005, and the Distinguished Faculty Award by the Alumni Association in 2008. His outside interests include fine-art photography with a strong emphasis on black and white using traditional wet-chemistry darkroom technique. In this context he has had several solo exhibitions of his work in gallery settings and also has published articles that explore some of the physics of photography for advanced photographers. For examples of his photography, see


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