Dr. Peter M. McIntyre has been appointed as head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University, effective June 1, announced Dr. Meigan Aronson, dean of the College of Science.

McIntyre, a 36-year veteran of the department and widely respected experimental high-energy physicist, replaces Dr. George R. Welch, who previously served since 2011 as department head and has returned to teaching and research-related duties.

McIntyre, a member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, has held the Mitchell-Heep Chair in Experimental High-Energy Physics since 2004. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1973 and joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1980.

A prolific researcher across disciplines, McIntyre is known for his pioneering work that made it possible to cool beams of antiprotons and then accelerate them to make proton-antiproton colliding beams at very high energy. That process was used to discover the weak bosons that mediate radioactive decay and validate the Standard Model of elementary particles. Recently, he has developed new technology for superconductors and for superconducting coils that makes possible a new generation of super-magnets to extend the reach of hadron colliders a factor of 50 beyond that of CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) where the Higgs boson was discovered.

McIntyre also applies accelerator physics and technology to address some of the greatest challenges in green energy and biomedicine. In his four-decade career, he has collaborated with faculty in nuclear engineering to develop a way to produce electric power from nuclear fission that is intrinsically safe, cannot melt down, eats its own waste, does not produce bomb-capable isotopes and uses all of its nuclear fuel efficiently. He is collaborating with Texas A&M faculty in mechanical engineering and chemical engineering to develop new molten salt technology that can be used to collect the energy of sunlight at the focus of km2 arrays of mirrors, store that heat in a reservoir of molten salt, and use it to make electric power night and day when it is needed most.

In addition, McIntyre is working with Texas A&M faculty in geochemical and environmental research groups to develop a submersible wind turbine that could make possible robust wind farms offshore in the sea. Such a marine wind farm could supply much of the electric power needs of the entire Gulf Coast. Likewise, he has developed a high-power industrial electron accelerator that can destroy toxic organic chemicals in industrial wastewater at a price and flow rate that matches many industrial plant processes. He is exploring applications of that technology for petrochemical plants along the Gulf Coast.

Finally, McIntyre is collaborating with Texas A&M faculty in electrical engineering and scientists at UT Southwest Medical Center to develop a walk-through MRI breast imager that is dedicated to early detection of breast cancer. The instrument would image a woman's breasts in a 10-minute walk-through scan and improve the sensitivity for early detection from the present ~50 percent for mammography to >90 percent for dye-contrast MRI.

"We are fortunate to have such an esteemed faculty member as Peter McIntyre, with his deep scholarship and considerable accomplishments in his discipline and at Texas A&M, to lead the Department of Physics and Astronomy at this critical juncture," Aronson said. "He is already leading the department in important new initiatives in research and undergraduate instruction, and I am impressed by his vision and by his ability to work broadly across the university. I am very much looking forward to working together, and I feel we will accomplish much for the department, college and university."

In between receiving his Ph.D. in 1973 and coming to Texas A&M in 1980, McIntyre performed experiments with colliding beams at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1975 he joined the faculty at Harvard University and participated in neutrino scattering experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). In 1976 he was the first to propose making colliding beams of protons and antiprotons using the large synchrotrons at Fermilab and at CERN. He developed several techniques for cooling intense beams of antiprotons for that purpose.

In previous work at Texas A&M, McIntyre provided design expertise, technical support and testing of performance for the superconducting spectrometer magnet for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a $1.5 billion particle physics experiment currently operating on the International Space Station. AMS measures signals from high-energy cosmic rays space and has recently provided the first evidence of a puzzling abundance of very energetic antimatter particles streaming in our galaxy. AMS was taken to the Space Station on the last mission of the the Space Shuttle Endeavour in what would be the final mission for the overall Space Shuttle program.

A 2001 fellow of the American Physical Society, McIntyre was named a Sloan Fellow in 1980-82 and was recognized by the Texas A&M chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society with its Outstanding Science Communicator Award in 1999.

For more information about McIntyre, go to http://mitchell.tamu.edu/people/peter-mcintyre/ or see this recent feature article.

To learn more about the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy, go to http://physics.tamu.edu.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Peter M. McIntyre, (979) 255-5531 or mcintyre@physics.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Peter M. McIntyre

    McIntyre, working in his lab with former graduate student Kyle Damborsky and former postdoctoral researcher Feng Lu. (Credit: Robb Kendrick / Texas A&M Foundation.)

  • "I include a photo that is perhaps a bit eclectic, but captures the spirit of my group," McIntyre says. (Credit: Peter McIntyre.)

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