University announces endowed CCAS chair

A 17-year veteran in energy research will be the University’s first Gus Weiss Chair of Theoretical Physics and Energy Studies, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences announced last week.

Andrei Afanasev, who is originally from Ukraine, will be working on energy sustainability solutions as part of the GW Energy Institute, a multidisciplinary research team headquartered on the Virginia campus.

Through collaborative research with other faculty, Afanasev will focus on accelerator physics, which he says make nuclear energy a “safer and more sustainable” energy source.

Afanasev took up GW’s offer for the new chair position last year, after spending most of his professional career studying energy research at Hampton University and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, both in Virginia.

“I have ideas and I have projects in mind, and I can move on with what I think is important,” Afanasev said.

Stationed primarily on the Virginia campus, Afanasev will collaborate closely on energy solutions with physics professor William Briscoe. While Briscoe will approach the energy problem from an experimentalist perspective. He said Afanasev will work from a theoretical perspective.

“[Afanasev] always has lots of ideas and is very enthusiastic. He is not afraid to step into the laboratory and get his hands dirty,” Briscoe said. “He is one theorist whom you do not have to explain how to turn the lights on. He understands the theory and the applications.”

Across the country, the study of accelerator-driven reactors has garnered financial support from several national laboratories, universities and industries, as well as the Indian and Belgian governments.

The Gus Weiss professorship in theoretical physics was endowed in 2003 through a bequest by the former director of International Economics for the National Security Council and former professor of economics at New York University, who passed away that same year.

“Afanasev has hit the ground running, working on research that could influence how nuclear energy is extracted and stored,” Columbian College dean Peg Barratt said. “He’s a stellar addition to our team.”

Afanasev, who will also be supervising graduate students and teaching nuclear physics this January, hopes to take his students to the Jefferson Lab – where he will continue to work as a research scientist.

“It’s an important place to people who are interested, to get younger people involved,” Afanasev said. “I have learned a lot over the past 17 years, and that’s something that I want to share with all of them.”

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