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Costas M. Soukoulis, Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Ames National Laboratory Scientist, dies at 73

Costas M. Soukoulis, the Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy, died March 14 at the age of 73. He was also a Senior Scientist at Ames National Laboratory and served at both institutions from 1984 until his retirement in 2020. 

At Ames National Laboratory, Soukoulis led the research efforts in metamaterials for close to two decades. At Iowa State University, Soukoulis was a dedicated teacher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and held courtesy appointments in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering. 

He mentored and advised numerous students, postdocs, and young scientists at both the University and the Laboratory, as well as at the Foundation for Research & Technology (FORTH) in Crete, Greece. 

Costas Soukoulis was internationally recognized and highly respected in the field of condensed matter physics for his work in periodic and disordered systems, which included photonic bandgap materials, photonic crystals, lasers, magnetic systems, nonlinear systems and amorphous semiconductors. 

He was an early pioneer in establishing the revolutionary fields of photonic crystals and metamaterials, including left-handed materials—electromagnetic materials that have exotic, but technologically useful properties not found in nature—extending the realm of electromagnetism and enabling exciting new applications. In particular, Soukoulis and his colleagues were the first to demonstrate magnetic response and negative index of refraction at optical frequencies, which do not exist in natural materials. 

He received numerous prestigious awards for his research achievements, including the Senior Humboldt Research Award in 2002; the Descartes Award (shared) for collaborative research on left-handed materials in 2005; and the 2013 James C. McGroddy Prize of the American Physical Society for New Materials (shared), for the discovery of metamaterials. He won the 2014 Max Born Award of the Optical Society of America, and the 2015 Rolf Landauer Medal from the ETOPIM (International Association Elastic, Electrical, Transport, and Optical Properties of Inhomogeneous Media).

In academia, Soukoulis earned an Iowa State Outstanding Achievement in Research award in 2001, and received the inaugural Frances M. Craig endowed chair in Physics at ISU in 2007. He also held an honorary Doctorate from Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, Belgium. Soukoulis was an associated member of FORTH since 1983. He was a part-time professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at University of Crete from 2001 to 2011.

He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was named a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow. 

Costas Soukoulis was author of over 500 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, a textbook “Wave Propagation: From Electrons to Photonic crystals and Left-handed Materials,” and received five patents for photonic bandgap materials and metamaterials. He served as senior editor (2002-2013) of the new Journal “Photonic Nanostructures: Fundamentals and Applications,” editor of Optics Letters (2008-2011), and member of the editorial board of Physical Review Letters. 

Born January 1951 in a small village near Corinth, Greece, Soukoulis received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Athens, Greece in 1974, and his master’s (1975) and doctoral (1978) degrees in Physics from the University of Chicago. From 1978 to 1981 he was a visiting assistant professor with the physics department at the University of Virginia. After spending the following three years as a research physicist at Exxon Corporate Research Laboratories, he found his academic home at Iowa State University and Ames National Laboratory in 1984.

As per his wishes, there will be no services. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Adam’s Funeral Home in Ames, Iowa, and memorials may be left at this link