PITTSBURGH- Carnegie Mellon University Mathematical Sciences Professor Morton Gurtin is this year's winner of the $13,000 "Cataldo e Angiola Agostinelli" International Prize from Italy's Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.
The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei was founded in 1603 in Rome and since then it has coordinated, promoted and spread scientific knowledge. The accademia presents several awards annually. Its Agostinelli Award goes to an eminent scholar in the field of pure or applied mathematics or mathematical physics.
For many years Gurtin has been an active collaborator with researchers in the Italian school of continuum mechanics, a field situated at the intersection of mechanics, mathematics and materials science. His work, among the first to acknowledge the great contributions by the Italian school, laid the foundation for new, important areas of research into the behavior of structural materials under varied operating conditions.
Continuum mechanics is a branch of theoretical physics originally developed to study phenomena such as the flow of water and wind and the deformation (bending, stretching and shearing) of large structures at macroscopic length scales, those observable to the human eye.
Gurtin's recent research extends continuum mechanics to the study of the behavior of structural materials at length scales between 0.1-100 microns (500 microns being the approximate diameter of a human hair). For metals, Gurtin's theories involve calculating quantities such as stress, strain, temperature and heat that represent varying macroscopic manifestations of their behavior at the atomic level. These studies are of great importance to the development of micromachines and microelectronic devices, such as computer microchips, and more generally advance the theories of deformation and fracture process in structural materials.
Gurtin has been a professor on the Carnegie Mellon faculty since 1966 and has held the Alumni Chair in Mathematical Sciences since 1992. He is the author of four books, a major article for the Handbuch der Physik and more than 250 scientific papers.