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Elmer S. Imes Scholarship in Physics

Scholarship Provider: National Society of Black Physicists
Application Deadline: 01/08/2010
Description: Elmer Imes earned a Ph.D. degree in physics from the University of Michigan in 1918, becoming the second African American to earn a Ph.D. in physics.  He served as Professor of Physics and Head of the Physics Department at Fisk University, from 1930 until his death in 1941.  In 1918 Imes and Harrison Randall, a preeminent physics researcher at the University of Michigan published a seminal work that opened an entirely new field of research: the study of molecular structure through the use of infra-red spectroscopy.  Their work revealed for the first time the detailed spectra of simple-molecule gases, leading to important verification of the emerging quantum theory and providing, for the first time, an accurate measurement of the distances between atoms in a molecule.  Imes' work formed a turning point in the scientific thinking, making it clear that quantum theory was not just a novelty, useful in limited fields of physics, but of widespread and general application.

After completing his degree at Michigan, Imes returned to Fisk University where he built a physics program, in fact the first degree granting program in physics at an HBCU.  Throughout his years at Fisk, he and many of his students went to Ann Arbor for research collaborations in the vibrational spectroscopy group there.  One of those students, James Lawson, later earned a Ph.D. degree in physics at Michigan.  Lawson went on to develop the Fisk Infrared Research Laboratory, which is still active today.  Willie Hobbs Moore, the first African American female to earn a Ph.D. in physics, also received her degree at Michigan in the vibrational spectroscopy group.

This scholarship is made possible from the generous gift of Dr. Walter and Mrs Shirley Massey.
Scholarship Amount: $1000
Scholarship Website:
School Type Requirement: Four Year College or Research University
Applicant Class Requirement: Junior or Senior
Minority Status Requirement: African American
Awards Given: 1
Length of Award: One Time Award

Scholarship Opportunity Contact Information

Primary Contact: Scholarship Committee Chair
National Society of Black Physicists
6704G Lee Highway
Arlington, VA 22205
Phone: 703-536-4207
Fax: 703-536-4203