Alan M. Nathan

Professor Emeritus

Contact

Alan M. Nathan

Primary Research Area

  • Other
290F Loomis Laboratory

Biography

Professor Alan Nathan received his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Maryland in 1968, and his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1975. He joined the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois as an assistant professor in 1977.

Professor Nathan has most recently been working on an exciting new experiment on real Compton scattering (RCS) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab). The ultimate physics goal of the RCS experiment, of which Professor Nathan is co-spokesperson, is to learn about the underlying structure of the proton by observing how the fundamental constituents (quarks and gluons) interact with each other.

To measure the probability of Compton scattering, a beam of high-energy protons, a proton-containing target, and a pair of detectors to detect the recoil proton and the scattered photon are needed. Professor Nathan's role in the RCS experiment is overall management of the design and construction of a full-scale photon spectrometer at JLab. He also heads one of the working groups, which is charged with putting together and testing the extensive set of data acquisition electronics needed to integrate the detectors to an online computer.

In addition to his research accomplishments, Professor Nathan is an enthusiastic and highly regarded teacher. He is a regular member of the University's list of "Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students."

Research Statement

My previous research was in the field of intermediate energy nuclear physics, particularly the study of the quark structure of the nucleon, using the Compton scattering reaction as a probe. At very low photon energies the cross sections are sensitive to the electric and magnetic polarizabilities of the nucleon. At much higher energies, the cross sections are sensitive to the onset of the perturbative regime.

In more recent years, my research has focused on the physics of baseball. My two broad interests are the dynamics of the collision between the ball and bat and the aerodynamics of a baseball in flight. I am particularly interested in new technologies that enable the study of these topics with unprecedented precision.

Alan M. Nathan, at the UIUC baseball stadium, being taped for a National Geographic television program on baseball; August 2006.
Alan Nathan being interviewed for a National Geographic television special on baseball
(aired July 6, 2007); UI's Eichelberger Field is in the background.

Professor Nathan presently serves on the editorial board of the journal Sports Engineering and has served on panels advising major league baseball, the Amateur Softball Association, the NCAA, and USA Baseball. His 2003 American Journal of Physics paper (A.M. Nathan, Characterizing the performance of baseball bats, Am. J. Phys. 71, 134, 143 [2003]) serves as the basis for present efforts to regulate the performance of non-wood bats.

Honors

  • Associate, University of Illinois Center for Advanced Study, 1998-99
  • Fellow, American Physical Society, 1992
  • American Men and Women of Science
  • Who's Who in Technology Today

Semesters Ranked Excellent Teacher by Students

SemesterCourseOutstanding
Fall 2001PHYS 101

Related news

  • In the Media

To most fans, it’s just a fun spectacle. But to Alan Nathan, home-run hitting is a physics problem. Given the distance between home plate and the outfield wall, what combination of ball speed, bat angle and external factors will send the ball out of the park?

“It's driven by a need to understand,” he said. “It’s the same reason I did experimental nuclear physics for many years.”