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Popovic Gets Top Award from Institute of Physics in Belgrade

Research Scientist Toza Popovic

Svetozar "Toza" Popovic figured that he had slipped into obscurity in Belgrade, where he did pioneering work in physics decades ago. But the research professor in the Old Dominion University Department of Physics was informed a few weeks ago that the Institute of Physics in Belgrade wants to set the record straight.

Since Popovic last worked at the institute - he came to the United States in 1990 - Belgrade has seen a lot of turmoil. The breakup of Yugoslavia, leaving Belgrade as the capital of Serbia, economic depravation and periods of armed conflict created impossible conditions at the institute. "With our country and our systems falling apart, in the process they lost a lot of projects," he said. "They had three or four directors."

By last year, however, conditions had improved and yet another director was appointed for the institute. "It's an interesting story," Popovic explained. "This new director had been educated in America and he knew nothing about the institute's history. I had made meticulous reports on every project of mine, which the director found when he went to the classified information folders" to learn more about past work at the institute.

This director, who did not know Popovic, then went to the institute's board of directors and nominated this man he had discovered in the files for a top award the institute will be giving later this year in conjunction with its 50th anniversary celebration.

"The directors apparently went like this," Popovic said, slapping his forehead. "They said, 'Oh yes. Of course. We almost forgot him.'"

So in November, Popovic and three other scientists will be in Belgrade to receive their Grand Certificate of Acknowledgment and Appreciation from the Institute of Physics. "They are forging a special medal for each of us," he said. "It will be quite something."

The award recognizes Popovic's extraordinary contributions to the development of the institute and to economic development through research projects and collaboration with government agencies.

Popovic was affiliated with the institute from 1970 to 1990, first as a graduate student and then as a research physicist, ultimately working his way up to director of the Experimental Physics Division. In 1981, upon the institute's 20th anniversary, he was awarded a Scientific Excellence Award. His Ph.D. in physics is from the University of Belgrade.

After moving to the United States, Popovic served as a research scientist at Polytechnic Institute of New York for six years before joining ODU in 1996.

His research topics have included effects of weakly ionized gas on propulsion and aerodynamics, oxygen production from Martian atmosphere, and ultraviolet light sources. His work for NASA resulted in his receiving that agency's Outstanding Achievement Award in 2000. Popovic is co-inventor on two U.S. patents, both issued in 2000. One is titled "Method for Remote Detection of Volatile Taggant," and the other, "High-pressure Lamp Bulb Having Fill Containing Multiple Excimer Combinations."

Robert Ash, ODU eminent scholar and professor of aerospace engineering, has collaborated with Popovic on various projects related to in-situ resource utilization during Mars exploration. One method would produce oxygen from the carbon dioxide that makes up most of the Martian atmosphere. The process involved is called carbon dioxide disassociation and involves the extraction of oxygen in radio-frequency and microwave discharge plasmas.

This article was posted on: August 19, 2011

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