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VALE Nicolae Nicorovici 1944-2010



11 February 2011

Dr Nicolae Alexandru Nicorovici was born in Bucharest Rumania in the last year of World War II. He completed his education at the University of Bucharest with a PhD in Atomic Physics, dealing with the relation between interaction cross-sections and unitary symmetries. He then worked for the Rumanian Atomic Energy Commission, specialising in computation and theoretical physics.


He came to Australia in 1991, having succeeded in obtaining a research associate at the University of Sydney, supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC). This involved him learning a new topic, the multipole method for the theoretical study of photonic crystals, which he took up with enthusiasm and soon became a master of all its technical details. The work went well, and he was the lead author on the first two Australian articles on photonic crystals (Phys. Rev. Lett. 75, 1507-1510, 1995; Phys. Rev. E, 52, 1135-1145,1995).


Simultaneously with this research into photonic crystals, he participated in research into what was termed the partial resonance effects associated with coated cylinders (Phys. Rev. B, 49, 8479-8482, 1994). These partial resonances could make a system of coated cylinders behave like a system of solid cylinders of much larger radius, as far as electrostatic measurements were concerned.


When Sir John Pendry published his first papers on cloaking of objects from electromagnetic radiation, Nicolae and Professor Graeme Milton of the University of Utah were quick to realise that there was a strong connection of this work with partial resonance phenomena (Proc. Roy. Soc. A 462, 3027-3059, 2006). Nicolae was very enthusiastic about the study of cloaking effects and other topics connected with the emerging field of metamaterials, and became well known internationally in this new field.


Nicolae delighted in the mathematical details of the research he carried out into photonic crystals, composite materials, cloaking, metamaterials and other topics. In 2000, he was part of a team, which investigated the photonic crystal that occurred naturally in an ooze-dwelling creature called the sea mouse, Aphrodita aculeata (Nature, 409, 36-37, 2001). The work on this was written up in a paper that attracted wide international media coverage.


I was looking at Nicolae's Curriculum Vitae a year or two later, and noticed the paper was missing from his list of publications. I asked him where it was, and he replied that it was listed under "Other Communications". I remonstrated that it was a Nature paper, which normally was a highpoint in a scientific career. He replied: "But Ross, it has no equations."


In honour of this event, we introduced a new unit in our group for papers; the Nicolae. A paper was 1 Nicolae if it had 100 equations: if there were fewer than that, it was hardly to be taken seriously!


Nicolae was known internationally for the quality and thoroughness of his scientific research. He was an indispensable element of the groups at the University of Sydney and the University of Technology Sydney, where he was referred to as the "Rumanian Oracle". He was a friendly and committed scientist and a warm and life-loving man, whose passing will be deeply regretted by many, including his partner Stephanie Peschek and step-son Florian Remus.


Vale Nicolae Nicorovici.



Contact: Alison Muir

Phone: 02 9036 5194

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