The award, first presented in 1984, is the university's premier research award and is named in honor of Donald Caplenor, former associate vice president for research and dean of instructional development who died in 1979.
Since joining Tennessee Tech's physics department 25 years ago, Ayik's research program in theoretical nuclear physics has contributed greatly to the understanding of the processes that occur when atomic nuclei collide with each other in particle accelerators. He has focused on developing models that help in understanding how the small fluctuations inherent in such a situation can lead to a broader distribution of outcomes.
"His long and distinguished research career has brought TTU to the attention of a worldwide audience in his field," said colleague and TTU physics professor Steve Robinson.
Since 1989, he has received continuous support from the U.S. Department of Energy totaling $676,000. While at TTU, Ayik has published 57 scientific papers in refereed journals and has made 30 contributions in conference proceedings.
Ayik's work spans international borders; he has collaborated with scientists from France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Turkey. These collaborations have gained him relationships at top institutions, including Oak Ridge National Lab, California's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Frances' GANIL Research Lab, Italy's IFN Research Lab, Japan's Yukawa Research Institute and Turkey's Middle East Technical University.
Ayik has co-organized five Summer Schools on Nuclear Dynamics for graduate students held at Turkey's Gursey Research Institute and has co-supervised nine doctoral theses.
Jorgen Randrup, senior physicist at the University of California's Lawrence Berkeley Lab, says Ayik has been a pioneer in establishing the framework for addressing memory effects in nuclear transport processes and that his advances have played a central role for the exploration of instabilities in nuclear systems.
"He has made some of the key formal developments which have made it possible to develop well-founded and quantitatively useful models," Randrup said. "His work is characterized by both high relevance and high quality."
TTU physics professor Ray Kozub says Ayik's success is found in his different approach to some perplexing problems.
"His achievements have brought worldwide recognition to both Dr. Ayik and TTU," Kozub said. "He has done much to enhance the reputation of our institution around the globe. He is a world-class scientist in his field."
Ayik earned his doctorate in physics from Yale University and a bachelor's degree in physics from Ankara University in Turkey. He serves as referee for Physical Review Letters, Physical Review C and Nuclear Physics A.