Laszlo Takacs's Personal Page

This page is a short life story, including information on my personal background and my interest in education and research. If you are more interested in current research, publications, etc. you may want to start with my Mechanical Alloying homepage.

I was born in the middle of the past century in Hungary. I lived my formative years in the town of Sopron, less than 50 miles from Vienna, and 10 miles East of the then rust-free iron curtain. Sopron is a lovely old town, dating back 2000 years when it was the Roman city of Scarbantia. We lived in the inner city, formerly surrounded by a protective wall, where most buildings are 200-500 years old, the oldest still standing is over 800. Sopron, then a city of 40,000, had nine high schools, two colleges, and a very busy student life; it was a great place for a teenager. I spent a lot of time with my friends, loved photography, and riding my bike. I also loved mathematics and physics, and participated in many academic competitions in these subjects. I got a lot of help and encouragement from my high school mathematics teacher, Eva Autheried. In 1968 I ranked third in mathematics and second in physics at the Hungarian National Olympiad and won second prize at the International Physics Olympiad.

Becoming a physics major at the Lorand Eotvos University was a natural step for me. I learned from great teachers, notably theoretical physics form George Marx and solid state physics from Elemer Nagy. I graduated in 1974, my thesis work was on Mossbauer investigations of iron-cobalt-boron intermetallic compounds. The results were published in Journal of Physics F: Metal Physics, that paper is still regularly referenced in the technical literature. My doctoral research was a natural continuation and extension of this work into the study of metallic glasses made of the same components. Metallic glasses were new at that time, we were at the true forefront of research. I was primarily interested in structure, band structure, and magnetic properties, the main methods were Mossbauer spectroscopy and computer simulation. I received my Ph.D. in 1978 for research work done at the Central Research Institute for Physics, Budapest. I stayed there and continued my research work in the same area after graduation. Beside my coworkers in the department, I had several joint projects with Erkki Hiltunen, my friend at the University of Turku, Finland.

I married my high school sweetheart after my junior year. My wife, Eva Veronika, is a civil engineer. In spite of the ups and downs of life, we seem to take the "happily ever after" route. We have two daughters, Katalin and Dora. The pictures were taken during the summer of 1984, the last one in Hungary.

I took a post-doctoral fellowship at Northeastern University (Boston, MA) with Prof. William M. Reiff in the Department of Chemistry from 1984 to 1986. This appointment brought new scientific questions, new methods and materials. I was working with complex chemical compounds, which often exhibited very complicated magnetic behavior. Beside Mossbauer spectroscopy, I measured magnetic susceptibility using VSM, Faraday balance, and SQUID magnetometer. The temperature range of my measurements extended to temperatures as low as 0.3 K. On the personal side, our family faced the challenges of a new country. Slowly but surely, the US has gradually become our home.

I was a visiting assistant professor at Clark University (Worcester, MA) from 1987 to 1989. I did research on mercury based ferrofluids and high temperature superconductors there. I was also teaching two courses per semester, nine different courses over five semesters. It wasn't easy, but it was a very rewarding experience. One of the highlights of that time was a joint Clark U. - U. Conn. (Storrs) seminar series on superconductivity organized by J. I. Budnick, C. Hohenemser, and myself.

Our main form of family entertainment was travel, to see as much of this beautiful land as possible. After several short and longer trips along the East Coast, we had our greatest adventure in 1987. We drove across the country, through the Heartland, then the Rockies, to see the marvels of the West. We visited places like Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, and Yellowstone Park. We stayed in a tent at campgrounds, where we could talk to people from every corner of the country.

I joined the Physics Department of UMBC in 1989. I started a research program in mechanical alloying. My original goal was to prepare and investigate amorphous alloys. I soon became more interested in the application of mechanical alloying to the preparation of nanocomposites and to use ball milling to induce chemical reactions. I had an NSF funded program on self-sustaining reactions induced by ball milling in highly exothermic systems. The main objective of this program was to understand the mechanism of mechanical activation on chemical reactions in a ball mill. It is a challenging and practically very important problem. This work continues and extends to possible applications and the combination of mechanical activation with self-propagating high temperature synthesis. My research also involves mechanochemistry, the magnetic properties of nanocomposites, the preparation of nanocomposites for applications as structural materials, and the preparation of coatings by mechanochemical methods.

My teaching assignments at UMBC included all the large introductory physics courses; the modern physics laboratory, statistical and thermal physics, vibrations and waves, electricity and magnetism, and quantum mechanics on the upper undergraduate level; and solid state physics, materials science and quantum mechanics on the graduate level. An interesting challenge was to develop a course on the applications of physics in archaeology. In the fall of 2009, I will teach a first year seminar on matter, looking both at fundamental question about what matter is and at the more practical questions of materials science.

I was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1997 and was naturalized as a US citizen in 1998. Our life is more settled now. We still like to travel, if we can find the time and opportunity. We spent two weeks in India during the summer of 1999. It was an experience we will treasure for life. More recently we saw the Stonehenge and ate fish and chips in a pub in England. We go to concerts regularly, mostly to the Candlelight Concert Society chamber music concerts in Columbia. My daughters grew up. Kati graduated from UMBC with majors in mathematics and economics. She had a son on May 8, 2004. I see little Scotty every week. In fact, he is not so little any more. Dora has an MA in occupational therapy and works with the elderly. We are a happy family together.

Teaching has always been an important part of my life. The first time I was tutoring someone on a regular twice-a-week basis was in fifth grade. Later I was working for the Mathematics and Physics Journal for High School Students, organized physics competitions and had special seminars for the most talented high school students of Hungary. I was the coach of the Hungarian National Physics Team for five years. I thaught my first university courses at Clark and continue teaching at UMBC. I am glad to be a university professor today, dividing my time between teaching and research. I can hardly imagine my life without either.

Dr. Laszlo Takacs, Associate Professor
The University of Maryland Baltimore County
Department of Physics
Baltimore, MD 21250
Tel.: (410) 455-2524
FAX: (410) 455-1072

Last modified: August 20, 2009.