PULLMAN, Wash. — A leading scientist from Sandia National Laboratories was named associate director of Washington State University’s Institute for Shock Physics. James Asay directed shock wave research programs at Sandia as deputy director of Shock Physics Applications and deputy for Science and Technology in the Pulsed Power Sciences Center.

His responsibilities at ISP will include developing new research opportunities and collaborations for the institute, as well as administrative and supervisory duties.

“Jim Asay is internationally renowned and respected for his scientific work and leadership in shock wave and high pressure science and his recent work using pulsed power at Sandia,” said Yogendra Gupta, ISP director. “I am delighted he will be joining ISP and look forward to his leadership and scientific contributions in the coming years.”

Asay is noted for developing techniques for magnetically compressing materials to very high pressures. He has served on several national committees including a National Academy of Sciences panel that evaluated space debris hazards. Most recently he served on a National Security Advisory Committee to assess nuclear defense technologies. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and was named a Distinguished Scientist by the Hypervelocity Impact Society.

Asay earned his bachelor’s degree from San Jose State in 1961. Upon graduating, he joined the Air Force, where he earned his master’s degree from the University of New Mexico in 1968. In the Air Force, he was officer in charge of developing a high-pressure research program. His doctoral studies were at WSU in shock physics under physics professor George Duvall. After graduation from WSU, he moved to Sandia, Albuquerque, N.M., in 1971 as a member of the technical staff.

Among his honors are an Air Force Commendation Medal for research in high pressure acoustics, the 1994 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Hypervelocity Impact Society for research in shock physics and materials studies, and the Shock Ballistics Award from The International Aeroballistic Range Association for research in high velocity gun applications.

The WSU Institute for Shock Physics, which was created in 1997, has received strong federal support from the Department of Energy (Defense Programs) to conduct fundamental research to ensure a strong, long-term scientific base for the DOE’s national security mission. In 1999, the Office of Naval Research provided funding to enhance chemical studies in energetic materials. Subsequently, a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) award was made in 2001 to a team consisting of WSU, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michigan Technological University for chemical reaction studies.

The creation of ISP followed many years of WSU leadership in the field of shock wave physics. Theoretical studies in the Department of Physics began in the late 1950s, marking the onset of sustained academic research in the United States in this field. In 1968, experimental shock wave research in condensed matter was initiated in the WSU Shock Dynamics Laboratory. This effort was the start of experimental shock wave studies in U.S. academic institutions. “Among WSU’s most notable achievements in this field,” Gupta said, “is the outstanding group of scientists who have been trained here and gone on to become national leaders in the field.”

At present, a new $12.4 million, 32,000 square foot building for the ISP is nearing completion. The new facility will house equipment worth more than $5 million provided by various agencies.