September 17, 2019

Obituary | Anthony Starace


Anthony Starace, George Holmes University Professor of physics, died Sept. 5 from complications related to pancreatitis. He was 74.

Starace was born July 24, 1945, in the Queens borough of New York City. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1966 before moving west to the University of Chicago, where he earned his doctorate under adviser Ugo Fano in 1971. It was in Chicago that he met Katherine Fritz of Beatrice, Nebraska, his wife of 51 years.

Following a postdoctoral appointment at Imperial College London, Starace moved to Lincoln as an assistant professor in 1973 and rapidly rose through the ranks, becoming a professor in 1981 and George Holmes University Professor in 2001.

Starace was one of the world’s leading experts in the physics of atomic photo-ionization. At the turn of the century, he became a pioneer in the field of attosecond science, in which extremely intense laser pulses of extremely short duration interact with nanoscale targets.

Starace’s leadership and ingenuity in his areas of research led to an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship; an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship; a visiting professorship at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris; a fellowship at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Boulder, Colorado; and a visiting fellowship at the Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, among other awards and honors.

He was a fellow of both the American Physical Society and the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. In 2005, Starace won the University of Nebraska’s Outstanding Research and Creativity Award. In 2014, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Voronezh State University in Russia.

Under Starace’s leadership as chair from 1984 to 1995, the Department of Physics and Astronomy made major steps forward in research productivity. He served in a variety of upper-level administrative positions and promoted physics by serving on various editorial boards for the American Physical Society. He also served as the chair of its Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics from 1990 to 1991.

Over the course of his career, Starace directed the research of 12 doctoral students and 28 postdoctoral fellows.

“In addition to being a superb scientist, Tony was a true servant to his home department, the university as a whole, and his profession,” said Tim Gay, his colleague in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Tony took his responsibility to be a mentor and friend to his research group ‘family’ very seriously. He was truly the irreplaceable heart and soul of the Atomic, Molecular, Optical and Plasma Physics group at Nebraska. His loss will be felt for a long time to come.”

Starace is survived by his wife, Katherine, his son, Alex (Alissa Green), his daughter, Anne (Nam Tran), and two grandchildren. A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Nov. 2 at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, 313 N. 13th St.