Lorin Swint Matthews, Ph.D., Becomes First Baylor Faculty Member Appointed as Fellow of the American Physical Society

Longtime researcher recognized for significant contributions to physics through research, teaching and mentorship

December 13, 2023
Lorin Swint Matthews, Ph.D., chair and professor of physics and associate director of Baylor’s Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER)

Lorin Swint Matthews, Ph.D., chair and professor of physics, is an internationally recognized researcher in dusty plasma, important for the formation of planets and fusion energy.  (Robert Rogers/Baylor University)

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WACO, Texas (Dec. 13, 2023) – Lorin Swint Matthews, B.A. ’94, Ph.D. ’98, chair and professor of physics and associate director of Baylor’s Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER), was appointed as a 2023 Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), a distinct honor bestowed on no more than one half of 1% of the American Physical Society’s membership.

Matthews has built an internationally recognized reputation and research portfolios in dusty plasma, which are important in areas such as the formation of planets and fusion energy.

“Receiving the APS Fellowship is a great honor,” Matthews said. “It’s also an honor that speaks to the fact that Baylor is ramping up in research and that we have great colleagues in research. It’s exciting to receive this [fellowship], and it’s meaningful to see Baylor faculty across campus receiving honors that speak to their impact.”

APS Fellowships are an honor chosen by the Fellow’s peers for “exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise.” Matthews was specifically recognized for “pioneering contributions to the fundamental understanding of dust charging and dynamics in a plasma environment through numerical studies.”

Matthews becomes the first faculty member to earn an APS Fellowship at Baylor and the second current faculty member bestowed this honor. B.F.L. Ward, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Physics, received an appointment in 1998 while at the University of Tennessee.

“Dr. Matthews has compiled an incredible research record during her career here at Baylor that has been important in helping us achieve R1 status,” said Lee Nordt, Ph.D., dean of the Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences. “To be inducted as a Fellow into the American Physical Society is quite an honor, and she is eminently deserving of it. Not only is Dr. Matthews an outstanding researcher, but she is also one of our most innovative classroom teachers.”

Lorin Matthews, Ph.D., teaching physics
APS Fellow, dusty plasma researcher and physics chair Lorin Matthews, Ph.D., also values teaching and mentoring students. (Robert Rogers/Baylor University)

Matthews’ research, both theoretical and experimental, is focused on dusty plasma— tiny bits of rock and ice, 100 times smaller than the width of the human hair — interacting with plasma, the glowing, ionized gas that makes up more than 99% of our visible universe. The phenomena Matthews studies range from how this dust clumps together, forming cosmic “dust bunnies” that may eventually become planets, to how these small pieces of rock can assemble themselves into intricate structures like dust crystals or helical strings.

For Matthews, the pathway to space research began at Baylor. She received her start as a Baylor undergraduate, where she worked with Truell Hyde, Ph.D., professor of physics and Director of CASPER. After earning her doctorate at Baylor, she returned to her alma mater and built a reputation as a leading researcher, earning a highly sought-after National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award and significant grant funding from agencies, including NASA and the Department of Energy. As CASPER associate director, she partners with Baylor colleagues in the Department of Physics and Department of Mathematics, along with peers from global institutions, to advance research in astrophysics, space physics and engineering.

Matthews said the honor also speaks to intentional mentorship, another factor in the attainment of APS Fellowships. In 2020, Matthews was recognized by Baylor Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) as an Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year. Mentorship remains a foundational value in her work.

“The students and my faculty colleagues make it a joy to come to work every day. The best part is watching students blossom, not because I told them how to proceed every step of the way, but because I gave them a little push in the right direction and let them run along the path of discovery,” Matthews said.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


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