The inaugural IUPAP medal for outstanding contributions to the enhancement of Physics in Developing countries was presented to Dr Jorge Flores Valdés from Mexico. The medal was presented during the 29th General Assembly of IUPAP held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in October 2017.
Dr. Flores is a towering figure in Mexican physics of his generation. He has excelled in all academic activities: research, teaching, outreach and the creation and consolidation of institutions. As a researcher he counts with many major contributions in nuclear physics, and as an important contribution he has the Brody, Flores et al. paper in Reviews of Modern Physics (1981) that has received close to 2,000 references in the specialized literature. He is one on the most motivating teachers I have heard and has directed 30 theses at different levels. Many of his students are now key players in Mexican science. He was one of the first important researchers that started emphasizing the importance of popularization and outreach at a time (the 1970s) where these activities were considered in Mexico more of a liability than an asset. He has give
In a large number of lectures and published several popularization books that have reached a vast nonspecialized audience. He was Director of the Institute of Physics of the National University of Mexico (UNAM) from 1974 to 1982, consolidating the role of this most important institution while performing as one of his most energetic and creative functionaries. After serving in this position, he accepted the position of Education Undersecretary in the Government of the Republic. Science in Mexico was then (1982) passing by a very difficult time; the salaries were very low and many young people was moving abroad or simply not returning to Mexico. Dr. Flores came with the key idea of creating a system of additional salaries for the most productive researchers. His idea was concreted in 1984 with the creation of the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (SNI) by the President of the Republic. This initiative provides scholarships to scientists after a careful examination of their scientific achievements. The net result has been a substantial increase of the scientific production and saved science in Mexico. Now the SNI provides a complementary salary for nearly 15,000 researchers and helps to create much more attractive working conditions. In 1989, he accepted the compromise of starting inside the National University a science museum that could compete with private museums already working successfully in Mexico. He was the founder and first Director of the Science Museum “Universum” that continues operating inside the Mexico City facilities of UNAM and receiving tens of thousands of visitors every year. Decentralization was another key problem of Mexican science. Most of it was located in Mexico City. He was the founder and the first Director (1998) of the Center of Physical Sciences in the city of Cuernavaca, that later became the Institute of Physical Sciences of UNAM. Dr Flores has been recognized with all major Mexican awards, including the National Award of Sciences (1994). He continues his work as a persuading force in the world of Mexican physics, always trying to take it to higher levels. Those who have had the privilege of working and collaborating with him, acknowledge his vision and dedication and consider that Dr. Flores has played a most positive role in the development of physics in Mexico and is an excellent candidate for this major recognition. In addition to his contributions to the development of physics, Flores has performed high quality research in various fields, like nuclear physics, seismology, and the physics of elastic media.