By training, Eric Shirley is a theoretical solid-state physicist, with experience in atomic-structure calculations, band-structure calculations, and many-body theory. He has been involved in calculations of the optical spectra of solids throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, from the far-infrared to the hard x-ray region. His research interests lie in computational physics, which relies heavily on the use of extensive computational resources, as well as mathematical physics, which is limited only by the abilities of the practitioner. Beyond studying the main moving parts of solids, i.e., electrons, having a background in mathematical physics (of the applied, down-to-earth sort) has helped Shirley and his colleagues study the wave propagation of photons in photonic crystals and practical optical systems such as collimators, radiometers, and telescopes. These research endeavors have led to successful understanding of problems pertinent to communities ranging from semiconductor manufacturing to climate science.
Shirley is a member of the American Physical Society and Sigma Xi. He has been actively involved in the Conference on Characterization and Radiometric Calibration from Remote Sensing (CALCON) since 1995, having contributed to short courses and session planning, and was on the International Advisory Board and Program Committee of the Vacuum Ultraviolet (VUV) International Conference, which has now merged with the X-ray and Inner-Shell Processes (X) International Conference. Shirley is currently a Council Member for the International Radiation Physics Society (IRPS). Shirley is also serving as a representative of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) to (1.) the Consultative Committee for Units (CCU) and (2.) Working Group 1 of the Joint Committee for Guides in Metrology (JCGM), both of which meet at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM).
A Hertz Fellow in graduate school, Shirley began his postdoctoral research as a Miller Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. He has also been honored with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (1999), the Sigma Xi Award Young Researcher Award (2002), Fellowship of the American Physical Society (2006), and the Arthur S. Flemming Award in the area of Basic Science (2008). He is also a co-recipient of four Department of Commerce Awards: one Silver Medal (2002), two Bronze Medal (2005, 2020) , and one Gold Medal (2013).
Two of Eric Shirley's research projects that are currently active are Theory of optical properties of materials and Diffraction effects in radiometry.