Richard Haglund was educated at Wesleyan University, graduating with a B. A. magna cum laude with Honors in Physics. He received an M. A. in physics from Stony Brook University just before being drafted into the United States Army; he was discharged from active service as a 1st Lieutenant in the Signal Corps in 1971. Haglund received the Ph.D. in experimental nuclear physics from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill). He was a member of the scientific staff of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1976 to 1984, beginning as a postdoctoral staff member in nuclear physics and then joining the laser fusion program a year later. He joined the faculty of Vanderbilt in 1984 and currently is Stevenson Professor of Physics. Haglund is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Senior Scientist Prize for contributions to materials physics.
Current research projects in the Haglund research group include ultrafast spectroscopy of vanadium dioxide thin films and nanocrystals; applications of phase-change materials in silicon photonics and chemical sensing; exciton-plasmon coupling in zinc-oxide nanowires and quantum wells; and nonlinear optics in metal nanostructures.