Guan Wins 2008 Simon Prize


The Robert Simon Memorial Prize is awarded annually by the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics to the graduate student who has completed the most outstanding dissertation. Dr. Yongfeng Guan is the recipient of this year's award.

Dr. Guan received his B.S. in Materials Physics from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 2002, where he was awarded the First-Class Outstanding Student Scholarship and the Zhenxiong Industry Scholarship. He spent one year as a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, from 2002-2003, and transferred to Columbia University in Applied Physics, Solid State, in Fall 2003. Shortly thereafter, he started his Ph.D. dissertation research in Prof. William Bailey’s group in Materials Science and Engineering.

In his Ph.D. dissertation research, “Ultrafast magnetization dynamics in ferromagnetic ultrathin films and heterostructures,” Dr. Guan has developed, in collaboration with synchrotron scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a powerful new technique to measure the high-speed response of ultrathin magnetic films used in magnetic information storage technology. The technique relies on x-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD), a soft x-ray spectroscopic measurement available at national synchrotron facilities, to measure magnetization at elemental sites (such as Fe and Ni sites in the magnetically soft alloy Ni81Fe19). Dr. Guan has extended XMCD into the ultrafast time domain, demonstrating element- and layer-specific magnetization dynamics measurements at world-record temporal (2 ps) and rotational resolution (0.05 deg), enabling studies of energy loss mechanisms. His work, carried out at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory, is a collaboration with synchrotron scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and has appeared in Physical Review B, Journal of Applied Physics, Review of Scientific Instruments, and Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials. During his Ph.D. dissertation research, Dr. Guan was primary author on five and secondary author on two peer-reviewed publications in archival journals, and was the recipient of the 2006 Materials Research Society Spring Meeting Graduate Student Award (Silver Medal).

Dr. Guan is presently a postdoctoral researcher in the magnetic random access memory (M-RAM) Group at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY.

History of the Robert Simon Memorial Prize

The Robert Simon Memorial Prize is awarded annually by the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics to the graduate student who has completed the most outstanding dissertation. Should no graduate student’s dissertation qualify in any given year, the prize may be awarded to either the most outstanding student who has completed a master of science degree in the Department or to the most outstanding graduating senior in the Department. The Department chair in consultation with the Department faculty selects the awardee.

Robert Simon (December 25, 1919–February 11, 2001) received a B.A. degree cum laude in classics from the City College of New York in 1941, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and an M.A. in mathematics from Columbia University in 1949. Between 1941 and 1944, Mr. Simon was a lieutenant in the United States Armed Forces serving in England, France, and Italy. He participated in the D-Day operation as a navigator for a plane that dropped paratroopers in the vicinity of Omaha Beach. General Dwight Eisenhower personally shook his hand and wished him well the night before the D-Day assault.

Mr. Simon, who was born and lived in New York City, spent a lifetime making valuable contributions to the field of computer science. Starting in 1953, he worked for 15 years at Sperry's Univac Division in various capacities including marketing, planning, systems engineering, systems programming, and information services. He also spent a year working at the Fairchild Engine Division as director of the Engineering Computer Group. He personally directed the establishment of several company computer centers at sites throughout the United States. Between 1969 and 1973, he was a partner with American Science Associates, a venture capital firm. Mr. Simon was a founder and vice president of Intech Capital Corporation and served on its board from 1972 to 1981 and a founder and member of the board of Leasing Technologies International, Inc. from 1983 until his retirement in 1995.

The prize was established in 2001 by Dr. Jane Faggen with additional support from friends and relatives of Mr. Simon.


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