Kalenci and Simpson Win 2009 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. This year, Dr. Özgür Kalenci and Dr. Gideon Simpson each had an outstanding thesis. Both are extremely worthy of this recognition and both were awarded the full Simon Prize.  

Dr. Özgür Kalenci received a B.Sci. degree in Physics and in Electrical Engineering, with high honors in both disciplines, from Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey in June 2004. In September 2004 he started his Ph.D. studies in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics at Columbia University as a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Physics. He joined the Diffraction Research Group, led by Prof. I. C. Noyan, in December 2004.

In his Ph.D. thesis, “A Rigorous Analysis of X-Ray Scattering From Distorted Single Crystals”, Dr. Kalenci developed a formulation of dynamical diffraction which is valid for both symmetric and asymmetric reflections from distorted crystals. Through the analysis of this formulation, he analyzed dynamical to kinematical transition and the domain of validity for real-space measurements for strain determination. He analyzed the free-space propagation of diffracted waves from crystals to detectors and showed that the propagation distance causes a fundamental change in the nature of the measured x-ray diffraction data, and defined two regimes to determine whether the measured data is in the near-field or far-field. He also developed a numerical method to estimate strain quantitatively in thin-film/substrate systems and successfully applied this method to Si3N4 stressor features on silicon, which are in the core of new generation strained semiconductor microelectronic devices. During his studies, Dr. Kalenci collaborated with scientists from Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and IBM TJ Watson  Research Center, and spent two summers at Argonne as a research associate. While at Columbia, Dr. Kalenci published two journal papers as the first author and five as contributor in Journal of Applied Physics, Journal of Applied Crystallography, Applied Physics Letters and Powder Diffraction. Four more papers, with Dr. Kalenci as first author, are under preparation.

Dr. Kalenci presently works as a quantitative analyst at Goldman Sachs and is based in London.

Dr. Gideon Simpson received his B.A. degree in Mathematics from Cornell University in 2003 with an honors thesis in analysis under Prof. John Hubbard. In 2004, he began his Ph.D. studies as a NSF IGERT Fellow in Columbia’s joint program in Applied Mathematics and Earth Sciences, whose goal was to bridge the gap between the two disciplines. Advised jointly by Profs. Michael Weinstein and Marc Spiegelman, he well exceeded these goals, making fundamental contributions in both fields.

In his Ph.D. thesis, “The Mathematics of Magma Migration”, he demonstrated first-rate achievements in (i) modeling, (ii) applied analysis, and (iii) scientific computation of multi-scale flows in porous and deformable media. The specific application arose from mathematical models of the flow of molten rock in the Earth’s interior, although the modeling, analytical and computational issues arising are ubiquitous in multi-scale physical problems such as sub-surface flow of water, hydrocarbons and CO2 sequestration. While existing formulations for magma flow were developed heuristically at a macro-scale, Dr. Simpson systematically derived a more general class of Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) by a subtle application of multiple scale homogenization/effective media theory. One subset of these equations is in general agreement with the current formulations, but places the theory on a much firmer footing and highlights critical changes in scaling relationships, that may drive a significant re-evaluation of existing results. As part of this work Dr. Simpson has done first-rate three-dimensional simulations of the effective media homogenized cell-problems illustrating the dependence of macroscopic properties (bulk viscosity and permeability) on the microscopic pore structure. This work has led to two first-authored papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Dr. Simpson has also made important contributions in analysis. One of the intriguing features of a reduced version of these equations is the presence of non-linear solitary “magma waves”. A systematic reduction of McKenzie’s models lead to a very challenging and, until Dr. Simpson attacked them, pretty much unexplored class of degenerate and dispersive nonlinear PDEs. Dr. Simpson developed a detailed well-posedness theory of these equations, which required novel analysis in order to bound the porosity away from zero. He also developed a detailed and rigorous nonlinear asymptotic stability theory of the solitary waves as well as anovel computational method based on Sinc methods for highly accurate computation of non-linear waves in 1-, 2- and 3-dimensions. This work has resulted in three published first authored papers. One in Nonlinearity (which was designated as an IOP Select Article) and two in SIAM Journals on Mathematical Analysis and Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems. Two more papers are in preparation.

Dr. Simpson is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Mathematics Department of the University of Toronto. His parents proudly accepted the award on his behalf while he was away speaking at a professional meeting.

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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