Lefrancois Wins 2007 Simon Prize

Remi Lefrancois, a graduate student from Professor Pedersen's group, was awarded the 2007 Robert Simon Memorial Prize at a special reception on Tuesday, May 15, at 2:30 p.m. in the APAM department office. This award is given each year to the graduate student who has completed the most outstanding doctoral dissertation.

Photos of the Simon Prize Reception

Dr. Remi Guy Lefrancois

Dr. Remi Guy Lefrancois received his Ph.D. in plasma physics in December 2006. During his studies, Dr. Lefrancois worked on a number of theoretical, computational, and experimental projects as part of the Columbia Non-neutral Torus (CNT) experimental effort. His main contribution was the successful investigation of the nature of equilibria of pure electron plasmas confined on magnetic surfaces. Remi developed a computer code that solves the theoretically derived equilibrium equation in full three dimensional geometries, including the rather complicated geometry of CNT. Using his code, he discovered that a pure electron plasma in force balance will have a large variation in density along magnetic field lines, even the magnetic axis. This is in sharp contrast to neutral plasmas, which have essentially no variation in their densities along the magnetic axis. His result is similar to one obtained in Penning traps, but there are substantial differences as well - the variation in density predicted in CNT is much larger than that predicted from the Penning trap theory. Remi explained this difference with a simple yet accurate analytic model, which showed that it is the special geometry of CNT’s magnetic surfaces that is responsible for the larger density variation. He has also created a three dimensional numerical model of equilibria in the CHS stellarator in Japan, and has provided crucial input to the CHS group in their interpretation of pure electron plasma measurements. In February 2007, the CHS group published a paper showing experimental verification of some of Remi’s most important predictions - the variation of plasma potential on a magnetic surface.

Dr. Lefrancois received a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2000 and a second bachelor’s degree in Physics in 2002, with honors, both from University of Alberta, Canada. He entered Columbia University as a graduate student in Applied Physics in fall 2002 and passed the written Doctoral Qualification exam with distinction in 2003. He started working with Prof. Thomas Sunn Pedersen in 2003. While at Columbia, Dr. Lefranois first authored two articles in Physics of Plasmas, including one Letter, and is a co-author on seven other papers.

Since his graduation, Dr. Lefrancois worked as a postdoctoral associate in the CNT group. He is currently the Assistant Vice President in the IT Derivatives Department at Credit Suisse.

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 NYC, 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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