2013 Simon Prize

APAM faculty, staff, and students gathered in the APAM Department for the 2013 Simon Prize award presentation and reception on Monday, May 20, 2013, at 1:30 PM. Photo (left-right): Prof. Aron Pinczuk, Dr. Jane Faggen, Dr. Monica Chahal, and Prof. I.C. Noyan

Photos of the 2013 Award Ceremony

2013 Award Winner - Dr. Monica Chahal

The Robert Simon Memorial Prize is awarded annually by the APAM Department to the graduate student who has completed the most outstanding dissertation. This year's winner is Dr. Monica Chahal.

Dr. Chahal received her M.Sc. in Physics from Panjab University, India in May 2004. After graduation, she spent a year as a Research Assistant at Panjab University and worked on Supersymmetric Grand Unified Theory in High Energy Physics. In September 2005, she joined Temple University as a Teaching Lab Assistant where she worked for a year. She started her studies at Columbia University as a Ph.D. student in the APAM Department (Material Science and Engineering) in September 2006 and completed her M.S. degree in May 2008. She joined Prof. James Im’s group in May 2007 as a Graduate Research Assistant to study beam-induced crystallization of thin Si films.

Her Ph.D. thesis, “Mixed-phase Solidification of thin Si films on SiO2,” proposed a new unique method that can produce defect-free, large-grain polycrystalline Si films with strong (100)-surface texture (>99%) on SiO2. Such a combination of microstructural attributes makes the resulting MPS material well-suited for high-performance electronic and photovoltaic applications. She used laser and flash-lamp annealing systems to melt and solidify thin Si films and studied the resulting microstructure using various analytical tools. An in situ microscopic viewing system to directly observe and understand melting and solidification during the MPS process was employed. In the course of her thesis, she identified the optimal processing conditions for obtaining such a microstructure, as well as the physical factors that control the process. Based on experimental observations, she proposed a thermodynamic model to explain the microstructural evolution and extracted the hierarchical order of the Si/SiO2 interfacial energies as a function of grain orientation, which is otherwise difficult to measure experimentally.

In her undergraduate studies, Monica was awarded gold medal for her outstanding academic achievement. While at Columbia, she worked in close collaboration with Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC, Belgium) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, Colorado) on various projects to obtain high-efficiency thin-Si-film solar cells. She published four papers including one in the Journal of Crystal Growth, and two others in IEEE PVSC. She also presented at many material science/solar cell conferences where her work was nominated three times as one of the top ten presentations. She is currently working as a Senior Reliability Engineer at Intel Corporation in Oregon.

History of the Simon Prize

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. Due to the generosity of Dr. Faggen, the prize will be doubled next year.


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