2014 Simon Prize

The Robert Simon Memorial Prize is awarded annually by the APAM Department to the graduate student who has completed the most outstanding dissertation.

Dr. Sriharsha Aradhya, from the Venkataraman lab
, is the recipient of this year's award.

Dr. Aradhya earned his B.S. from Indian Institute of Technology - Madras, Chennai, India in 2006 and M.S. from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana in 2008, both in Mechanical Engineering. His research at these stages resulted in two US patents. He joined APAM for his Ph.D. in Applied Physics at Columbia University in 2008. Shortly thereafter, he began working on his dissertation in the group of Professor Latha Venkataraman and collaborating with scientists in Columbia Chemistry and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Dr. Aradhya’s thesis on the ‘Interplay between Mechanics, Electronics, and Energetics in Atomic-scale Junctions’ is substantial and includes impressive original research that deserves the award of the Simon Prize. For his doctoral research Dr. Aradhya assembled a conducting Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) with force sensitivities that are superior to the best commercial units available. With this instrumentation he proceeded to measure bond rupture forces in single atomic and molecular junctions. He also created automated analysis protocols to extract useful physical parameters from a vast amount of experimental data which had been challenging to obtain before. Professor Venkataraman highlights among other results the studies of bond rupture forces for pyridines, which bind to the gold electrodes through a gold-nitrogen bond as well as the van der Waals (vdW) interaction. The analysis of this data determined quantitative effects of vdW’s interactions at the single molecule level. This is the first time anyone has succeeded in providing a direct measure of the subtle vdW force at the single molecule level.

Aradhya’s graduate work was outstanding and resulted in many publications including first author papers in Nature Materials, Nano Letters and ACS Nano as well as an invited review article about the state-of-the-art in this field of research in Nature Nanotechnology. For his contributions Dr. Aradhya was awarded the Materials Research Society graduate student Gold Award in 2013.

Dr. Sriharsha Aradhya is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the Departments of Applied Physics and Physics at Cornell University.


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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