Capozzi & Öztürk Share 2016 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. Brian Capozzi and Dr. Hande Öztürk each wrote an outstanding thesis. Both are extremely worthy of this recognition and share this year’s prize.

(left-right): Hande Öztürk, Jane Faggen, & Brian Capozzi
Photos: 2016 Simon Prize Reception

Dr. Brian Capozzi
(Student of Latha Venkataraman)
Thesis: "Environmental Control of Charge Transport through Single Molecule Junctions"

Dr. Capozzi earned his B.S. in Physics from Adelphi University in 2010. As an undergraduate, he worked in a lab where he investigated photon entanglement and the principle of complementarity. After graduation, he joined APAM where he earned an M.S. in Applied Physics in 2011.

Dr. Capozzi joined Professor Latha Venkataraman’s lab for his doctoral studies where he completed his dissertation entitled “Environmental Control of Charge Transport through Single Molecule Junctions.” His graduate research focused on understanding how electrons flow through single molecules, particularly examining how local environmental factors could be used to tune current flow. In doing so, he developed techniques to create single-molecule analogues of transistors and diodes. These same techniques have also provided a comprehensive experimental method to study the electronic properties of single-molecule circuits. Over the course of his research, he had the pleasure of collaborating with many students and faculty from Columbia’s Chemistry department and the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

While in the Venkataraman lab, Dr. Capozzi’s work resulted in eight publications, including four first-author papers, in top interdisciplinary journals including Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Chemistry, Nano Letters, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society. One publication demonstrated the best performing single-molecule diodes to date. The paper was featured as a News and Views, and also received attention from several pop-science publications including Gizmodo.

Dr. Capozzi is currently exploring a new facet of life, as a data scientist at Macy’s, but he certainly does miss physics.

Dr. Hande Öztürk
(Student of I.C. Noyan)
Thesis: "Computational Analysis of Diffraction in Ideal Nanocrystalline Powders"

Dr. Öztürk, a native of Turkey, graduated from Boğaziçi University in 2007 with a double major degree in Physics and Mechanical Engineering. Following graduation, she moved to the United States and received her MSc degree in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University in 2009. After one year of postmasters research work at Boston University, she moved to New York in 2010 and started her doctoral studies at the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics at Columbia University under the supervision of Prof. I.C. Noyan. She successfully defended her doctoral dissertation entitled “Computational Analysis of Diffraction in Ideal Nanocrystalline Particles” in August 2015.

Dr. Öztürk’s dissertation work focuses on the quantification of the statistical uncertainty that accompanies a typical diffraction signature from a collection of crystalline particles. Dr. Öztürk said, “Following a computational approach, we generated synthetic diffraction data from crystalline powder ensembles by first principal direct modeling and showed that the classical statistical formulations failed to estimate the true sampling uncertainty for particle systems in the nanometer size regime. In an era when every branch of science is switching their focus to exploiting the extraordinary properties of nanomaterials, our results will definitely be of great value in developing more accurate characterization algorithms and will serve to speed up the science of nanomaterials.”

Dr. Öztürk is currently employed as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist and a Lecturer in the Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics Department and is working on an extension of her thesis. She will start as a postdoctoral research associate at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in June 2016 and will be working with the team at the newly built Hard X-ray Nanoprobe Beamlight at the National Synchrotron Light Source II.

Following her appointment at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, Dr. Öztürk plans to continue on the academic track. She said, “I believe working as a professor at a university provides one with the satisfaction and joy of teaching and mentoring young minds, generating new knowledge and contributing to solving the world’s problems. I also believe I have a personal responsibility for setting an example for female students, particularly those who are hesitant to pursue degrees in the STEM fields.”

History of the 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.

Previous Winners

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