Venkataraman, Englund Named Sloan Fellows

Two Columbia Engineering School assistant professors have been named Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows for 2011.
 
Latha Venkataraman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, and Dirk Englund, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, are two of this year’s 118 outstanding recipients. In addition, Englund was recently awarded an Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Research Program (AFOSR YIP) grant and Venkataraman was awarded a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering.
 
Awarded annually since 1955, the fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars in recognition of achievement and the potential to contribute substantially to their fields.
 
“I am honored to receive the Sloan Research Fellowship in Chemistry,” Venkataraman says. “This will allow me to pursue interdisciplinary work understanding fundamental properties of matter at the nanoscale.”
 
As electronic devices become ever smaller, and the demand for ever tinier components grows, Venkataraman is concentrated on understanding how current flows through these materials at the nanometer (billionth of a meter) scale. Her research is on the molecular level, where she focuses on probing, manipulation, and control of single molecules as active elements in electrical circuits.
 
She is working on understanding the interplay of physics, chemistry, and engineering at the nanometer scale, noting that “a single molecule circuit is the ultimate limit one can achieve, and understanding how to control and transfer charges on this scale allows us to push the frontier.”
 
Englund is working on transmitting information securely through the use of quantum photonics — the sending and receiving of data in the form of photons, the tiniest particles that make up light. By sending data encoded in photons, the data stream becomes a single-use, self-destructing key.
 
Controlling single photons and their interactions with atomic systems could also lead to new types of quantum information processors that could perform difficult tasks such as prime number factorization or simulations of currently intractable problems in physics and chemistry. Englund and his Quantum Photonics Group at Columbia Engineering are developing chip-based photonic networks to implement such quantum technologies, with primary applications in communications, computation, and sensing.
 
“The support of the Sloan Foundation will substantially impact the pace and scope of our research in chip-based networks for quantum optics,” Englund says.
 
Venkataraman and Englund and the other fellows were drawn from 54 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. The fellows represent an extraordinarily broad range of research interests, including an astronomer who studies the birth of new planets, a computer scientist who examines how changes in computer network architecture can save energy, an economist who investigates the game-theoretical foundations of cooperation, and a mathematician who uses geometry to model how the brain represents stimuli.

“The scientists and researchers selected for this year’s Sloan Research Fellowships represent the very brightest rising stars of this generation of scholars,” says Dr. Paul L. Joskow, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “The Foundation is proud to be able to support their work at this important stage in their careers.”

Administered and funded by the Sloan Foundation, the Fellowships are awarded in close cooperation with the scientific community. Potential fellows must be nominated for recognition by their peers and are subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars.

The $50,000 fellowships are awarded in chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, and physics. In 2012, in recognition of the important work done by Sloan-sponsored researchers working on the Census of Marine Life, the award program will be expanded to include fellowships in ocean sciences.

For a complete list of winners, visit: www.sloan.org/fellowships/page/21

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