Billinge Named Flack Lecturer for the Swiss Society for Crystallography

Nov 20 2023

Professor Simon Billinge was named the Flack Lecturer for the 2023 Howard Flack Lecture Series of the Swiss Society for Crystallography SGK/SSCr from November 6-10, 2023. 

The 2023 Howard Flack Lecture Series focused on local order and pair distribution function analysis with Professor Simon Billinge as the invited Flack Lecturer. As a materials scientist, Prof. Billinge uses and advances crystallographic techniques to study local-structure property relationships across many different materials used for energy, catalysis, environmental remediation, and pharmaceuticals.

Prof. Billinge’s research focuses on the study of local-structure property relationships of disordered crystals and nanocrystals using advanced X-ray and neutron diffraction techniques. In particular, he is a leader in the development of the atomic pair distribution function (PDF) method applied to complex materials. These methods are applied to the study of nanoscale structure and its role in the properties of diverse materials of interest, for example, in energy, catalysis, environmental remediation and pharmaceuticals. The approach is to use advanced X-ray, neutron and electron scattering methods, utilizing some of the world's most powerful sources, and applying advanced computation and analysis, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and graph theoretic methods. A major activity is the study of the nanostructure inverse problem (NIP) where the goal is to obtain the 3D arrangement of atoms from structures with nanoscale atomic structures from scattering data, and the synthesis inverse problem, where the goal is to find an unknown synthesis recipe given a desired material product. These are non-trivial ill-posed inverse problems that require novel applied math and computational approaches to solve.

Prof. Billinge has more than 25 years of experience developing and applying techniques to study local structure in materials using x-ray, neutron and electron diffraction including the development of novel data analysis methods including graph theoretic, artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches. He earned his Ph.D in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Pennsylvania in 1992. After 13 years as a faculty member at Michigan State University, in 2008 he took up his current position as Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics at Columbia University and held a joint position of Physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory between 2008 and 2022. Prof. Billinge has published more than 350 papers in scholarly journals. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Neutron Scattering Society of America, a former Fulbright and Sloan fellow and has earned a number of awards including the 2022 Distinguished Powder Diffractionist Prize of the European Powder Diffraction Conference, the 2018 Warren Award of the American Crystallographic Association and being honored in 2011 for contributions to the nation as an immigrant by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He is Section Editor of Acta Crystallographica Section A: Advances and Foundations. He regularly chairs and participatesin reviews of major facilities and federally funded programs.

The Howard Flack Lecturer Award is conferred annually by the Swiss Society for Crystallography on a scientist who is making or has made significant recent contributions to the field of structural science or involving the use of structural science in the chemical, biological, physical, medicinal or materials sciences. The awardee is then normally invited for a week-long tour of Switzerland to present seminars as part of The Howard Flack Lecture Series at several Swiss institutions and research facilities.

Photo of Prof. Simon Billinge. He is sitting in front of a bookcase. He is wearing a blue shift and a brown jacket.

Professor Simon Billinge

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