Simon J.L. Billinge


1105 S.W. Mudd
Mail Code 4701

Tel(212) 854-2918

Simon Billinge’s research advances the study of nanoscale structure and its role in the properties of diverse materials used for energy, catalysis, environmental remediation, and pharmaceuticals. 

Research Interests

Nano-structure-property relationships in materials, nanomaterials, energy materials, electronic materials, magnetic materials, amorphous and multi-structured materials, pharmaceuticals and molecular materials, , nanoscale fluctuations in exotic electronic materials, software for complex modeling and nanostructure determination,, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, graph theory, advanced software

Prof. Billinge earned his Ph.D in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Pennsylvania in 1992, following a BA at Oxford  University. He spent 2 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico as a post-doc before joining the faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University in 1994. He became Associate Professor in 1999 and full Professor in 2003. In 2008 he took up his current position as Professor of Applied Physics, Applied Mathematics and Materials Science at Columbia University and Physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory.     

His 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 published more than 300 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 being honored in 2011 for contributions to the nation as an immigrant by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the 2020 Distinguished Powder Diffraction Prize of the European Powder Diffraction Conference, the 2018 Warren Award of the American Crystallographic Association, the 2010 J. D. Hanawalt Award of the International Center for Diffraction Data, the University Distinguished Faculty Award at Michigan State, and the Thomas H. Osgood Undergraduate Teaching Award. He is Section Editor of Acta Crystalographica Section A: Advances and Foundations. He regularly chairs and participates in reviews of major facilities and federally funded programs.


  •  Director’s Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1992–1994


  • Professor, Materials Science and Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University, 2008–
  • Physicist, Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 2008–
  • Long Term Visitor, Institute Laue Langevin, Grenoble, France, 2012
  • Long Term Visitor, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble, France, 2011–2012
  • Professor of Physics, Michigan State University, 2003–2007
  • Visiting Professor, University of Rome, ‘La Sapienza,’ 2001–2002
  • Associate Professor of Physics, Michigan State University, 1999–2003
  • Assistant Professor of Physics, Michigan State University, 1994–1999


  • American Physical Society
  • American Crystallographic Association
  • Neutron Scattering Society of America
  • Materials Research Society


  • Distinguished Powder Diffraction Prize, European Powder Diffraction Conference, 2020
  • Warren Award of the American Crystallographic Association, 2018
  • Texas A&M Clearfield Endowed Lecturer, 2015
  • Fellow of the Neutron Scattering Society of America, 2014
  • Neutron Scattering Society of America Service Award for outstanding service, 2012
  • Editor of Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations of Crystallography, 2012
  • Fulbright Research Scholar, 2011–2012
  • Carnegie Foundation of New York, honored as one of 24 Outstanding Immigrants, 2011
  • Co-editor, Journal Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations of Crystallography, 2011
  • J. D. Hanawalt Award, International Center for Diffraction Data, 2010
  • University Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University, 2007
  • Fellow, American Physical Society, 2006
  • Michigan State University, College of Nat. Sci., Distinguished Faculty Award, 2006
  • Thomas H. Osgood Undergraduate Teaching Award, 1998
  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, 1995
  • Sigma Xi Outstanding thesis award, University of Pennsylvania, 1992
  • Electro-science Laboratories Award, University of Pennsylvania, 1992


  • Kirsten M. Ø. Jensen, Pavol Juhás, Marcus A. Tofanelli, Christine L. Heinecke, Gavin Vaughan, Christopher J. Ackerson and Simon J. L. Billinge, Polymorphism in magic sized Au144(SR)60 clusters, Nat. Commun. 7, 11859 (2016). [pdf] [homepage]
  • Paolo Scardi, Simon J. L. Billinge, Reinhard Neder and Antonio Cervellino, Celebrating 100 years of the Debye scattering equation, Acta Crystallogr. A 72, 589-590 (2016). [pdf] [homepage]
  • Simon J. L. Billinge, Physics inside: solving protein structures without crystals, Condensed Matter Physics Journal Club, (2016). [pdf] [homepage]
  • Jianwei Miao, Peter Ercius and Simon J. L. Billinge, Atomic electron tomography: 3D structures without crystals, Science, 353, aaf2157 (2016). [homepage]
  • Alexander N. Beecher, Octavi E. Semonin, Jonathan M. Skelton, Jarvist M. Frost, Maxwell W. Terban, Haowei Zhai, Ahmet Alatas, Jonathan S. Owen, Aron Walsh and Simon J. L. Billinge, Direct observation of dynamic symmetry breaking above room temperature in methylammonium lead iodide perovskite, ACS Energy Lett. 1, 880–887 (2016). [pdf] [homepage]