Michelson Wins 2022 Simon Prize

May 10 2022

The Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics is proud to announce that Dr. Aaron Michelson is the winner of the 2022 Simon Prize for the most outstanding dissertation in the APAM Department.

Dr. Aaron Michelson

Aaron Michelson received his PhD from Columbia University in January 2022, advised by Professor Oleg Gang. His thesis, “The Design of Complex Material aided by DNA Nanotechnology” is about the development of DNA nanotechnology towards practical applications. Key milestones of his work included leveraging in-situ microscope to hone kinetic pathways of assembly, speeding-up superlattice fabrication by a factor of 50x, and increasing crystal volume by a factor of 1000x. Aaron’s work builds from the molecularly charged backbone of DNA, which was used to create an extensive library of solid state architectures enabling exploration of superconductivity and mechanical properties of 3d nanolattices. One chief accomplishment was  development of a novel technique for the visualization of superlattices resolving DNA components from 7nm to over 2um, enabling the characterization of defects and grain boundaries of hierarchy designed material. Aaron’s work has been published in Science (2022), Nanoletters (2021), Science Advances (2021) , ACS Nano (2020) and Nature Communications (2020). While at Columbia, Aaron married and raised two children, Yonah and Ezra, along with his charming wife, Batya (MD). After graduating from Columbia University, Aaron took on post-doctoral work at the Center for Functional Nanomaterial at Brookhaven National Laboratory investigating the adaptation of DNA nanotechnology for optically active nanostructures.

History of the Robert Simon Memorial 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. Should no graduate student’s dissertation qualify in any given year, the prize may be awarded to either the most outstanding student who has completed a master of science degree in the Department or to the most outstanding graduating senior in the Department. The Department chair in consultation with the Department faculty selects the awardee. 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.


Dr. Aaron Michelson