Shaowen Chen Wins 2021 Robert Simon Prize for Best Dissertation

Apr 12 2021

The Department of Applied Physics & Applied Mathematics is proud to announce that this year's Simon Prize has been awarded to Dr. Shaowen Chen. The Department will hold a virtual award ceremony on Wednesday, April 28, at 10:00 AM ET.

2021 Award Winner - Dr. Shaowen Chen

Shaowen Chen received his PhD from Columbia University in Oct 2020, advised by Prof. Cory Dean. His thesis, "Transport measurements of correlated states in Graphene flat bands", explores the phenomena when electrons "cooperate" through Coulomb interactions to form various states of matter, where the electronic response ranges from insulating to superconducting. One guiding experimental focus of his work has been to maintain extremely low disorder in the material of study. Shaowen's works with Prof. Dean, in collaboration with Prof. James Hone's group of Mechanical Engineering, and others around the world, were published in Science (2016, 2019), Nature Physics (2020), Physical Review Letters (2019), Nano Letters (2019) and so on. Shaowen received his B.S. in Physics from Peking University in 2014. After graduating from Columbia, Shaowen was selected as Harvard Quantum Initiative (HQI) fellow in 2020, where he is now working as a postdoc fellow to investigate electron correlation with emerging quantum sensors such as nitrogen vacancy centers in diamond.

"It is a great pleasure to see Shaowen's efforts recognized by this prize. Shaowen is an excellent researcher who demonstrates an unflinching enthusiasm for tackling almost any problem. His PhD work focused on understanding how to engineer exotic quantum states in graphene by forcing electrons to interact strongly with one another. His groundbreaking work in twisted bilayer graphene provides an exciting new path to realize the dream of building a  working quantum computer. In addition to my lab, Shaowen actively collaborated across many efforts in both the MRSEC and EFRC research centers at Columbia. His efforts  established several new paradigms in the field of two-dimensional materials that not only pushed the research efforts at Columbia into new and unexpected directions, but will undoubtedly shape the whole community for years to come." - Advisor, Prof. Cory Dean

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 the late Dr. Jane Faggen with additional support from friends and relatives of Mr. Simon.


Dr. Shaowen Chen