Tributes to Professor Aron Pinczuk

Celebrating the life and legacy of Professor Aron Pinczuk (1939-2022)

"Aron was very nice to me when I joined the physics department three years ago. Even though we did not overlap that much, he went out of his way to ask me how I was doing. He was a very kind colleague and I will miss him." - Ana Asenjo-Garcia

"I worked with Aron for about five years as his grant manager.  I was very saddened to hear the news of Aron’s passing. What stood out to me was his decency, his patience, and gentle personality. He preferred in-person communication instead of email. He would always climb one floor up from his 9th floor CEPSR office to mine on the 10th floor. Even during Covid, he preferred telephone conversations to deal with whatever issues needed to be taken care of. He asked me to call him Aron when I called him Prof Pinczuk out of respect. It was always easy to converse with him about things other than his proposal, budget and projects. I remember we used to have candid conversations about Argentina, Ethiopia, and all other topics. Just a few months back, sometime in November, we were working on resubmitting the revised budget for his NSF proposal and I was very happy when the award came on November 30th.  I remember congratulating him and asking about his Thanksgiving, and replied that he had a wonderful time with family and friends. I will sorely miss him. I cannot imagine how hard his passing must be to his family and I would like to extend my sincere condolences." - Elizabeth Demissie

"I am very surprised and deeply sad for the passing of Aron, since we still discussed the research in the last month. It recalls me a lot of memories about working together with Aron in the past six years from 2016/10 to 2022/1. For me, he is not only a nice mentor but also a good friend." - Lingjie Du

"It is with sadness I learnt about Aaron Pinczuk's passing away.  Although he joined the Columbia faculty long after I had finished my PhD at Applied Physics, I got to know him during work at Frances Bitter National Magnet Lab, and met him often at conferences during the year.  It was always enjoyable to discuss with him, and I appreciated him both as a great physicist and as a friend.  I valued very much the time he took when I visited his lab a few years ago during a conference in New York. Please convey my heartfelt condolences to his family as well as to his colleagues and friends at Columbia." - Ulf Gennser

"I was a colleague of Aron for over 20 years. He was a real physicist, who breathed solid state physics---this is a supreme compliment. Aron was humble, friendly, professional, and responsible, and always exhibited the highest degree of integrity. I fully agree with the statement I heard, that Aron was a wonderful person." - Irving Herman

"All of us at Columbia Nano Initiative (CNI) were very saddened to hear of Prof. Pinczuk’s passing. Among the CNI Finance Team, he was undoubtedly one of our favorite faculty members. Unfailingly kind, patient and caring, he would always come to the office to speak with us and provide encouragement in his own inimitable way during stressful times. He had a very attentive way of listening and it made us feel very appreciated. Somehow, even if he dropped by for just a few short moments, and although we might have talked about nothing much at all, we always felt happier after speaking with him. We will really miss his warm and reassuring presence and our hearts go out to his family and friends." - Waichi Ho

"I first met Professor Pinczuk in solid state physics course and later joined his lab. My advisor impressed me so much by invaluable discussions on numerous topics varying from culture, history, international affairs, to the stories behind the milestones in semiconductor community. Besides his passion about research, he always managed to spare time for any student in need of help. His positive and optimistic attitude uplifts everyone around him. It was like yesterday when he reminded me of enjoying the sunshine as spring awakens. We will forever miss him." - Ziyu Liu

"When I first came to Columbia as an assistant professor in 2009, my laboratory was not prepared yet. Aron kindly agreed to let me be his "tenant" and set up my equipment in his lab space which was immediately adjacent to his office. So for the first two years, me and my students saw him nearly every day as we set up our experiments. I remember Aron for many of his wonderful attributes as a physicist and teacher - his wonderful kindness to me and to my students; his hard working nature - he was always in his office when I showed up, and was always there when I left!; and his dedication to his students - I would often see him discussing physics with his students for several hours at a time. Aron continued his kindness to me over the years by teaching me some of the physics he was an expert in, and I continue to interact with some of his group members to this day. He helped me in his position as editor of Solid State Communications to get my first paper from Columbia published. We had many conversations about physics, and he was very generous with his time. Even though he was a gentle person in his personal interactions with people, he was a tough scientist! If he was not convinced of something, he would not move on. His personality and science will be sorely missed." - Abhay Pasupathy

" I first met Aron on January 15th 1996, late afternoon, in front of the Bell labs in Murray Hills. Before that day Aron was for me like a “star" in the semiconductor physics community. I was a 27th year old PhD student. Fabio Beltram, my PhD supervisor at Scuola Normale in Pisa, decided that it was good for me to have a research experience abroad. It was my first trip to the US. Aron came to pick me up with his Volvo car and when he saw me he just smiled (how beautiful it was, is, his smile) and brought me to the “Office” in Summit to get a sandwich. When I remember that precise moment, I always (also now that I’m writing this note) feel something special in my heart. That day signaled the first day of a collaboration between me and Aron that has impacted my career and my personality. After spending one year in Bell labs in 1996, working with him 10-12 hours per day, we collaborated over the years and we met regularly often in airports (our typical meeting started on Saturday morning ending on Monday morning). Paris, Madrid, London, Rome, Munich. On top of that, I was regularly flying to New Jersey 2-3 times per year. He also came to Scuola Normale Superiore a few times. The first visit was in July 1997 when he attended my PhD degree dissertation. During the years, many students of mine came to New York to work with him for some periods of time. In 2008, he helped me to spend a semester at Columbia University. Every meeting with Aron was unique, full of discussion, and pleasant breaks looking for some chocolate! We also organized together several conferences in Italy, Erice and Lucca and in the US (I remember a beautiful one at Penn state). The last one was in 2010. Gladys joined a few of those events. They were all fantastic experiences with many colleagues and friends: Allan MacDonald, Horst Stormer, Sankar da Sarma, Gerhard Abstreiter, Jainandra Jain, Jim Eiseinstein, Carlos Tejedor, Pepe Calleja and many, many others. He introduced me to that community of great people and, of course, to Eli Burstein who I first met during the March meeting in 1994. And I also remember the famous Adriatico conferences mentioned by Erio. Aron had an influential and humble lifestyle, He was brilliant, ironic, simple, crisp. My very last contact with him was just after last Christmas. He wrote to me that he was busy with calculating final grades of exams. We agreed to have a zoom meeting. This never happened, unfortunately. Life is a path. I’m proud and feel fortunate that Aron gave to me the opportunity to bring my path close to him for such a long time. I will never forget Aron." - Vittorio Pellegrini

"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Prof. Pinczuk. I only worked at APAM for a short time, but I distinctly remember his kindness and willingness to go above and beyond for students. He was the type of person who, when passing by my desk, would stop to ask how my day was. Running into him always brightened my day. I am sure you are getting tributes from people who knew him much better and longer than I did, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed working with him. He will be sorely missed. My sincere condolences to his family." - Jessica Pierson

"I first met Aaron at Bell Labs in 1985 when I started my career at Bell Labs. Bell Labs was a glorious place to work but it was also somewhat harsh and competitive. Aaron was kind and supportive from the beginning. He was a truly gracious person. When I arrived at Columbia University I was delighted to walk past his office and reestablish our friendship. Aaron will always be remembered as an exemplar for human kindness." - Sharon Sputz

"I am writing in shock and grief at the news of Aron’s passing. I feel a kinship. Aron and I were both part of Eli Burstein’s broad  “family”  — some like Aron his real students, some like me sort of picked up and adopted en route. I believe I first met Aron in Stuttgart 1974, while he was visiting Cardona at the Max-Planck Institute, and I the University. Decades later, when Eli played with Stig Lundquist a big role  in ICTP Trieste, inventing and helping us organize the AdriaticoResearch Conferences, Aron joined the gang. In time, Aron eventually became the key promoter and organizer of all up to the very last high level Adriatico  Conferences. His world class scientific standards, generous personality, and first hand knowledge of developing country science were a unique asset in that role. Many physicists out there who were young participants at ICTP 15-20 years ago could ideally witness that.  I attach a picture taken at my home on one of these occasions, together with Roberto Car, my wife Rita, Manuel Cardona, Giacinto and GiokLan Scoles, me, and Eli Burstein. Ten years ago, when my mathematician son Valentino spent a few years in Columbia, that gave me a fresh chance to get together and enjoy Aron’s friendship and physics again, now in his own territory. Finally, when Eli passed away less than five years ago, Aron got me involved in the joint writing his National Academy of Science Memoir, with James Kikkawa, Gene Mele, and Arjun Yodh. Even in that sad but solemn and loving goodbye act, Aron showed his big heart. A heart that never failed so long as it worked. Farewell Aron, you will not be forgotten." - Erio Tosatti

"Prof. Pinczuk’s dedication to science was truly inspiring. However most impressive was his true care for the person behind. By difficulties in the lab, he questioned the approach he proposed and if the person experiencing the difficulties is happy with the project or would be passionate for some different aspects of science. During long measurements runs he supported all potential needs, including him providing snacks and or he brought his tablet to the lab to follow the soccer world-cup games together. Memorable were all the intense and highly enjoyable science meetings with truly dark swiss chocolate to keep the brain running. I feel so much gratitude that I was allowed to work as a postdoc with Prof. Pinczuk. He made me the scientist and person I am today. Aron was more than a mentor. He will be always remembered. I miss him." - Ursula Wurstbauer

"Aron Pinczuk is about twice of my age; I did not realize that until I saw the announcement of his passing away. Despite of this difference in age, we actually have an indirect link through Bell Labs. In the 1980s and 90s Aron was working on compound semiconductors in Bell labs at the Murray Hill site and was a close colleague of my PhD advisor Federico Capasso, who was then also worked on semiconductor devices. Because of this indirect link, I feel a special attachment to Aron. I recall that when I was first interviewing for the faculty position at APAM almost 10 years ago, I had a very pleasant conversation with Aron. I remember talking with him about low-dimensional semiconductors and bandstructure engineering of devices, subjects that were quite familiar to both of us. I felt quite warm and at home at that moment when speaking to a person using the same technical language, probably because of the Bell labs link. It was like we were tuned to the same frequency. The conversation with him was so easy despite our difference in age. That was my first impression of Aron. Later on, Aron has been the committee member of some of my students, and we have both been committee members for students of other faculty members. Serving in those committees, Aron always asked intriguing questions and sometime thought-provoking ones. While in charge of the Simon Memorial Prize for the best PhD thesis work, Aron was quite thorough in gathering information of nominees, and his assessment and decision have always been quite fair. In short, Aron was a superb colleague very supportive of younger generations of colleagues and students. He was a towering figure in his field but also a humble person to interact with." - Nanfang Yu