Columbia’s Dmitri Basov Wins Vannevar Bush Fellowship

Dmitri Basov, Higgins Professor of Physics at Columbia University, has been awarded the Vannever Bush Faculty Fellowship for 2019. The honor, which is one of the U.S. Department of Defense’s most prestigious awards, aims to foster research that probes the limits of today’s technologies and has potential for transformative impact.

The five-year, $3 million fellowship will support Basov’s research into the new physics of quantum materials. He is one of 10 scientists and engineers to receive this highly competitive award—including Paul Sajda, a Columbia colleague in the School of Engineering.

Basov, who joined the Columbia faculty in 2016, works on nano-optics, developing new methods for applying strong radiation fields to materials and measuring their effects—all on the smallest length scales.

His current research focus is on van der Waals materials (named after Dutch scientist Johannes Diderik van der Waals), such as graphene and transition metal dicalcogenide, 2-D compounds as thin as a single atomic layer that exhibit remarkable electronic properties. These materials could provide new means to convert waste heat into usable energy, build accurate sensors and transmit power over long distances or as the basis for new kinds of quantum and classical computers.

“It is an incredible honor to be a member of the Vannevar Bush group of investigators whose work in all fields of science is transforming seemingly impossible goals into science facts,” Basov said. “This is a unique opportunity to live the scientific dream of having the support to think big and focus for five years on the most challenging questions in science.”

The Vannevar Bush Fellowship, administered by the Office of Naval Research, commemorates Vannevar Bush, who was the director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II.

The 2019 class will join a group of 55 current fellows, who conduct research in areas of importance to the Defense Department, ranging from materials science and cognitive neuroscience to quantum information sciences and applied mathematics. In addition to their research projects, fellows engage and collaborate with Defense laboratories and share insights with the Pentagon and the broader national security community.

“The Department of Defense is the home of big ideas for unique problem sets,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, deputy director for Basic Research in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “The Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship reflects the department’s commitment to support paradigm-shifting research that explores the unknown, engages outstanding scientists and engineers on these challenges, and helps to define and transform our research agendas of the future.”

— Carla Cantor, Columbia News

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