Inaugural Simons Investigator Award Goes to Physics Professor Igor Aleiner

Andrea Retzky
July 26, 2012

Physics Professor Igor Aleiner is one of 21 theoretical physicists, mathematicians and theoretical computer scientists from across the U.S. to receive the inaugural Simons Investigators award, which provides $100,000 per year over five years in direct support to pursue whatever research they want.

The award is intended is to support outstanding scientists in their most productive years and enable them to undertake long-term study of fundamental questions, according to the foundation, which described the selection process as “involving input from a distinguished group of scientists.” Much like the famed MacArthur Foundation grants, also known as the “genius grants,” this new Simons Foundation program does not accept nominations, and recipients do not know that they have been considered until they receive word that they won them. The program also has the possibility of renewal for an additional five years.

Aleiner, who has been at Columbia since 2003, is an influential leader in condensed matter theoretical research—the study of the different phases of matter, which ranges from the commonly known, such as solids and liquids, to more exotic phases such as superconducting states and quantum dots. Aleiner is a fellow of the American Physical Society, and a previous winner of the Ernst D. Bergmann Memorial Award from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation and the William L. McMillan Award in condensed matter physics.

"I'm really pleased that Igor Aleiner was recognized as an Simons Investigator in the inaugural year of this award,” said Professor William Zajc, chair of the Columbia physics department. “All of us in the department know that Igor is an extraordinary physicist, but this external recognition is truly great. The fact that it came like a bolt from the blue, instead of through the usual grant application process, makes it all the more exciting."

The Simons Foundation is a private foundation based in New York City, created in 1994 by Jim and Marilyn Simons, a recently retired hedge fund manager and his wife. Their foundation seeks to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences, with a range of programs focused on mathematics, theoretical computer science, and theoretical physics, as well as autism research.