Venkataraman Wins Packard Fellowship

Latha Venkataraman, an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, has been awarded one of the 20 prestigious 2008 Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering. "The School is very proud of this honor that Latha has received," said Interim Dean Gerald A. Navratil. "She is a stellar example of the excellence of the new faculty we are attracting." Venkataraman joined the SEAS faculty last fall.
 
The Packard Fellowship, given each year to the nation's most promising young professors, consists of an unrestricted research grant of $875,000 over five years. "I am deeply honored to be chosen for this distinguished award," said Venkataraman. "The Packard Fellowship will help support my research on understanding fundamental properties of single-molecule electronic devices."
 
The underlying focus of her research is to fabricate single-molecule circuits--a molecule attached to two electrodes--with varied functionality, where the circuit structure is defined with atomic precision. "I am working to understand the interplay of physics, chemistry and engineering at the nanometer scale," she said. Her group measures how electronic conduction and single bond breaking forces in these devices relate not only to the molecular structure, but also to the metal contacts and linking bonds. "These experiments provide a deeper understanding of the fundamental physics of electron transport, while laying the groundwork for technological advances at the nanometer scale," she said.
 
Every year, the Packard Foundation invites presidents of 50 selected universities to nominate two young professors performing innovative research in the natural sciences or engineering. The Packard Fellowship is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious awards given to junior faculty members. Venkataraman is the second Packard Fellow in her department; Adam Sobel, associate professor of applied mathematics who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, received the honor in 2000. Seven additional Columbians have received the Packard Fellowship, including three other SEAS faculty members-Professor Jingyue Ju of the Department of Chemical Engineering, and T.C. Chang Professor Shree Nayar and Professor Kenneth Ross, both of the Computer Science Department.
 
The Packard Foundation, of Los Altos, Calif., was created by David Packard, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company, and Lucille Packard. The Packard fellowship program arose out of David Packard's commitment to strengthening university-based science and engineering programs.
 

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