ENGINEERING NEWS

Two Major Awards for Rondinelli

Rondinelli receives PECASE and Sloan Fellowship

It’s been a big week for Northwestern Engineering’s James Rondinelli.

James RondinelliRondinelli, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, has been honored with two prestigious awards: the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) and a Sloan Research Fellowship.

Selected by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded in eight scientific and technical fields: chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics. Each fellowship comes with a $55,000 award.

Rondinelli was selected as a Sloan Research Fellow in Physics and recognized for his work to apply quantum mechanical and computational physics approaches to design new materials atom-by-atom. His manipulates materials at their fundamental electronic level, pushing electrons in inorganic compounds to do new things in dynamic environments.

The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. A total of 105 researchers across the country are being honored this year. Recipients are invited to the White House this spring to meet President Obama and attend an awards ceremony.

“It’s a great honor to receive such recognition at this stage of my scientific career, where I’ve focused on creating new knowledge and training a new generation of scientists and engineers to solve 21st-century problems,” Rondinelli said. “The award is particularly gratifying because it recognizes the importance of fundamental theoretical and computational science research to the nation’s priorities.”

Rondinelli is recognized for his seminal research contributions in computational condensed matter physics and novel materials design approaches. He has transformed the scientific community’s approach to designing materials using broken inversion symmetry at interfaces and provided the first-ever methodology for predicting the relationship between strain and octahedral rotations in complex oxides, paving the way for the design of many-body quantum properties in ways previously not considered possible. 

“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people.”

The PECASE award will enable Rondinelli to apply his expertise in engineering physical phenomena with interfaces to devise multifunctional materials that exhibit antithetical behavior — high conductivity and broken inversion symmetry — which present an opportunity to deeply impact technology.

“The fundamental work in this program will allow us to move this emerging class of materials forward as a platform for the next generation of logic, memory and security devices,” Rondinelli said.