2010 Medal Winners | francais

The 2010 CAP/DCMMP Brockhouse Medal

is awarded to

Gordon W. Semenoff

"I am delighted to receive this award for work which I did a long time ago and that I thought was very nice and it is absolutely gratifying that it is now recognized in this way. I am particularly tickled by the fact that the study of graphene is so multidisciplinary. It cuts across the boundaries between electronics technology, condensed matter physics, particle physics and mathematical physics and I hope it serves as an example of how progress can be made by taking a broad perspective." winner citation

The Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) is pleased to announce that the 2010 CAP/DCMMP Brockhouse Medal is awarded to Gordon W. Semenoff, University of British Columbia, in recognition of for his seminal contributions to the theory of Graphene and its massless quasiparticles. Prof. Semenoff is an internationally recognized leader in this field with an outstanding publication record whose work has shown that (quoting Philip Stamp, Director of the Pacific Institute for Theoretical Physics) “the idea that a theorist could predict all the important features of a material that did not even exist,…, and have the insight to predict in exactly which kind of system experiments should look for – this seems almost to good to be true.”. announcement

Gordon Semenoff is an internationally renowned expert on quantum field theory, who has done seminal research on subjects ranging from string theory to condensed matter physics. Most notable is his early work in 1984 on the electron dynamics in a hypothetical planar material which later became known as graphene. Gordon began with the observation that, close to the Fermi level, the electron energy in graphite planes is a linear function of its wave-vector. He showed the electron is described by the two-dimensional Dirac equation for a massless neutrino-like particle with a pseudospin. He used a topological index theorem to predict the presence of electronic bound states at the Dirac point when an magnetic field is applied. Gordon also discovered a simple mechanism involving breaking of the sublattice symmetry for inducing a mass gap in the electron spectrum, obtaining a massive Dirac equation. The parameter which governs this gap is called the ``Semenoff mass''. This work was the classic example of a creative scientist thinking twenty years ahead of his time. It motivated the experimental discovery of graphene in 2004. It also laid the theoretical foundation for understanding what became the ``smoking gun'' of the Dirac equation in graphene, the anomalous quantum Hall effect. The discovery of graphene had substantial impact on condensed matter physics and Gordon's original work is well cited in the literature since 2004. His mechanism for generating a mass gap holds promise for the control of electron mobility in graphene, essential if graphene is to be used in electronic devices. In addition, graphene is of great interest to subatomic physicists as a condensed matter analog of quantum mechanical relativistic particles, where many effects difficult to study in the subatomic world are now accessible to experiment. nominator citation

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