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Assistant physics professor honored with Gordon Bell Prize

By Alec Jennings
University News Service
December 4, 2008

For large contributions to a field where the extremely small is studied, Byounghak Lee, assistant professor of physics, Texas State University-San Marcos has earned a Gordon Bell Prize.  

As a contributing member in the seven-person, interdisciplinary Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory team, Lee and the group worked using some of the most powerful computer systems in the county to develop a new algorithm that allows simulation of nanostructures on very large systems. 

Nanostructures are materials so small they can be more than 100,000 times smaller than a human hair. Scientists hope that through knowledge gained by numerical simulations of these materials, solutions to energy independence may be found among other benefits.

"Our contribution is to provide a computational method whose cost increase is linear to the system size," Lee said.  "Our methods enable us to study much larger systems, as much as 1,000 times, than other methods allow.  It has long been considered the Holy Grail of the material simulation methods." 

Lee will share in the $10,000 prize with the rest of the group which will be used to contribute in furthering their work with nanostructures and computer simulations. Lee expects that through earning this award it will open up future opportunities for funding continuing research as well as gaining access to large computer systems to which access and availability is very limited.

"It really opens up a lot of opportunities in terms of my own research," Lee said. "I'm already carrying out several research projects, including solar cell materials, nano-rods, quantum dots and more."

The Gordon Bell Prize is one of the highest honors given in the field of computer science. It is typically given out once a year to the most important contribution made to the field. This year it was awarded to two teams.