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Engineering student wins national research award

jbrehm2, November 28, 2011 | View original publication

Engineering student wins national research award

Juan Colon Santana, an electrical engineering doctoral student, has been recognized at the national level for research excellence. The American Vacuum Society has awarded him the 2011 Falicov Prize for outstanding research performed by a graduate student in areas related to magnetic interfaces and nanostructures.

The award honors the memory of Leo M. Falicov, an esteemed professor and prominent theoretical physicist who made significant contributions to magnetism and other fields of solid-state physics. He spent the bulk of his career at the University of California, Berkeley.

"This is exciting recognition from the scientific community for UNL research on high-quality magnetics and materials research," said Jerry Hudgins, professor and chair of UNL's Department of Electrical Engineering. Hudgins and Peter Dowben, professor of physics and astronomy, nominated Colon for the honor.

Colon received the award at the society's recent symposium, where he also was invited to present his work. With a team at UNL's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, Colon introduces magnetism into electronic devices to expand the functionality of transistors and diodes.

"In principle, improved electronic devices can be made from material that is smaller and more dense — for example, to open up the whole area of quantum computing," Hudgins said. "A long-term goal is huge computational power in small volumes of material with very little energy used."

Colon conducts research in collaboration with Dowben and UNL's Kirill Belashchenko, Jinke Tang of the University of Wyoming and Yaroslav Losovyj of Louisiana State University.

Colon, from San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, has already earned a patent from his previous work on magnetic properties at room temperature in which he controls devices' electrical properties by variation of an external magnetic field. His work has also been published in the Virtual Journal of Nanoscience, IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, Applied Physics, and the Journal of Applied Physics.

He expects to complete his doctorate at UNL in 2012.