KSU physicist receives Germany's von Humboldt prize

April 22, 2001

MANHATTAN -- The Federal Republic of Germany has awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Prize to Talat Rahman, Kansas State University distinguished professor of physics.

The Alexander von Humboldt prize honors scholars who live outside of Germany whose academic qualifications enjoy an international reputation. Its recipients must be nominated by leading German scholars or research institutions.

Rahman was nominated by Professor H.J. Freund, director of the chemical physics division of the Fritz-Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, where she currently is doing research.

Her physics expertise includes atomistic modeling of materials and high performance scientific supercomputing.

Rahman was honored at a three-day reception held in Bamberg, Germany, in early April at which prize winners presented a short summary of their research highlights. In June she will again be recognized during ceremonies in Bonn, Germany, to be presided over by the President of Germany. The prize includes a cash award, a travel stipend and an invitation to undertake four months to one year of research of the recipients own choosing at German research institutes.

She noted its significance: "The prize gives me an excellent opportunity to collaborate with other scientists. Upon returning to K-State, I will also be asked to host or mentor junior scientists from Germany who are paid by the von Humboldt Foundation."

At Kansas State University Rahman teaches solid state physics. As a graduate faculty member, she has directed the research of seven doctoral students, a master's degree student, and she currently supervises six graduate students and three postdoctoral research associates.

Rahman was instrumental in establishing K-State's Center for Scientific Supercomputing in 1995. The center received funding from National Science Foundation and matching funds from the university. It is the computational workhorse for several faculty members whose research interests range from modeling materials to atomic and molecular science to fluid dynamics. With a University of Kansas collaborator, Rahman co-directs the state of Kansas Center for Advanced Scientific Computing, a center funded by the National Science Foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation.

The Alexander von Humboldt prize is administered by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, a non-profit organization established by the Federal Republic of Germany to promote international research cooperation.

The Alexander von Humboldt citation reads as follows: "To Professor Talat Shahnaz Rahman, from Kansas State University, United States of America. "Professor Rahman has developed our understanding of dynamical processes at solid surfaces using theoretical methods in close collaboration with experimentalists. A series of recent studies on surface phonons in relation to surface reconstructions have led to a clear understanding of such processes at the atomic level. The application of these concepts to nanoscopic systems with reduced symmetries are profoundly promising."

At least two other Kansas State University faculty members have received Alexander von Humboldt Foundation recognition: Regents Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Ernie Shult received the Von Humboldt Prize in 1988; and university distinguished professor of physics Lewis Cocke received the Max Planck Award in 1991.

Talat Rahman joined the Kansas State University faculty in 1983, and earned the rank of professor in 1991. She held prior academic appointments at the University of California, Irvine, as postdoctoral research physicist and assistant research physicist. She earned the master's degree in physics from Karachi University, Pakistan; M. Phil Physics from Islamabad University, Pakistan; and the doctorate in physics from University of Rochester.

Rahman's physics research has received numerous grants in the last five years from agencies such as the National Science foundation, the Department of Energy, and the EPSCoR programs of both agencies. She recently was awarded $1 million grant from NSF for the project, "Evolution of nanoscale film morphology" and $123,000 from the Department of Energy for "Structure, dynamics and thermodynamics at metal surfaces."

She is author of more than 100 scientific papers. Her professional service includes organizing the 23rd Midwest Solid State Theory Symposium; co-organizing the ninth International Workshop on Surface Dynamics, in 1999; and she is co-organizer of the session on Surfaces, Interfaces and Growth of Thin Films at the 2001 American Physical Society meeting.

She is also a member of the international organizing committee of the bi-yearly meeting on vibrations at surfaces.

She is a frequent reviewer of research proposals to the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, Petroleum Research Fund, International Science Foundation, and National Research Council of Hong Kong.
About Alexander von Humboldt: He was a pioneering German naturalist who studied in South America from 1799 to 1804. His descriptions of the natural world are so wide ranging that he is claimed as founder of several disciplines, including physical geography, climatology, ecology and oceanography. He was the first observer to describe the ocean current that flows north along the coasts of Chile and Peru and which now bears his name.

Prepared by Kay Garrett

Kansas State University

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