Car and Parrinello Named 2009 Fernbach Winners

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 15 October, 2009 — Roberto Car and Michele Parrinello, developers of the Car Parrinello Molecular Dynamics (CPMD) approach, are joint recipients of the 2009 Sidney Fernbach Award.

The pair laid the foundation for a modern approach to the chemistry and physics of materials. Their methodology was revolutionary, increasing the speed of simulations and propelling a major force in science. Such simulations are now used in physics, materials science, chemistry, semiconductors, surface science, catalysis, biological processes, mineralogy, and the new field of nano-sized structures, including industrial applications.

“The Fernbach Award recognizes the leadership of doctors Car and Parrinello in creating the modern theoretical and practical foundations for materials modeling,“ said IEEE Computer Society President Susan K. (Kathy) Land.

The approach to molecular dynamics calculations and density functional theory that they developed increased the speed of materials simulations and shifted models from analysis of small systems with the capacity to understand deeper and more complex processes.

CPMD has become the leading code in high-performance computing usage. The algorithm is a breakthrough in computer simulation that is at the root of other combined quantum/classical simulations, unifying two separate scientific communities; classical computer simulations and electronic structure calculations.

“Simply put, the Car-Parrinello molecular dynamics (CPMD) approach is a one of the key enablers of complex materials modeling and a workhorse of computational science,” said Fernbach Award Selection Committee Chair Daniel Reed.

Car and Parrinello are set to receive their award and deliver a plenary speech at 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday, 17 November at SC09 in Portland, Oregon.

Car is the Ralph W. Dornte 31 Professor in Chemistry at Princeton University. He is a Fellow of the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science (PCTS), and is affiliated with the Department of Physics, the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM), and the Program in Computational and Applied Mathematics (PACM).

He received a doctorate in physics from the Milan Institute of Technology. Before joining Princeton University in 1999, he worked at the University of Milan, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, and the University of Geneva.

He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK), a recipient of an honorary doctorate, and was awarded the 2009 Dirac Medal of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, the Raman Prize for Computational Physics from the American Physical Society in 1995, and the Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Solid State Physics from the European Physical Society in 1990. In 2008, he received a Humboldt Foundation research award for senior US scientists. 

His research has focused on understanding the physical and chemical properties of matter in condensed and molecular phases using computational methods based on first-principles microscopic quantum theory.

Parrinello has been professor of computational science at ETH Zurich since 2001 and for part of this time was also director of the Swiss Center for Scientific Computing (CSCS) in Manno, Switzerland. Prior to joining ETH, he was director at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany; manager at the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich; and professor at SISSA in Trieste, Italy.

Parrinello's scientific interests include the study of complex chemical reactions, hydrogen-bonded systems, catalysis, materials science and large-scale motion in proteins.

He holds five honorary doctorates and received the 2009 Dirac Medal of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, the 2006 Somaini prize of the Italian Physical Society, the 2001 American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry, the 1995 Raman prize, and the 1990 Europhysics prize. He is a member of the Royal Society (UK), the Accademia dei Lincei (Italy), the Max Planck Institute (Germany), the American Physical Society, the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science, and the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Established in 1992 in memory of high-performance computing pioneer Sidney Fernbach, the award recognizes innovative approaches to HPC applications. It acknowledges outstanding contributions in developing numerical algorithms and mathematical software that are important for computational modeling and simulation, or for using high-performance computers to solve large computational problems.

William Gropp, a developer of the message passing interface, was the 2008 winner of the Fernbach Award. Previous Sidney Fernbach Award recipients include Edward Seidel, John B. Bell, Marsha Berger, and Jack J. Dongarra.

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