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* Vincent Meunier

Vincent Meunier

Physicist Vincent Meunier Named to Kodosky ’70 Constellation

Computational physicist Vincent Meunier has joined Rensselaer as the Gail and Jeffrey L. Kodosky ’70 Constellation Professor of Physics, Information Technology, and Entrepreneurship.

Meunier, who joined the Institute in August, is the first to hold this constellation position at Rensselaer. He is also an associate professor in the Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy.

“I came to Rensselaer to develop my research, but I also believe it is important to teach students this fundamental scientific approach. I have come to a place with excellent students who
I hope will apply this view of computation
and fundamental science after they leave here.”— Vincent Meunier

“Dr. Meunier’s research on the identification, manipulation, and use of novel materials bridges the gap between theory and application in a way that will increase the rate of discovery and improve the methods used for energy storage and the development of electronics in fundamental ways,” said Provost Robert Palazzo.

“He joins renowned quantum physicist Dr. Shengbai Zhang in the constellation. Together, they will help increase Rensselaer’s strength in research and teaching related to the fields of materials science and energy,” said Palazzo.

Meunier’s research uses computation to examine the atomic-level detail of materials. He is particularly interested in low-dimensional materials such as nanomaterials. With high-throughput computing powers, such as those within the Rensselaer Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI), Meunier will work with engineers and other experimentalists to optimize these materials, starting at the atomic level, to use as little energy as possible and target their functionality.

“My research tries to show, and has shown, that solutions to problems like energy need to be solved from a fundamental standpoint, not from a step-by-step improvement of the existing technologies,” Meunier said. “Fundamental science can help bring about a paradigm shift in energy and electronic materials. The goal is to really integrate both theory and experiment instead of the old-fashioned way where one follows the other.”

According to Meunier, increased computing power is helping researchers see, with very little approximation, into the most basic physical properties of materials, known as first principles. “The main barrier to atomic-level materials research has been a lack of computing power. This barrier to discovery is coming down with facilities such as CCNI.”

Meunier comes to Rensselaer from the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he was a member of the senior research staff. Before his nearly nine years with Oak Ridge, he served as a postdoctoral research associate at North Carolina State University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s degree in chemistry, and a doctoral degree in physics — all from the University of Namur in Belgium. He received the Early Career Award for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2007, has published more than 100 papers, and holds two patents. This semester will be his first time formally teaching in a classroom, but he notes his experience and enjoyment mentoring the students who came to Oak Ridge.

“I came to Rensselaer to develop my research, but I also believe it is important to teach students this fundamental scientific approach. I have come to a place with excellent students who I hope will apply this view of computation and fundamental science after they leave here.”

Constellations are multidisciplinary teams of senior faculty, rising faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. Each constellation includes several star researchers in a particular area. Each is designed to help Rensselaer attract and retain exceptional researchers, educate students in socially important and emerging areas of research, and achieve global impact.

Endowed by Gail Theilmann Kodosky and Institute Trustee Jeffrey Kodosky ’70, the Kodosky Constellation focuses on energy conversion, future electronics, nano sciences, and a broad range of other cutting-edge areas of inquiry, including cyber-based physics and science discovery.

Jeffrey Kodosky has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2002. He was a member of the School of Science Advisory Board from 1996 to 2001. Co-founder of National Instruments in 1976, he also served as a Rensselaer Key Executive from 1998 to 2002. Kodosky and his wife, Gail, are members of the 1824 Society of the Stephen Van Rensselaer Patroons in recognition of their lifetime of support to Rensselaer.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 16, October 22, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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