In a ceremony on July 3, 2009 held in Warsaw, Professor of Physics Jacek Furdyna was awarded the Nicolaus Copernicus Medal by the Polish Academy of Sciences. The medal is the Academy’s highest honor. Among its past recipients are renowned scientists and engineers in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering, and other areas of science and technology, including a number of Nobel Prize winners, whose work in the opinion of the Polish Academy of Sciences has had significant impact on science and technology in Poland.
Furdyna holds the Aurora and Thomas Marquez Chair of Information Theory and Computer Technology in the Department of Physics. He is world-renowned for the design and development of new semiconductor materials, including magnetic semiconductors aimed at performing new and extremely fast functions in computers. The new functionality of these materials is based on the use of the electron spin (in addition to its charge) in the design of electronic circuits, which is expected to lay the groundwork for non-volatile magnetic memories for the next generation of computing systems.
Born in Poland, Furdyna was deported to Siberia at age six by the Soviet government. After his release, he lived in the Middle East and England. Upon arriving in the US, he attended Holy Trinity High School in Chicago operated by the Congregation of Holy Cross. Interestingly, practically all his high school teachers were Notre Dame graduates, so that his first academic contact after arriving in this country was with Notre Dame. He graduated from Loyola University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in physics summa cum laude. He went on to complete his doctoral degree in physics at Northwestern University and joined the staff of the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before moving to Purdue University, where he directed the Materials Research Laboratory.
Furdyna joined the Department of Physics of the University of Notre Dame in 1987. For his achievements in science he was awarded honorary doctorates by Warsaw University in 2003, and by Purdue University in 2007. Furdyna is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the Institute of Physics of the United Kingdom.