Andre Geim

Sir Andre Konstantin Geim, FRS (born 21 October 1958) is a Russian-born British-Dutch physicist working at the University of Manchester. Geim was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Konstantin Novoselov for his work on graphene. He is the Langworthy Professor and director of the Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology at the University of Manchester.

Andre Geim was born to Konstantin Alekseyevich Geim and Nina Nikolayevna Bayer on October 21, 1958. Both his parents wereRussian German engineers. Geim has stated, “My mother’s grandmother was Jewish. I suffered from anti-Semitism in Russiabecause my name sounds Jewish”. Geim has one brother, Vladislav. In 1965, the family moved to Nalchik, where he studied at an English-language high school. After graduation, he applied to the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. He took the entrance exams twice, but was not accepted. He then applied to the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), where he was accepted. He said the students had to work extremely hard: “The pressure to work and to study was so intense that it was not a rare thing for people to break and leave, and some of them ended up with everything from schizophrenia to depression to suicide.” He received an MSc degree in 1982, and in 1987 obtained a PhD degree in metal physics from the Institute of Solid State Physics (ISSP) at the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in Chernogolovka. He said that at the time he would not have chosen to study solid-state physics, preferring particle physics or astrophysics, but is now happy with his choice.

Academic career

After earning his PhD, Geim worked as a research scientist at the Institute for Microelectronics Technology (IMT) at RAS, and from 1990 as a post-doctoral fellow at the universities of Nottingham (twice), Bath, and Copenhagen. He said that while at Nottingham he could spend his time on research rather than have to deal with politics, and determined to leave Russia.

He obtained his first tenured position in 1994, when he was appointed associate professor at Radboud University Nijmegen, where he did work on mesoscopic superconductivity. He later gained Dutch citizenship. One of his doctoral students at Nijmegen was Konstantin Novoselov, who went on to become his main research partner. However, Geim has said that he had an unpleasant time during his academic career in the Netherlands: “He was offered professorships at Nijmegen and Eindhoven, but turned them down as he found the Dutch academic system too hierarchical and full of petty politicking. “This can be pretty unpleasant at times,” he says. “It’s not like the British system where every staff member is an equal quantity.”” On the other hand, Geim writes in his Nobel lecture that “In addition, the situation was a bit surreal because outside the university walls I received a warm-hearted welcome from everyone around, including Jan Kees and other academics.”.  (Dr. Jan Kees Maan was the research boss of Geim during his time in Radboud University Nijmegen).

In 2001 he became a professor of physics at the University of Manchester, and was appointed director of the Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology in 2002, and Langworthy Professor in 2007. Geim’s wife and long-standing co-author, Irina Grigorieva, also moved to Manchester as a lecturer. Later they were joined by Novoselov. Since 2007 he has been an EPSRC Senior Research Fellow.[In 2010 Radboud University Nijmegen appointed him professor of innovative materials and nanoscience.

Research

Graphene is an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms.

Geim’s achievements include the discovery of a simple method for isolating single atomic layers of graphite, known as graphene, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Manchester and IMT. The team published their findings in October 2004 in Science.

Graphene consists of one-atom-thick layers of carbon atoms arranged in two-dimensional hexagons, and is the thinnest material in the world, as well as one of the strongest and hardest. The material has many potential applications and is considered a superior alternative to silicon.

Geim said one of the first applications of graphene could be in the development of flexible touchscreens, and that he has not patented the material because he would need a specific application and an industrial partner.

Geim was involved in the development of a biomimetic adhesive which became known as gecko tape—so called because of the adhesiveness of gecko feet—research of which is still in the early stages. It is hoped that the development will eventually allow humans to scale ceilings, like Spider-Man.

Geim’s research in 1997 into the possible effects of magnetism on water scaling led to the famous discovery of direct diamagnetic levitation of water, and led to a frog being levitated. He has also carried out research on mesoscopic physics andsuperconductivity.

He said of the range of subjects he has studied: “Many people choose a subject for their PhD and then continue the same subject until they retire. I despise this approach. I have changed my subject five times before I got my first tenured position and that helped me to learn different subjects.”

He named his favourite hamster, H.A.M.S. ter Tisha, co-author in a 2001 research paper.

Honours and awards

Magnetically levitating a live frog, an experiment that earned Geim and Michael Berry the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize

Geim shared the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in physics with Michael Berry for the frog experiment. In 2006 he appeared on the Scientific American 50. The Institute of Physics awarded him the 2007 Mott Medal and Prize “for his discovery of a new class of materials—free-standing two-dimensional crystals—in particular graphene”. In 2007 he was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He shared the 2008 EuroPhysics Prize with Novoselov “for discovering and isolating a single free-standing atomic layer of carbon (graphene) and elucidating its remarkable electronic properties”. In 2009 he received the Körber European Science Award. The United States National Academy of Sciences honoured him with the 2010 John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science “for his experimental realisation and investigation of graphene, the two-dimensional form of carbon”. He was awarded one of six Royal Society 2010 Anniversary Research Professorships. The Royal Society added its 2010 Hughes Medal “for his revolutionary discovery of graphene and elucidation of its remarkable properties”. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Delft University of Technology, ETH Zürich, the University of Antwerp and the University of Manchester. In 2010, Geim was appointed as Knight Commander of the Order of the Netherlands Lion for his contribution to the Dutch Science. Geim was furthermore made a Knight Bachelor in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to science. He was elected a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in May 2012.

Nobel Prize in Physics

On 5 October 2010 Geim was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Novoselov “for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene”. Upon hearing of the award he said, “I’m fine, I slept well. I didn’t expect the Nobel Prize this year”, and that his plans for the day would not change. He said he hopes that graphene and other two-dimensional crystals will change everyday life as plastics did for humanity. A colleague of Geim said that his award shows that people can still win a Nobel by “mucking about in a lab”. The award made him the first person to win, as an individual, both a Nobel Prize and an Ig Nobel Prize. The lecture for the award took place on 8 December 2010 at Stockholm University

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