Senior Siddharth Venkat of Herndon, Va., is the first recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award in the College of Science. He will graduate this month with a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics.

Venkat has been pursuing research projects with various faculty members in the physics department since his sophomore year. Under the tutelage of Eric Sharpe, assistant professor of physics, Venkat has conducted research on string theory.  In addition, he has been studying systems far from equilibrium, which as Department Head Beate Schmittmann says is “one of the most important current challenges in science.” His advisor for the latter research is Associate Professor of Physics Michel Pleimling.

“In my eyes, Sid is a phenomenon,” Schmittmann said. “He is the one student in a couple of decades who is so gifted and focused that he will develop into an absolutely supreme scientist with Nobel Prize potential.”

Venkat’s research has been published in the leading international journal Physical Review, and he received one of the prestigious Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Awards for 2010. Venkat took senior-level physics classes as a sophomore and has taken a number of graduate-level classes since then.  He is on track to graduate with a  perfect grade point average of 4.0.

“To have progressed so far so quickly is an extraordinary academic accomplishment, rivaling the top undergraduates at Ivy League Schools,” Schmittmann said.

“Sid shows extraordinary maturity for his young age,” Pleimling said. “He should be the best prepared physics student who ever left our department.”

Venkat says he plans a future career in theoretical physics.



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