Anton Akhmerov wins FOM Physics PhD Prize 2012

The winner of the FOM (Fundamental Material Research in Physics) PhD prize 2012 is theoretical physicist Dr Anton Akhmerov. He carried out his PhD research under the supervision of Professor Carlo Beenakker and defended his PhD thesis cum laude in May 2011 at Leiden University.

Elegant solutions

The jury was impressed by the many new physics insights and by Akhmerov’s creativity. ‘He describes extremely elegant solutions to complex problems in an ostensibly simple manner,’ according to the jury’s report. The prize, worth €10,000, will be awarded on 22 January 2013 during the Physics@FOM Veldhoven conference.


Akhmerov published one of his most import findings in 2008 in Physical Review B. This was the boundary condition of the Dirac match in graphene. In this publication he gave a mathematical description of the path of the electrons along the edge of a piece of graphene. All scientist working with this promising material can utilise this description in their research. It resulted in more than a hundred citations and a chapter in Professor Misha Knatelson’s standard textbook on graphene.


In the second part of his PhD thesis Akhmerov investigated the possibility of using topological superconductors for quantum computers. He described how the use of the ‘Dirac-to-Majorana converter’ allows the detection of majorana fermions in this superconductive material. Because majorana fermions are regarded as possible qubits (quantum bits), Akhmerov’s research forms an important step in the direction of a quantum computer. In this area he is working with Professor Leo Kouwenhoven, who made the news earlier this year when he was able to create majorana particles using new solid state physics.

Big Bang Theory

The jury described the work in Akhmerov’s PhD thesis as being ‘of an exceptionally distinguished level, both in quality and quantity’. Akhmerov’s publication list stands at 29 articles and he has been cited 766 times. Moreover, his research is ‘strongly presented, with an explicit elucidation of future applications of his findings.’ Akhmerov’s work has already made its way into many living rooms: one of his images has been used in the popular American comedy series ‘The Big Bang Theory’.

Previous prizes

In augustus dit jaar .In August this year Akhmerov received the Gratama Science Award (Gratama Wetenschapsprijs ). The year previously he was Researcher of the Year in the Faculty of Science, and his dissertation Dirac and Majorana edge states in grapheme and topological superconductors was acclaimed by the Faculty as the best of the year.

See also

Studying in Leiden

Physics (in Dutch)


Fundamentals of Science is one of the profile themes of Leiden University

Last Modified: 05-11-2012