Otto Hahn Medal for Veronika Sunko

27 March 2020

Veronika Sunko of the Physics of Quantum Materials department at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids has been awarded the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society for her outstanding doctoral research.

Veronika Sunko's remarkable PhD research has already been recognized with several awards (see below). The Otto Hahn Medal is another well-deserved accolade. It was awarded for her work on angle resolved photoemission spectroscopy of the delafossite family of layered triangular lattice oxide metals. These remarkable metals have some of the highest conductivities of any known materials, and Veronika's spectroscopic investigations provided deep insight into the reasons why they conduct so well, as well as on exotic magnetic physics involving conduction electrons both in the bulk and on the surface.
In addition to her long and growing list of thesis prizes and awards, Veronika has won a prestigious Miller Fellowship from UC Berkeley, providing three years of salary, research and travel funding for post-doctoral research. She will carry this out both at UC Berkeley and at the neighbouring Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, principally in the group of Professor Joseph Orenstein.

Warmest congratulations to Veronika for her truly outstanding work!


Springer Thesis Prize for Veronika Sunko

In October 2019 Veronika Sunko's superb PhD thesis research has been recognized by the award of a Springer Thesis Prize. The award consists of a cash prize and, more importantly, the publication of her thesis as a book by Springer Nature.

For her doctoral research, Veronika concentrated on angle resolved photoemission measurements of surface and bulk states in a special class of layered triangular lattice metals from the delafossite family. These remarkable metals have some of the highest conductivities of any known materials, and the initial plan was for Veronika to perform spectroscopic investigations into the reasons that they conduct so well. She duly achieved insights into the high conductivity, but her experiments also revealed some completely unexpected signals from both bulk and surface states. Using a combination of experiment and theory, sometimes working alone and sometimes in collaboration, she solved the puzzles that her observations had presented. In doing so, she provided entirely new perspectives that rewrite the received wisdom of two mature fields of research.

Her supervisors, Phil King of this department and Andy Mackenzie of this department and the Max Planck Institute for the Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, express their opinion of the quality of her work in the book's foreword, a section of which reads: "Veronika's research is characterized by intellectual brilliance and deep physical insight, combined with infectious enthusiasm and a determination to solve any problem that she faces. This doctoral thesis is an absolutely outstanding piece of scientific writing, and Veronika's special combination of scientific creativity and originality shine out in each chapter. In an era in which experimental and theoretical physics are becoming ever more widely separated, Veronika makes little distinction between the two disciplines. For her, it is all just physics; her work is driven by experimental discovery, but she is not content to let someone else find out and explain what those discoveries mean. In the thesis, she describes at least twice as much new and important work as one would typically expect to find in a leading PhD dissertation, and she only had space to write about approximately half of her research achievements from the past four years!"

American Physical Society Dissertation Prize for Veronika Sunko

In November 2019 Veronika Sunko won a further prize for her PhD thesis research, the Richard L Greene Dissertation Award of the American Physical Society. This prestigious international award comprises a cash prize, a certificate and an invitation to Veronika to give a talk about her doctoral research at a special prize session at the 2020 American Physical Society March Meeting in Denver, Colorado. A previous winner of the award, Alexander Steppke, spent time in the School as a post-doctoral fellow in 2015-16.

We offer our congratulations to Veronika for this award and the research achievements that led to it. To the coming generations of talented graduate students the message is clear – keep up the good work!