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Did you know? Department of Physics and Astronomy home to several scientists exploring Nobel Prize-related research

Earlier this week, three researchers from the University of Washington, Princeton University and Brown University were named 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics recipients, for revealing what the organization called “secrets of exotic matter.” But did you know that WVU is home to a number of experts in topology, materials science and condensed matter physics?

The trio of Nobel Prize award recipients --- David Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz--- have used mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films.

They were recognized for their contributions to topology, a branch of mathematics that describes properties that only change step-wise. The exotic materials the Nobel Laureates examined manifest novel quantum properties that may improve future electronics, superconductors and lead to quantum computers.

The condensed matter physics group at WVU works to provide a better understanding of materials, their interfaces and interactions, and to lay the foundation for applications based on the discovery of new physics. Their work is supported by federal funding and in part by the WV Higher Education Policy Commission’s Research Challenge Grant Program. 

  •  Lian Li, Carroll Chair of Physics, explores the growth and microscopy of the electronic properties of topological matter, including insulators and superconductors. Lian recently joined the WVU from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, bringing unique capabilities with him.
  •  Tudor Stanescu, associate professor, has spent the last decade modeling the interfaces of topological insulator in proximity to other materials, such as superconductors. He contributes to the global hunt for Majorana Fermions – particles that are their own anti-particle.
  • Aldo Romero, associate professor, uses first principles computer simulations to model topological matter and predicting new quantum phases of matter.
  •  Professors Mikel (Micky) Holcomb (assistant) and Alan Bristow (associate) use optical methods to isolate and control the surfaces. Optical methods may present a way to overcome the challenges in determining the conduction properties.
  •  Assistant Professor Cheng Cen explores exotic materials that contain very heavy atoms that bind the electrons strongly, confining them and changing the conduction properties. Her work is funded by prestigious early career awards from National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy.
  • In direct connection to this year’s Nobel Prize, Professor Leonardo Golubovic was named as fellow of the American Physical Society for his theory relating the Kosterlitz-Thouless transition to interfaces of biological membranes.
  • Associate Vice President of Research Sheena Murphy, who also recently joined WVU’s faculty from the University of Oklahoma, has previously worked with both superfluid helium and conducting variants of the phases central to the Nobel prize.