Nick Butch Honored by NIST

Adjunct Associate Professor Nicholas Butch will receive the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s 2020 Samuel Wesley Stratton Award "for pioneering research into the exotic physics and extremely high-field re-entrant superconductivity in uranium ditelluride." The Stratton Award, named after the first director of the National Bureau of Standards, as NIST was then known, recognizes an unusually significant research contribution to science or engineering that merits the acclaim of the scientific world and supports NIST’s mission objectives.Nick ButchNick Butch

Butch, a physicist at NIST’s Center for Neutron Research, is a member of the Quantum Materials Center (QMC). His first UMD appointment was as a Rolfe Glover Postdoctoral Fellow in 2008.

Among Butch’s research pursuits are quantum materials and superconductivity. In 2019, he and collaborators discovered superconductivity in the material uranium ditelluride (UTe2) and then described a remarkable quirk: high magnetic fields seem to stabilize, not destroy, its superconducting state. This resilience could make UTe2 a promising material for use in quantum computers.

Earlier in 2020, Butch and collaborators also announced that experiments with UTe2 revealed that it might contain the long-sought Majorana fermion.

Butch earned his Ph.D. in 2008 at the University of California, San Diego. In 2017, he received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.

PRA Highlights Work of Ian Spielman

A paper coauthored by Adjunct Professor and JQI Fellow Ian Spielman in 2011 has been highlighted by the journal Physical Review A as part of its 50th anniversary celebration—one of only 26 that the journal plans to highlight in its “anniversary milestones” collection.

The collection comprises papers published in the journal “that have made important contributions to atomic, molecular, and optical physics and quantum information by announcing significant discoveries or by initiating new areas of research.” Highlighting these notable papers is part of the American Physical Society’s celebration of the splitting of the journal Physical Review into four journals, Physical Review A-D, that each cover different specialized physics content.pr50 social cropped ratio 0

In Spielman’s paper, which was also highlighted by Google Scholar Metrics in 2014, he and his colleagues proposed an experimental setup to create quantum interactions called Rashba and Dresselhaus spin-orbit coupling for an atomic Bose-Einstein condensate. Spin-orbit coupling is an interaction where the properties of spin—an attribute of quantum objects related to rotation and magnetism—and momentum become tied together. The phenomenon helps stabilize the states against quantum disturbances and plays an important role in materials, like topological insulators, that are of theoretical and technological interest.

The paper describes how experiments can create the desired coupling for electrically neutral rubidium atoms by using lasers, and it also provides an intuitive, visual framework for understanding such experiments as an alternative to the prior, more-abstract mathematical description that researchers were using.

“What I think this proposal really did is change the language that we used to think about engineering spin-orbit coupled systems,” says Spielman. “This paper provides a super-visual construction that you can do on the fly in your head to know about what's going to happen in an experiment.”

In the proposal, several lasers are set up so that they interact with the atoms simultaneously to create the appropriate quantum state with the desired coupling. The paper presented the physics in the experiments in terms of how the photons that make up the lasers contribute momentum to the atoms.

According to Xiangyu Yin, the associate editor of Physical Review A, Spielman’s paper “inspired several successful experimental realizations of spin-orbit coupled neutral atoms in two dimensions, paving the way for exploring exotic quantum phases in a new platform.”

In addition to experiments by others, Spielman’s own research group at JQI has built on this work and he says that he hopes that similar experiments with atoms other than rubidium will open opportunities to explore even more new physics. 

Reference Publication: 
"Realistic Rashba and Dresselhaus spin-orbit coupling for neutral atoms," D.L. Campbell, G. Juzeliunas, Ian B. Spielman, Physical Review A, 84, 025602 (2011)
Original story by Bailey Bedford, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Monroe Elected OSA Fellow

Christopher Monroe has been elected as a Fellow of The Optical Society (OSA)(link is external). He is one of 118 OSA members to be selected this year.

Monroe is also a Distinguished University Professor, the Bice Zorn Professor of Physics, and a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science. He leads an experimental research group that masterfully manipulates the delicate interactions of light and ions. Their experiments span everything from simulating wormholes to pushing the frontiers of quantum computing.

Monroe also shares his expertise as a member of the advisory committee(link is external) of the U.S. National Quantum Initiative(link is external). Monroe advocated for the creation of the initiative, which works to stimulate development of quantum information science and technology by fostering collaboration between federal organizations, academic institutions and private industry.

No more than 10% of OSA members may receive an OSA fellowship. The fellowship is an acknowledgment of accomplishments and contributions within the community of scientists who study light. Monroe was nominated for his “pioneering leadership in quantum information processing with trapped ions and ultrafast optics technology, and leadership in the National Quantum Initiative.”


Beverly Berger Receives APS Isaacson Award

Beverly K. Berger (Ph.D., ‘72) has been selected to receive the 2021 American Physical Society (APS) Richard A. Isaacson Award in Gravitational-Wave Science, which recognizes outstanding contributions in gravitational-wave physics, gravitational-wave astrophysics, and the technologies that enable this science. Berger was cited for supporting and expanding the community of scientists engaged in gravitational-wave research, and for fostering an international network of researchers devoted to theory and experimentation."

The award, which honors alumnus Richard Isaacson (Ph.D., ‘67), was established with funds donated by Nobel laureates Kip S. Thorne and Rainer Weiss to commemorate Isaacson’s impact on the study of gravitational waves. Isaacson’s research contributed to the theory of gravitational wave generation and propagation, and he later oversaw the development of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) during his career as Program Director of Gravitational Physics at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Berger did her thesis work on cosmological graviton creation under Professor Emeritus Charles Misner. Her career included 24 years in the Physics Department at Oakland University (MI), where she served a term as department chair, and 10 years as Program Director for Gravitational Physics at the NSF. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the APS.

Within the APS, Berger worked to establish the Topical Group on Gravitation, which eventually became the Division of Gravitational Physics (DGRAV). She has twice served as DGRAV chair, and also led the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics in 2000.

She joined the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) in 2012 and is now part of the Stanford University LIGO Group.

The CMNS story, The Chirps Heard Round the World, describes the University of Maryland’s contributions to gravitational wave science. The short documentary film Mirrors That Hang on Glass Threads illuminates the scale and complexity of the LIGO detector, while LIGO Detection tells the story of the September 2015 event in the words of many LIGO scientists.

Other University of Maryland APS awardees in this cycle are Nick Poniatowski, who received the LeRoy Apker Award, and Steve Fetter, Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Public Policy, who received the Leo Szilard Award.

UMD Welcomes 16-year-old Ph.D. Student

Sixteen-year-old Jeremy Shuler subscribes to the theory of “many worlds.” It’s a weird but, many physicists argue, mathematically sound interpretation of quantum mechanics holding that every possibility—Schrödinger’s cat lives, it dies, it was actually a dog—plays out in a practically infinite array of universes.

If true, then in at least one of them, Shuler is an average high school junior in Texas hoping for a B in trigonometry, who just got his driver’s license and is excited about the upJeremy Shuler, 16, enrolled to study for a doctoral degree in theoretical physics this year after becoming Cornell University's youngest-ever graduate this spring. (Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle)Jeremy Shuler, 16, enrolled to study for a doctoral degree in theoretical physics this year after becoming Cornell University's youngest-ever graduate this spring. (Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle)coming Cowboys game.

In our universe, things couldn’t be more different: Shuler can handle differential geometry and complex analysis, rides Shuttle-UM buses from University Park and isn’t a sports fan—instead, he’s believed to be one of the youngest Ph.D. student ever at the University of Maryland.

He enrolled this semester to study theoretical physics, Einstein’s field, which focuses on mind-bending questions ranging from the existence of hidden dimensions to the nature of time.

“The subfield I’m interested in is high-energy/particle physics, which is great, because it’s a way to understand the fundamental nature of our universe,” he said.

It was already clear when he was a toddler that Jeremy, while maybe not in his own universe, was on a different track than most, said his mother, Harrey Shuler, who is from South Korea. At 18 or 19 months, he asked what she was doing as she typed an email to her family.

“I showed him the Korean consonants and the Korean vowels … I repeated it like twice,” she said. “We spent maybe half an hour, and the next day, he could read Korean.” A few days after that, he started reading in English.

She was completing her aerospace engineering Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin, but decided to homeschool Jeremy rather than pursue a career; Jeremy’s father, Andrew Shuler, worked as an engineer at Lockheed Martin in Dallas. The youngster progressed quickly through elementary subjects, then completed online high school courses in two years, graduating at 12.

Accompanied by media hoopla, Shuler in 2016 became the youngest-ever student at his father’s alma mater, Cornell University. Andrew Shuler was able to transfer to a nearby Lockheed Martin location, so the family picked up and moved to Ithaca, N.Y. 

“Cornell was the first actual school I attended,” Shuler said. “But by the end of the semester, I got pretty much adjusted to how things worked there, and the students were pretty supportive of me.”

After graduating in 2020, the whole family moved to the College Park area, where Shuler had been accepted in UMD’s highly touted physics department. 

Tom Cohen, professor and associate chair in physics, said the risk of admitting a student so young is balanced with the possibilities of major reward because of Shuler’s natural abilities.

“In terms of straightforward intellectual firepower, he’s got it—he can solve a problem presented to him in a way that’s off-scale good,” Cohen said, adding that math ability is not what set great physicists like Einstein apart. “What’s not obvious yet is how creative Jeremy is; that can be tricky for young prodigies.”

Deciding his research focus is his top priority, Shuler said, although learning to teach has also been on his mind: “Being a TA is different from anything I’ve ever done before. I’m a little nervous.”

He’ll have five or so years to figure out how to corral undergrads as he works on his Ph.D. “By the time he graduates,” Andrew Shuler said, “he might be old enough to celebrate with a glass of champagne.”

Original story by Chris Carroll: