Jay Deep Sau, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Maryland and fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, was awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship for 2016. This award, granted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, identifies 126 early-career scientists based on their potential to contribute fundamentally significant research to a wider academic community.
Sau, a theoretical condensed matter physicist interested in applying topological principles to create protected solid-state and cold-atomic systems for quantum information processing, willuse the fellowship to further his research focus on predicting phenomena that could help pave the way for topological quantum computation.
“Receiving the Sloan Research fellowship, to me, represents validation of my work from some rather distinguished members of the condensed matter physics community and is therefore a great honor,” said Sau. “This fellowship encourages me to continue my pursuit to predict truly macroscopic quantum systems and phenomena, in collaboration with experimental colleagues at Maryland who elucidate the beautiful physics of topological field theory.”
While quantum mechanics naturally operates at excruciatingly tiny length scales—such as those found in a single atom—physicists are also interested in examining much larger quantum systems where the individual quantum pieces can interact through many pathways. In this case, stabilizing the associated quantum phenomena can be exceedingly difficult due to the detrimental influence of the unavoidable interaction of the large system with its surroundings. One possible approach to creating and studying such macroscopic quantum phenomena is based on recently discovered topological phases in condensed matter systems, which for fundamental reasons are effectively protected from the environment.
Sau’s research aims to investigate the rich variety of static and dynamical phenomena that arise from the interplay of novel topological phases with conventional physics, such as electrostatic interactions, crystal lattice vibrations and material impurities. Recent experiments indicate that the physics of topological systems cannot be understood without considering these conventional ingredients. In addition, exploring the physics resulting from this interplay will likely lead to the discovery of new phenomena, which could influence the design of quantum computers.
Sau has authored more than 75 peer-reviewed journal publications. Before joining the UMD faculty in 2013, Sau worked as a postdoctoral researcher in physics at Harvard University and UMD, where he did some of his most important work. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India, and his doctoral degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley.
Sau joins the list of 49 current UMD College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences faculty members who have received Sloan Research Fellowships.
Each 2016 Sloan Research Fellow is awarded a two-year $55,000 grant to support his or her research interests. Administered and funded by the Sloan Foundation, the fellowships are awarded in eight scientific fields—chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics. Winners are selected through close cooperation with the scientific community. To qualify, candidates must first be nominated by their fellow research scientists and are subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars.
“Getting early-career support can be a make-or-break moment for a young scholar,” said Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “In an increasingly competitive academic environment, it can be difficult to stand out, even when your work is first rate. The Sloan Research Fellowships have become an unmistakable marker of quality among researchers. Fellows represent the best-of-the-best among young scientists.”
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The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.