Funding Boosts Quantum Materials Theory Research

Leon Balents, KITP Permanent Member

At a time when many scientific organizations are challenged by shrinking budgets, the new Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems (EPiQS) initiative will help scientists understand quantum materials in new ways and pave the way for potentially world-changing technological applications.

EPiQS, a program of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, has recently awarded $1.5 million over five years to Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) to establish the Moore Postdoctoral Theory Scholars Program. These scholars will have appointments of up to three years at KITP.

“The award will enable us to competitively attract the best scholars in the field who find the prospect of being named a Moore Postdoctoral Fellow — especially here at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, which is already one of the preeminent institutions for theoretical physics in the world — to be doubly appealing,” said principle investigator (PI) Leon Balents, a permanent member of the KITP and a professor in UCSB’s Department of Physics. Matthew Fisher and Cenke Xu, professor and associate professor of physics, are co-PIs.

In the field of condensed matter physics, quantum materials present largely uncharted ground for study and immense opportunity for discovery. Quantum materials are substances that become endowed with unusual properties — such as superconductivity, forms of magnetism and other electronic qualities — as a result of the quantum physics of their electrons. These phenomena often elude prediction, even when the properties of the individual particles that constitute these materials are well understood.

Now, with advances in theory, nanotechnology and quantum control of matter, fresh opportunities have surfaced for examining emergent properties of quantum materials. “We’re very excited by the prospect of working with the Moore Foundation to advance the study of quantum phenomena and materials,” said Balents. “Receiving this award cements our position as one of the leading institutions in the theory of quantum matter.”

- Julie Cohen, UCSB Public Affairs & Communication
KITP Newsletter, Winter 2015