Brian Leeds DeMarco



Brian Leeds DeMarco

Primary Research Area

  • AMO / Quantum Physics
329 Loomis Laboratory

For more information


Professor Brian DeMarco received his B.A. in physics, with a mathematics minor, from the State University of New York at Geneseo in 1996, graduating summa cum laude. As an undergraduate researcher, he worked on calibrating and developing neutron detectors for laser driven inertial confinement fusion experiments at the Lab for Laser Energetics.

He earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2001), where he extended magnetic trapping and evaporative cooling techniques to create the first quantum degenerate Fermi gas of atoms. This achievement merited Science magazine's imprimatur as one of the top ten scientific discoveries of 1999 and earned DeMarco the first JILA Scientific Achievement Award. In 2002, he received the American Physical Society's Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics Thesis Award.

From 2001-2003, he was a National Research Council postdoctoral research fellow, working with David Wineland at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Boulder) on quantum computing experiments with trapped atomic ions. DeMarco's work with the Ion Storage Group focused on developing improved quantum logic elements and "scaling-up" the complexity of quantum information processing tasks with trapped ions.

Professor DeMarco joined the Department of Physics at Illinois in August 2003. In October 2005, he was among 18 young physics researchers selected as finalists in a global competition to participate in Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery, an international symposium focused on exploring and advancing innovative research in physics and astronomy inspired by, and honoring the leadership and vision of, Charles Townes, winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics. The symposium brought together renowned scholars and researchers, including 20 Nobel laureates, to explore the extraordinary challenges of 21st Century physics and cosmology. DeMarco won first place in the Quantum Physics category for his research aimed at realizing quantum simulation using atoms trapped in an optical lattice.

Prof. DeMarco is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award, ONR Young Investigator award, and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship.

Prof. DeMarco has served on the DAMOP Executive Committee, the review panel for NRC postdoctoral fellowships, the National Research Council Committee on AMO Science (CAMOS), the APS March Meeting and DAMOP program committee, and the APS DAMOP Thesis Prize committee. He currently serves on the APS Davisson-Germer Prize Committee, the APS Panel on Public Affairs, and National Academy of Science Intelligence Science and Technology Experts Group. Prof. DeMarco is currently Chair of the NASA Fundamental Science Standing Review Board and in the 2016-2018 class of the Defense Sciences Study Group.

Research Statement

Prof. DeMarco's research program at the University of Illinois focuses on solving outstanding problems in condensed matter physics using ultra-cold atoms trapped in an optical lattice. This approach, of using one quantum system to emaluate another, is known as quantum simulation and was first proposed as a potentially revolutionary technique by Richard Feynmann. Current research problems being tackled by his team include the properties of the disordered Bose- and Fermi-Hubbard models, thermometry and cooling in strongly correlated lattice systems, and unique states of matter in spin-dependent optical lattices. DeMarco's group was the first identify the cross-over between quantum tunneling and thermal activation of phase slips in an optical lattice (published in Nature), the first to realize 3D Anderson localization of matter (published in Science), and the first to observe many-body localization. His group was also the first to trap atoms in a disordered optical lattice in a regime described by the disordered Bose-Hubbard and disordered Fermi-Hubabrd model.

DeMarco's research has been highlighted on the NSF LiveScience and Discoveries websites.  One of his former Ph.D. students also has had a blog with Discover magazine.

Research Honors

  • American Physical Society Fellow, 2016
  • University of Illinois Willett Faculty Scholar Award, 2013
  • University of Illinois College of Engineering Excellence in Research Award, 2012
  • Vestal High School Hall of Fame Inductee, 2012
  • State University of New York at Geneseo Outstanding Young Alumnus Award, 2006
  • Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, 2006
  • 1st prize in Quantum Physics session at the Amazing Light Young Scholars Competition, 2005 ( )
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2005
  • Office of Naval Research Outstanding Young Investigator Award, 2004
  • Michelson Post-doctoral Lectureship Prize, Case Western Reserve University, 2003
  • Atomic, Molecular, or Optical Physics Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award (DAMOP thesis prize), American Physical Society, 2002
  • National Research Council (NRC) post-doctoral fellowship, 2001-2003
  • Science Magazine listed the article Onset of Fermi degeneracy in a trapped atomic gas among the Top Ten Scientific Breakthroughs of 1999

Semesters Ranked Excellent Teacher by Students

Spring 2016PHYS 496
Fall 2015PHYS 499
Spring 2015PHYS 514
Fall 2014PHYS 485
Spring 2011PHYS 514
Spring 2010PHYS 485
Fall 2008PHYS 485
Fall 2006PHYS 140
Spring 2005PHYS 598
Fall 2004PHYS 102

Selected Articles in Journals

  • C. Meldgin, U. Ray, P. Russ, D. Ceperley, and B. DeMarco, Probing the Bose-glass--Superfluid Transition Using Quantum Quenches of Disorder, Nat. Phys 12, 646 (2016).
  •  S. S. Kondov, W. R. McGehee, W. Xu, and B. DeMarco, Disorder-induced Localization in a Strongly Correlated Atomic Hubbard Gas, Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 083002 (2015)
  • W. R. McGehee, S. S. Kondov, W. Xu, J. J. Zirbel, and B. DeMarco, Three-Dimensional Anderson Localization in Variable Scale Disorder, Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 145303 (2014)
  • D. C. McKay, C. Meldgin, D. Chen, and B. DeMarco, Slow Thermalization Between a Lattice and Free Bose Gas, Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 063002 (2013)
  • S. S. Kondov, W. R. McGehee, J.J. Zirbel, and B. DeMarco, Three-dimensional Localization of Ultracold Matter, Science 334, 66 (2011).
  • D. Chen, M. White, C. Borries, and B. DeMarco, Quantum Quench of an Atomic Mott insulator, Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 235304 (2011).
  • D. McKay and B. DeMarco, Cooling in strongly correlated optical lattices: prospects and challenges, Rep. Prog. Phys. 74, 0544401 (2011).
  • M. Pasienski, D. McKay, M. White, and B. DeMarco, A disordered insulator in an optical lattice, Nat. Phys. 6, 677 (2010).
  • D. McKay and B. DeMarco, Thermometry with spin-dependent lattices, New J. Phys. 12, 055013 (2010).
  • M. Pasienski and B. DeMarco, A high-accuracy algorithm for designing arbitrary holographic atom traps, Optics Express 16, 2176 (2008).
  • D. McKay, M. White, M. Pasienski, and B. DeMarco, Phase-slip induced dissipation in an atomic Bose-Hubbard system, Nature 453, 76 (2008).
  • D. Leibfried, B. DeMarco, V. Meyer, M. Rowe, A. Ben-Kish, J. Britton, W. M. Itano, B. Jelenkovic, C. Langer, T. Rosenband and D. J. Wineland, Experimental Demonstration of a Geometric Phase Gate, Nature 422, 412 (2003).
  • B. DeMarco and D.S. Jin, Onset of Fermi Degeneracy in a Trapped Atomic Gas, Science 285, 1703 (1999).

Related news

  • Research
  • AMO Physics
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Now, two teams at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, working together and attacking the problem from different physics disciplines, have shed new light on our understanding of disordered quantum materials. Professor Brian DeMarco and his group perform innovative experiments in atomic, molecular, and optical physics using ultracold atoms trapped in an optical lattice to simulate phenomena in solid materials. Professor David Ceperley and his group work in theoretical condensed matter physics; they perform supercomputing simulations to model phenomena in solid materials.

The two groups collaborated across physics disciplines to understand how disorder in a quantum material gives rise to an exotic quantum state called a Bose glass. The results are published in Nature Physics in the article, “Probing the Bose glass–superfluid transition using quantum quenches of disorder.”

  • In the Media
  • AMO/Quantum Physics
  • AMO Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

 Brian DeMarco’s group works in the ultracold-atom field that is my own home in physics. They start with a gas of potassium atoms, cool them to a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero, and place them in an “optical lattice,” which uses light to create an array of places where the atoms would “like” to sit.

  • Accolades

Three Physics Illinois faculty members—Professors Matthias Grosse Perdekamp, Vidya Madhavan, and Brian DeMarco—have been elected Fellows of the American Physical Society. Election to Fellowship is a distinct honor that recognizes significant contributions to the field, including outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education.

  • Accolades
  • AMO Physics/Quantum Physics
  • AMO Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

University of Illinois Professor of Physics Brian DeMarco has been selected as a member of the Defense Science Study Group (DSSG), a program that gives leading scientists and engineers a chance to participate in the dialogue on technological challenges and advancements relating to national security. Over the course of the program, DSSG members focus on defense policy, related research and development, and the systems, missions, and operations of the armed forces and the intelligence community.

“I’m excited about this opportunity because it is a chance to learn about how science can inform and impact policy within the federal government and defense agencies,” DeMarco comments. “The DSSG is also a pathway into important organizations such as JASON that can have a broad impact on how we react as a nation to challenges such as energy generation and climate change.”