Nadya Mason Selected for 2018-19 Defense Science Study Group

Caitlin Shea McCoy for Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory
4/25/2017

Nadya Mason poses with some of her graduate students in her laboratory in the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Lab. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Nadya Mason poses with some of her graduate students in her laboratory in the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Lab. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Physics Professor Nadya Mason has been selected for the 2018-19 Defense Science Study Group (DSSG). The DSSG is a program of education and study that introduces outstanding science and engineering professors to United States’ security challenges and encourages the scholars to apply their talents to these issues.

“It’s a great honor to have been selected for the 2018 DSSG class,” Mason shares. “I’m excited about the unique opportunity to learn more about our nation’s security issues and the technical challenges that face us… and the geek in me also looks forward to seeing some cool airplanes, ships and submarines!”

Started in 1986, this program is directed by the non-profit Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). According to the DSSG site, this program is an investment in the future. Although there are almost 200 alumni, this is a highly selective program, with only 18 people selected from across the country every two years.

“This is a rather significant honor,” Professor and Director of the Materials Research Lab Paul Braun comments. “We are very happy for Professor Mason and excited to see what she is able to do with this group.”

Each group meets approximately 20 days per year for those two years. During these sessions, members focus on defense policy, related research and development, and the systems, missions, and operations of the armed forces and the intelligence community.

“Illinois has had excellent representation among DSSG classes from the beginning, so it’s an additional pleasure to be continuing the Illinois tradition,” Mason adds.

 

Recent News

  • Research

An international team of researchers led by Paul Scherrer Institute postdoctoral researcher Niels Schröter now provide an important benchmark for how "strong" topological phenonena can be in a real material. Writing in Science, the team reports experiments in which they observed that, in the topological semimetal palladium gallium (PdGa), one of the most common classifiers of topological phenomena, the Chern number, can reach the maximum value that is allowed in any metallic crystal. That this is possible in a real material has never been shown before. Moreover, the team has established ways to control the sign of the Chern number, which might bring new opportunities for exploring, and exploiting, topological phenomena. Illinois Physics Professor Barry Bradlyn contributed to the theoretical work elucidating the team's experiments.

At the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), over 200 physicists across dozens of institutions are collaborating on a project called COMPASS. This experiment (short for Common Muon and Proton Apparatus for Structure and Spectroscopy) uses CERN’s Super Proton Synchrotron to tear apart protons with a particle beam, allowing researchers to see the subatomic quarks and gluons that make up these building blocks of the universe. But particle beams aren’t the only futuretech in play – the experiments are also enabled by a heavy dose of supercomputing power.

New findings from physicists at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with researchers at The University of Tokyo and others, clarify the physics of coupling topological materials with simple, conventional superconductors.

Through a novel method they devised to fabricate bulk insulating topological insulator (TI) films on superconductor (SC) substrates, the researchers were able to more precisely test the proximity effect, or coupling when two materials contact one another, between TIs and SCs. They found that when the TI film is bulk insulating, no superconductivity is observed at the top surface, but if it is a metal, as in prior work, strong, long-range superconducting order is seen. The experimental efforts were led by physics Professor Tai-Chang Chiang and Joseph Andrew Hlevyack, postdoctoral researcher in Professor Chiang’s group, in collaboration with Professor James N. Eckstein’s group including Yang Bai, Professor Kozo Okazaki’s Lab at The U. of Tokyo, and five other institutes internationally. The findings are published in Physical Review Letters, which has been highlighted as a PRL Editors’ Suggestion.

  • Accolades

Illinois Physics Assistant Professor Barry Bradlyn has been selected for a 2020 National Science Foundation CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) Award. This award is conferred annually in support of junior faculty who excel in the role of teacher-scholars by integrating outstanding research programs with excellent educational programs. Receipt of this award also reflects great promise for a lifetime of leadership within the recipients’ respective fields.

Bradlyn is a theoretical condensed matter physicist whose work studying the novel quantum properties inherent in topological insulators and topological semimetals has already shed new light on these extraordinary systems. Among his contributions, he developed a real-space formulation of topological band theory, allowing for the prediction of many new topological insulators and semimetals.