Brian DeMarco named University Scholar

Siv Schwink
9/11/2018

Professor of Physics and Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs Brian DeMarco poses in his research lab at the Loomis Laboratory of Physics in Urbana. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Professor of Physics and Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs Brian DeMarco poses in his research lab at the Loomis Laboratory of Physics in Urbana. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Professor and Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs Brian DeMarco has been named a University Scholar by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The award recognizes faculty who have made significant contributions in their fields of research and teaching, in line with the university’s reputation for leading-edge innovation and excellence. DeMarco is among 5 faculty members on the Urbana campus to be named to this honor in this selection round.

"Exceptional faculty are at the very core of the University of Illinois’ standing as a global leader in education and innovation," said Barbara Wilson, the executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for the U. of I. System. "The University Scholars program honors the best of the best, and showcases the leading-edge scholarship and teaching that help transform students’ lives and drive progress for our state and nation."

Professor DeMarco is an experimental physicist who works at the intersection of atomic, molecular, and optical physics and condensed matter physics. His research group at the Loomis Laboratory of Physics is using quantum simulation—experiments that involve ultracold atoms trapped in optical lattices that simulate models of strongly correlated electronic solids—to solve outstanding problems in condensed matter physics. His 1999 experiment that resulted in a degenerate Fermi gas launched a new frontier in atomic, molecular, and optical physics. DeMarco's research has been highlighted on the NSF LiveScience and Discoveries websites.

DeMarco is the recipient of numerous honors, most notably an NSF CAREER Award, an ONR Young Investigator Award, and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship. He has demonstrated a strong commitment of service to the scientific community: he serves on the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) and the National Academy of Science Intelligence Science and Technology Experts Group (ISTEG). He is currently Chair of the NASA Fundamental Physical Sciences Standing Review Board and was in the 2016-2017 class of the Defense Sciences Study Group.

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. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2001. He joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 2003, following a postdoc at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, CO.

The 2018 University Scholars will be honored at a ceremony taking place September 13, 2018 at the iHotel and Conference Center in Champaign. University Scholars receive an annual stipend for three years to be applied toward university-related teaching or research costs.

The Department of Physics is well represented on the list of prior recipients of this honor. Since it was first conferred in 1985, there have been 17 physics faculty members who were named University Scholars, including Peter Abbamonte(2014), Kevin Pitts (2013), Taekjip Ha (2009), Paul Selvin (2006), Philip Phillips (2003), Douglas Beck (2001), David Hertzog (2000), Anthony Liss, (1999), Dale Van Harlingen (1998), Paul Goldbart (1996), Klaus Schulten (1996), Donald Ginsberg (1994), Steven Errede (1991), Miles Klein (1989), Stephen Wolfram (1988), Gordon Baym (1987), and Ralph Simmons (1986).

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Based at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the Chicago Quantum Exchange is anchored by the University of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (both operated for DOE by the University of Chicago), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and includes the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University.

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Oscar Rodrigo Araiza Bravo, a 2014 MHS graduate, recently was granted a full scholarship to Harvard University to earn a PhD in physics. He graduated with a straight A average from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign with degrees in mathematics and engineering physics.

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The surge in home runs “seems, instead, to have arisen from a decrease in the ball’s drag properties, which cause it to carry further than previously, given the same set of initial conditions – exit velocity, launch and spray angle, and spin. So, there is indirect evidence that the ball has changed, but we don’t yet know how,” wrote Leonard Mlodinow, in the report’s eight-page executive summary.