Nadya Mason elected APS Fellow

Siv Schwink
10/1/2018


Professor of Physics and Director of I-MRSEC Nadya Mason. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Professor of Physics and Director of I-MRSEC Nadya Mason. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Professor Nadya Mason has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) “for seminal contributions to the understanding of electronic transport in low dimensional conductors, mesoscopic superconducting systems, and topological quantum materials.”

Mason is an experimental condensed matter physicist who has earned a reputation for her deep-sighted and thorough lines of attack on the most pressing problems in strongly correlated nanoscale physics.

Early in her career, Mason developed innovative new methods to fabricate and control quantum dots in carbon nanotubes. She then turned her focus to the study of correlations in carbon nanotubes and graphene, where her studies opened up new areas of research, most significantly, the non-equilibrium Kondo effect demonstrated in 2006 and the determination of individual superconducting bound states in graphene-based systems in 2011.

More recently, Mason’s work has focused on electronic transport in graphene, nanostructured superconductors and semiconductors, and other novel 1D, 2D, and 3D systems. In 2013, in collaboration with colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Mason was among the first to measure superconducting surface states in topological insulators that were not confounded by interference from sample impurities. Most recently, with colleagues in the Department of Physics, the Materials Research Laboratory, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the U of I, she is the first to experimentally elucidate the origin of finite momentum Cooper pairing in 3D topological insulator Josephson junctions.

Mason serves her scientific community in several roles. She is the director of the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (I-MRSEC) on the Urbana campus. Funded by the National Science Foundation with additional support from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory, the center is dedicated to performing fundamental, innovative materials research with applications to societal needs and to supporting interdisciplinary education and training of students in materials design.

Mason is also a member of the 2018/19 class of the Defense Science Study Group, a program of education and study in national defense and security challenges directed by the non-profit Institute for Defense Analyses and sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

From 2014 through 2017, Mason served as a general councilor of the APS. Mason has long been an avid spokesperson for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the sciences and as such served as chair of the APS Committee on Minorities. She also served as one of the theme leaders for the DOE Basic Energy Sciences cluster on quantum materials and nanoarchitectures (2013).

Mason is the recipient of many recognitions. She is the John Bardeen Faculty Scholar in Physics at the U of I (2014–). She is also the recipient of the U. of I. College of Engineering Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research, the Maria Goeppert Mayer Award of the APS (2012), a Center for Advanced Study Fellowship (2011-2012), the Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award (2009), a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship (2008-2009), and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2007).

Mason received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University in 1995 and a doctorate in physics from Stanford University in 2001. She returned to Harvard for postdoctoral training, where she was elected junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. She joined the faculty at Illinois Physics in 2005.

Recent News

  • In the Media

A second solar farm planned in Savoy will put the University of Illinois in the lead among American universities in terms of solar energy, a top campus proponent says.

The campus is moving ahead with a 55-acre solar farm along the north side of Curtis Road, between First and Neil streets in Savoy, about a mile south of the first 21-acre farm on Windsor Road.

Physics Professor Scott Willenbrock, who recently served as a provost's fellow for sustainability, briefed the Academic Senate about the project Monday, saying it will help the campus meet its goal of generating 5 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources. That target was part of the Illinois Climate Action Plan, known as iCap.

  • Research
  • Biological Physics

A previously unappreciated interaction in the genome turns out to have possibly been one of the driving forces in the emergence of advanced life, billions of years ago.

This discovery began with a curiosity for retrotransposons, known as “jumping genes,” which are DNA sequences that copy and paste themselves within the genome, multiplying rapidly. Nearly half of the human genome is made up of retrotransposons, but bacteria hardly have them at all.

Nigel Goldenfeld, Swanlund Endowed Chair of Physics and leader of the Biocomplexity research theme at the IGB, and Thomas Kuhlman, a former physics professor at Illinois who is now at University of California, Riverside, wondered why this is.“We thought a really simple thing to try was to just take one (retrotransposon) out of my genome and put it into the bacteria just to see what would happen,” Kuhlman said. “And it turned out to be really quite interesting.”

  • Research
  • High Energy Physics
  • Particle Physics
The lead ion run is under way. On 8 November at 21:19, the four experiments at the Large Hadron Collider - ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb - recorded their first collisions of lead nuclei since 2015. For three weeks and a half, the world’s biggest accelerator will collide these nuclei, comprising 208 protons and neutrons, at an energy of 5.02 teraelectronvolts (TeV) for each colliding pair of nucleons (protons and neutrons). This will be the fourth run of this kind since the collider began operation. In 2013 and 2016, lead ions were collided with protons in the LHC.

Anne Sickles is co-convener of the ATLAS Heavy Ion Working Group, which will use these data.
  • Outreach
  • Quantum Information Science
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Quantum Computing

A two-day summit in Chicago taking place November 8 and 9 has brought together leading experts in quantum information science to advance U.S. efforts in what’s been called the next technological “space race”—and to position Illinois at the forefront of that race. The inaugural Chicago Quantum Summit, hosted by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, includes high-level representation from Microsoft, IBM, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently joined the Chicago Quantum Exchange as a core member, making it one of the largest quantum information science (QIS) collaborations in the world. The exchange was formed last year as an alliance between the University of Chicago and the two Illinois-based national laboratories, Argonne and Fermilab.

Representing the U of I at the summit are physics professors Brian DeMarco, Paul Kwiat, and Dale Van Harlingen, who are key players in the planned Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST) on the U of I campus. The U of I news bureau announced last week the university’s $15-million commitment to the new center, which will form a collaboration of physicists, engineers, and computer scientists to develop new algorithms, materials, and devices to advance QIS.