Nadya Mason named University Scholar

Siv Schwink for Illinois Physics

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Physics Professor Nadya Mason
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Physics Professor Nadya Mason
Physics Professor Nadya Mason has been selected a University Scholar by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The highest honor bestowed on faculty by the university, this 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. Mason is one of five 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, showcasing the phenomenal research and teaching that transform students’ lives and drive progress for our state and nation.”

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 a Fellow of the APS (2018). 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.

Begun in 1985, the University Scholars program recognizes faculty excellence on the three University of Illinois campuses and provides $15,000 to each scholar for each of three years to enhance his, her, or their academic career. The money may be used for travel, equipment, research assistants, books or other purposes.


Recent News

  • Research Funding

The United States Department of Energy awards $2.2 million to the FAIR Framework for Physics-Inspired Artificial Intelligence in High Energy Physics project, spearheaded by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation (CAII) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The primary focus of this project is to advance our understanding of the relationship between data and artificial intelligence (AI) models by exploring relationships among them through the development of FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) frameworks. Using High Energy Physics (HEP) as the science driver, this project will develop a FAIR framework to advance our understanding of AI, provide new insights to apply AI techniques, and provide an environment where novel approaches to AI can be explored.

This project is an interdisciplinary, multi-department, and multi-institutional effort led by Eliu Huerta, principal investigator, director of the CAII, senior research scientist at NCSA, and faculty in Physics, Astronomy, Computational Science and Engineering and the Illinois Center for Advanced Studies of the Universe at UIUC. Alongside Huerta are co-PIs from Illinois: Zhizhen Zhao, assistant professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Coordinated Science Laboratory; Mark Neubauer, professor of physics, member of Illinois Center for Advanced Studies of the Universe, and faculty affiliate in ECE, NCSA, and the CAII; Volodymyr Kindratenko, co-director of the CAII, senior research scientist at NCSA, and faculty at ECE and Computer Science; Daniel S. Katz, assistant director of Scientific Software and Applications at NCSA, faculty in ECE, CS, and School of Information Sciences. In addition, the team is joined by co-PIs Roger Rusack, professor of physics at the University of Minnesota; Philip Harris, assistant professor of physics at MIT; and Javier Duarte, assistant professor in physics at UC San Diego.

  • Research

This year, 31 research teams have been awarded a combined 5.87 million node hours on the Summit supercomputer, the OLCF’s 200 petaflop IBM AC922 system. The research performed through the ALCC program this year will range from the impact of jets on offshore wind farms to the structure and states of quantum materials to the behavior of plasma within fusion reactors—all computationally intensive scientific applications necessitating the power of a large-scale supercomputer like Summit.

  • In Memoriam

Jim was widely viewed as one of the best teachers in the Physics Department. He was frequently listed in the University’s roster of excellent instructors and won awards for his classroom skills. In 2012, he received the Arnold T. Nordsieck Physics Award for Teaching Excellence for his “patient, insightful, and inspiring physics teaching, one problem at a time, that encourages undergraduate students to take their understanding to a new level.”

  • Research

Now a team of theoretical physicists at the Institute for Condensed Matter Theory (ICMT) in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, led by Illinois Physics Professor Philip Phillips, has for the first time exactly solved a representative model of the cuprate problem, the 1992 Hatsugai-Kohmoto (HK) model of a doped Mott insulator.