Spotlight on new faculty: Angela Kou, Condensed Matter

Jessica Raley for Illinois Physics
3/13/2020

Professor Angela Kou discusses device simulations with graduate student Lukas Splitthoff.
Professor Angela Kou discusses device simulations with graduate student Lukas Splitthoff.

Professor Angela Kou

Angela Kou is a new faculty member joining Illinois Physics and the Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST) in August 2020. Her work is at the interface between condensed matter physics and quantum information science, with a focus on topological materials. Angela works with these unique materials “both from the bottom up and from the top down.” That is, she is interested in “building new topological materials by coupling superconducting qubits to each other,” as well as in examining the characteristics of materials that have been theorized to have topological properties. Her work has implications for the future of quantum information, because she is discovering ways to create more robust qubits by limiting the impact of local noise, thus reducing information loss. Angela also plans to build a scanning tool to investigate the modes at the edges of topological materials, which will provide new insights about the nature of the materials themselves. Because her research relies on interdisciplinary collaborations with both theorists and experimentalists, the University of Illinois is the ideal home for Angela’s research program.

Angela will be seeking graduate and undergraduate researchers for Fall 2020. If you are interested in working in her lab, please contact her directly at akou@illinois.edu.

Recent News

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.