Barry Bradlyn

Assistant Professor


Barry Bradlyn

Primary Research Area

  • Condensed Matter Physics
2129 Engineering Sciences Building


Professor Bradlyn received his bachelor's degree in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009. He went on to receive his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2015, under the supervision of Nicholas Read. His thesis research focused on linear response and Berry phases in the fractional quantum Hall effect. His primary contributions was the development of a formalism for computing the viscoelastic and thermal response functions for two dimensional Topological phases.

From 2015 to 2018, Professor Bradlyn held a postdoctoral research position at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science, where he studied the role of crystal symmetries in topological insulators and semimetals. He predicted the existence of topologically charged, multiply degenerate fermions in weakly interacting crystals with no known analogue in high energy physics. Additionally, he developed a real-space formulation of topological band theory, allowing for the prediction of many new topological insulators and semimetals.

Professor Bradlyn joined the physics department at the University of Illinois in 2018.

Research Interests

  • symmetry protected topological semimetals
  • geometric response in condensed matter
  • the quantum Hall effect
  • topological insulators

Research Statement

One of the most exciting developments in condensed matter physics over the last thirty years has been the discovery of topological phases of matter. Under the broadest possible definition, a system is in a topological phase if there is a gap in its bulk spectrum. Of course, such a definition describes any ordinary thermal or electrical insulator. The key theoretical breakthrough was the realization that not all insulators are created equal. In fact, given a model for an insulating system, there exist certain numerical invariants - topological quantum numbers - that we can compute in order to distinguish between different possible topological phases. These invariants vanish for most ordinary insulators (strictly speaking, they take the same values as in the vacuum) - they are "topologically trivial". The distinguishing feature of such topological invariants is that they depend on the global structure of the system under consideration; topological phases are not locally ordered like magnets or solids. Consequently, systems in nontrivial topological phases are host to a wide range of exotic phenomena, from quantized transport coefficients to fractional bulk excitations that harbor the potential to allow for fault tolerant quantum computation.

Since this initial discovery, the influence of topology has spread across all areas of condensed matter physics. It is this--in addition to individual realizations of topological phases--that is in my opinion the biggest boon of this new paradigm. Topology now stands alongside abstract algebra (as it pertains, for instance, to symmetry groups) as one of our main tools for exploring quantum phenomena in solids and liquids. Broadly speaking, the goal of my research is to marry ideas from these two areas in order to study new phenomena in condensed matter. Currently, I am focusing on the following main topics:

1. Viscous and optical response of topological insulators and semimetals

2. Magnetic topological materials

3. Crystal symmetry protected topological phenomena


  • NSF CAREER Award (June 2020)
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow (February 2020)
  • McMillan Award (August 2019)
  • Facebook Content Policy Research on Social Media Platforms Research Award (May 2019)

Semesters Ranked Excellent Teacher by Students

Fall 2019PHYS 212

Selected Articles in Journals

Related 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.

  • 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.

  • Accolades
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Two University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign scientists are among 126 recipients of the 2020 Sloan Research Fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This honor is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards available to early career researchers. 

This year’s Illinois recipients are physics professor Barry Bradlyn and electrical and computer engineering professor Zhizhen Zhao.

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics

An international team of scientists has discovered an exotic new form of topological state in a large class of 3D semi-metallic crystals called Dirac semimetals. The researchers developed extensive mathematical machinery to bridge the gap between theoretical models with forms of “higher-order” topology (topology that manifests only at the boundary of a boundary) and the physical behavior of electrons in real materials.