Brian Leeds DeMarco

Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs


Brian Leeds DeMarco

Primary Research Area

  • AMO / Quantum Physics
229 Loomis Laboratory
329 Loomis Laboratory


Professor Brian 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. As an undergraduate researcher, he worked on calibrating and developing neutron detectors for laser driven inertial confinement fusion experiments at the Lab for Laser Energetics.

He earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2001), where he extended magnetic trapping and evaporative cooling techniques to create the first quantum degenerate Fermi gas of atoms. This achievement merited Science magazine's imprimatur as one of the top ten scientific discoveries of 1999 and earned DeMarco the first JILA Scientific Achievement Award. In 2002, he received the American Physical Society's Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics Thesis Award.

From 2001-2003, he was a National Research Council postdoctoral research fellow, working with David Wineland at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Boulder) on quantum computing experiments with trapped atomic ions. DeMarco's work with the Ion Storage Group focused on developing improved quantum logic elements and "scaling-up" the complexity of quantum information processing tasks with trapped ions.

Professor DeMarco joined the Department of Physics at Illinois in August 2003. In October 2005, he was among 18 young physics researchers selected as finalists in a global competition to participate in Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery, an international symposium focused on exploring and advancing innovative research in physics and astronomy inspired by, and honoring the leadership and vision of, Charles Townes, winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics. The symposium brought together renowned scholars and researchers, including 20 Nobel laureates, to explore the extraordinary challenges of 21st Century physics and cosmology. DeMarco won first place in the Quantum Physics category for his research aimed at realizing quantum simulation using atoms trapped in an optical lattice.

Prof. DeMarco is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award, ONR Young Investigator award, and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship.

Prof. DeMarco has served on the DAMOP Executive Committee, the review panel for NRC postdoctoral fellowships, the National Research Council Committee on AMO Science (CAMOS), the APS March Meeting and DAMOP program committee, and the APS DAMOP Thesis Prize committee. He currently serves on the APS Davisson-Germer Prize Committee, the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA), and the National Academy of Science Intelligence Science and Technology Experts Group (ISTEG). Prof. DeMarco 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.

Research Statement

Prof. DeMarco's research program at the University of Illinois focuses on solving outstanding problems in condensed matter physics using ultra-cold atoms trapped in an optical lattice. This approach, of using one quantum system to emaluate another, is known as quantum simulation and was first proposed as a potentially revolutionary technique by Richard Feynmann. Current research problems being tackled by his team include the properties of the disordered Bose- and Fermi-Hubbard models, thermometry and cooling in strongly correlated lattice systems, and unique states of matter in spin-dependent optical lattices. DeMarco's group was the first identify the cross-over between quantum tunneling and thermal activation of phase slips in an optical lattice (published in Nature), the first to realize 3D Anderson localization of matter (published in Science), and the first to observe many-body localization. His group was also the first to trap atoms in a disordered optical lattice in a regime described by the disordered Bose-Hubbard and disordered Fermi-Hubabrd model.

DeMarco's research has been highlighted on the NSF LiveScience and Discoveries websites. One of his former Ph.D. students also has had a blog with Discover magazine.

Research Honors

  • American Physical Society Fellow, 2015
  • University of Illinois Willett Faculty Scholar Award, 2013
  • University of Illinois College of Engineering Excellence in Research Award, 2012
  • Vestal High School Hall of Fame Inductee, 2012
  • State University of New York at Geneseo Outstanding Young Alumnus Award, 2006
  • Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, 2006
  • 1st prize in Quantum Physics session at the Amazing Light Young Scholars Competition, 2005 ( )
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2005
  • Office of Naval Research Outstanding Young Investigator Award, 2004
  • Michelson Post-doctoral Lectureship Prize, Case Western Reserve University, 2003
  • Atomic, Molecular, or Optical Physics Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award (DAMOP thesis prize), American Physical Society, 2002
  • National Research Council (NRC) post-doctoral fellowship, 2001-2003
  • Science Magazine listed the article Onset of Fermi degeneracy in a trapped atomic gas among the Top Ten Scientific Breakthroughs of 1999

Semesters Ranked Excellent Teacher by Students

Fall 2016PHYS 496
Spring 2016PHYS 496
Fall 2015PHYS 499
Spring 2015PHYS 514
Fall 2014PHYS 485
Spring 2011PHYS 514
Spring 2010PHYS 485
Fall 2008PHYS 485
Fall 2006PHYS 140
Spring 2005PHYS 598
Fall 2004PHYS 102

Selected Articles in Journals

  • C. Meldgin, U. Ray, P. Russ, D. Ceperley, and B. DeMarco, Probing the Bose-glass--Superfluid Transition Using Quantum Quenches of Disorder, Nat. Phys 12, 646 (2016).
  •  S. S. Kondov, W. R. McGehee, W. Xu, and B. DeMarco, Disorder-induced Localization in a Strongly Correlated Atomic Hubbard Gas, Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 083002 (2015)
  • W. R. McGehee, S. S. Kondov, W. Xu, J. J. Zirbel, and B. DeMarco, Three-Dimensional Anderson Localization in Variable Scale Disorder, Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 145303 (2014)
  • D. C. McKay, C. Meldgin, D. Chen, and B. DeMarco, Slow Thermalization Between a Lattice and Free Bose Gas, Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 063002 (2013)
  • S. S. Kondov, W. R. McGehee, J.J. Zirbel, and B. DeMarco, Three-dimensional Localization of Ultracold Matter, Science 334, 66 (2011).
  • D. Chen, M. White, C. Borries, and B. DeMarco, Quantum Quench of an Atomic Mott insulator, Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 235304 (2011).
  • D. McKay and B. DeMarco, Cooling in strongly correlated optical lattices: prospects and challenges, Rep. Prog. Phys. 74, 0544401 (2011).
  • M. Pasienski, D. McKay, M. White, and B. DeMarco, A disordered insulator in an optical lattice, Nat. Phys. 6, 677 (2010).
  • D. McKay and B. DeMarco, Thermometry with spin-dependent lattices, New J. Phys. 12, 055013 (2010).
  • M. Pasienski and B. DeMarco, A high-accuracy algorithm for designing arbitrary holographic atom traps, Optics Express 16, 2176 (2008).
  • D. McKay, M. White, M. Pasienski, and B. DeMarco, Phase-slip induced dissipation in an atomic Bose-Hubbard system, Nature 453, 76 (2008).
  • D. Leibfried, B. DeMarco, V. Meyer, M. Rowe, A. Ben-Kish, J. Britton, W. M. Itano, B. Jelenkovic, C. Langer, T. Rosenband and D. J. Wineland, Experimental Demonstration of a Geometric Phase Gate, Nature 422, 412 (2003).
  • B. DeMarco and D.S. Jin, Onset of Fermi Degeneracy in a Trapped Atomic Gas, Science 285, 1703 (1999).

Related news

  • In the Media
  • Quantum Information Science
  • Quantum Computing

Quantum information science has been called the next technological “space race.” And the University of Illinois is positioning itself to be at the forefront of that race. In November, the U of I pledged $15 million for the formation of the Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (or IQUIST). Two of the leading experts in the field, Illinois physics professors Brian DeMarco and Paul Kwiat join the show to discuss its vast future applications. Both professors represented the University of Illinois at the first ever Chicago Quantum Summit in November. DeMarco was invited to the Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Information Science Summit at the White House last fall.

  • In the Media

As the chair of the NASA Fundamental Physical Sciences  Review Board, which has oversight responsibility for the recently launched Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), Professor Brian DeMarco plays a seminal role in the "Coolest Experiment in the Universe," taking place on the International Space Station. DeMarco is featured in the video released in conjunction with this press release. The ultra-cold-atom experiment will study a Bose-Einstein condensate in space to uncover a new understanding of its properties and interactions at a temperature barely above absolute zero.

  • 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.

  • Research
  • Quantum Information Science
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is making a $15 million investment in the emerging area of quantum information science and engineering, a field poised to revolutionize computing, communication, security, measurement and sensing by utilizing the unique and powerful capabilities of quantum mechanics.