Our lab investigates how electrons behave in solids — such as crystals, glasses, metals, superconductors, van-der-Waals (2D) materials, spin-liquid magnets, charge-ordered oxides and amorphous Anderson insulators — and the fundamental physical processes that generate them. Using both experimental and computational / numerical projects, we develop models for and new physical insight into the “baby universes” of solid materials!
In the lab, we synthesize and study materials grown using a range of techniques, from scotch-tape exfoliation to atomic force microscopy and collaborations with world-class crystal growers, and then measure and model structural and electrical properties. We are looking for breakdowns in standard pictures (like Ohm’s law for electrical resistivity) that occur when quantum mechanics takes over, often in extreme conditions of reduced dimensions, low temperatures, intense magnetic fields, and high pressures.
Active and ongoing projects in the lab include (1) exfoliation and microscopic characterization of 2D “Van der Waals” materials like graphene, (2) measurement and microscopic modeling of the electrical conductivity and Hall effect in inhomogeneous systems, and (3) examining the effects of disorder on phase-change materials for neuromorphic computing (in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University). Most projects in the lab require more than one academic semester or summer of active work.
Note: Be sure to complete the remainder of the application, but no essay is required. Instead, you should EMAIL THE PI (Nicholas Breznay) to indicate any specific project interest(s), find out how to “sit in” on a weekly group meeting, and come by our lab during "working hours" if you can. Summer projects are not "self-contained", and students typically begin work (for credit) during the spring semester and continue the next fall and beyond.
You are excited to explore and understand how the physics and STEM concepts you learned in the classroom can be used to explain the “social structures” of electrons in solid materials. You are drawn to work on projects that are naturally collaborative and interdisciplinary, bridging the fields of physics, materials science, chemistry, and engineering! You are committed to ask questions and build your own conceptual models for the mini-universes of crystalline and disordered materials, and to systematically record and clearly communicate this work and your understanding. You are ready to work with advanced instruments, develop new procedures, read primary literature reports, document your work, and participate fully with the group in a safe and thoughtful manner. You are excited to present new-found understanding in the form of group meeting presentations and journal clubs, and to work towards communicating results with posters and conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications, and public outreach.