Explaining the Electrical Properties of Quantum Materials

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; 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.

Name of research group, project, or lab
Quantum Materials Laboratory
Why join this research group or lab?

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.

Logistics Information:
Project categories
Condensed Matter Physics
Materials Science
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

This research is accessible to ALL academic levels, including first year students - but most projects take more than just a summer or semester. There are no mandatory skills or background required to work in the group - some projects require in-lab work, others computational/theoretical study, and all will require learning new skills "on the job". A typical commitment is one afternoon / week in the lab for one unit of academic course credit, or full-time in the summer. Helpful lower-division coursework includes: Ph24, Ph50, Ph51, Ph52, Ph54, CS 5, CS60, CS70, E79, E86.

Time commitment
Spring - Part Time
Summer - Full Time
Summer - Part Time
Academic Credit
Paid Research
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Depends on the project - see the "Why Join This Research Group" for more information!

Contact Information:
Nicholas Breznay
Principal Investigator
Name of project director or principal investigator
Nicholas Breznay
Email address of project director or principal investigator
2 sp. | 14 appl.
Hours per week
Spring - Part Time (+2)
Spring - Part TimeSummer - Full TimeSummer - Part Time
Project categories
Materials Science (+2)
PhysicsCondensed Matter PhysicsMaterials Science