Materials Physics of Electrons in Quantum Matter

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, (3) analyzing the nature of magnetism in crystalline Li2IrO3, a “quantum-spin liquid” material, and (4) examining the effects of disorder on phase-change materials for neuromorphic computing (in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University). Typical projects in the lab require more than one academic semester or summer of active work.

NOTE: At this time, only remote-compatible projects in the summer are available. Due to the exceptional challenge of remote open-ended research, you should EMAIL THE PI (Nicholas Breznay) to indicate your specific project interest(s), qualifications, and availability.

No essay is required.

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, bridging the fields of physics, materials science, chemistry, and engineering! You are committed to ask questions and build conceptual models for the mini-universes of crystalline and disordered materials, and to systematically record and clearly communicate this work and your understanding. Our goal will be to present new-found understanding in the form of 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.

Helpful coursework includes (but not requirements): Ph24, Ph50, Ph51, Ph52, Ph54, CS 5, CS60, CS70, E79, E86.

Time commitment
Summer - Full Time
Paid Research
Number of openings
Contact Information:
Mentor name
Nicholas Breznay
Mentor email
Mentor position
Principal Investigator
Name of project director or principal investigator
Nicholas Breznay
Email address of project director or principal investigator
2 sp. | 16 appl.
Hours per week
Summer - Full Time
Project categories
Condensed Matter Physics (+2)
PhysicsCondensed Matter PhysicsMaterials Science