Chi Yan "Jeffrey" Teo / Physics

A central theme of condensed matter physics is the study of systems with emergent collective degrees of freedom that can behave very differently from the microscopic individual constituents from which they arise. For example, electrons in solids can have an effective mass that is dramatically heavier or lighter than free electrons in vacuum because of collective interactions within the material. These emergent collective behaviors in electronic systems bring tons of technological implications in semiconductors and superconductors. Quantum mechanics provides a further twist to conventional electronic theory. Due to strong correlation effects, the condensed matter system can be spatially entangled to an extent where its emergent particles behave so exotically that they are impossible to be realized by conventional fundamental particles. For example, an excitation in a fractional quantum Hall state can carry a fraction of an electric charge, but at a fundamental level these particles manifest from integrally charged electrons.

I propose to organize a theory research club of a small group of senior or junior undergraduate students.

The objective is to introduce students to the most recent development of condensed matter physics and applications to electronic systems. Students will get an experience as young researchers and scientists.

They will learn valuable tools and skills other than academic knowledge that will help them in their future careers. These will include literature review, which will train them in searching existing information and critical thinking, and journal presentation, which will practice their communication and writing skills.

The proposed activities will span the academic year of 2016-17. They will mainly consist of weekly research group meetings. I have been organizing research meetings among my graduate students for the past couple of years with great success. They are separated into journal presentation sessions, where students present a collection of articles around a particular research topic, and research presentation sessions, where students describe their ongoing research progress. I plan to either incorporate the undergraduate students participating in the Mead Endowment program in these existing meetings or setup a new separate research club just for the undergraduates. This will depend on the academic level of the participants.

During the fall semester, I will focus on bring the students up to date with a collection of current theory research topics in topological phases of condensed matter. This will be achieved by assigning them with existing review journals and asking them to present their own understanding during the weekly meetings. I will provide students with personal guidance by regularly meeting with them personally and making sure that they are on track. The research club will switch gear to addressing open research problems in the spring semester after the students have developed a basic background. The ultimate goal of the program is for students to prepare and if possible publish a journal article by the end of the academic year. This goal is ambitious and may not necessarily be achievable as it depends heavily on the students' determination and interest. Nevertheless I am sure students will earn valuable scientific research experience as well as life experience in general while moving towards this goal. I plan to bring 2-3 students to next year's American Physics Society March Meeting where they can present their work in the form of contributed talks or poster presentations. The program will conclude with a final report from each participant.

Proposed budget:

  • Accommodations, travel and registration for 2-3 students to attend
  • American Physics Society March 2017 Meeting: $2,500
  • Support for 1-2 students to attend summer physics program $ 500

TOTAL $3,000