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JQI Culture: Synergies and Opportunities

JQI's Roman Lutchyn, Pavel Nagornykh, and Benjamin Lee

From left to right, JQI Postdoctoral Fellow Roman Lutchyn, JQI Graduate Assistant Pavel Nagornykh, and Student Researcher Benjamin Lee.

JQI’s distinctive commitment to integrating research and education courages multiple collaborations and flexible interactions among faculty, postdocs and students.

The past few months have produced ample evidence that the policy is paying off.

For example, Roman Lutchyn, JQI’s Postdoctoral Fellow, arrived in August 2007 and was soon working -- in parallel -- with both Sankar Das Sarma and Victor Yakovenko.

The results so far include two papers on very different subjects:

“How to Suppress Noise Induced Quantum Decoherence in superconducting Qubits,” L. Cywinski, R.M. Lutchyn, C.P. Nave, S. Das Sarma. arXiv:0712.2225, and “Gauge- Invariant electromagnetic response of a chiral p_x+ip_y superconductor,” R.M. Lutchyn, P. Nagornykh, V.M. Yakovenko. arXiv:0801.4175 Lutchyn, a native of the Ukraine who earned his PhD at the University of Minnesota, finds the JQI environment highly stimulating. The number and variety of seminars available through JQI, NIST, LPS and the University of Maryland’s Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials, “make this place special,” he says.

In addition, Lutchyn values the fact that he can confer with as many as 20 other postdocs. Elsewhere, “it wouldn’t be more than five or so,” he says. “It’s a very dynamic environment.”

Pavel Nagornyk agrees. JQI’s Graduate Assistant came from Russia’s Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in mid-2006. Since then, he has had a remarkably varied experience. He began by working with Victor Galitski, resulting in “Expansion of a mesoscopic Fermi system from a harmonic trap,” P. Nagornykh, V. Galitski Phys. Rev. A 75, 065601 (2007) arXiv:cond-mat/0612376.

In mid-2007, Nagornykh worked with Victor Yakovenko and the newly arrived Lutchyn -- an effort that produced “Gauge-invariant electromagnetic response of a chiral p_x+ip_y superconductor,” R.M. Lutchyn, P. Nagornykh, V.M. Yakovenko. Submitted to Phys. Rev. B . arXiv:0801.4175.

Nagonykh then moved to experimental work with Bruce Kane at LPS, investigating the behavior of silicon impurities in electric and magnetic fields.

Nagornykh relishes the opportunity to work with (so far) three different JQI Fellows. The terms of his assistantship are such that “I am not fixed to just one single advisor,” he says. “The more the better.”

But perhaps the most extraordinary example of JQI’s emphasis on novel collaborations is the case of Benjamin Lee.

Lee is a 17-year-old senior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD -- a school widely known for its high-quality mathematics and science “magnet” program.

“I am a captain of Blair’s Math and Physics Teams, and I took physics electives offered by the Blair Magnet Program, including Quantum Physics and Thermodynamics, in my junior year.,” Lee says.

“I found and contacted Dr. Das Sarma through the University of Maryland Physics Department as part of my senior research project at Blair, since I was interested in doing theoretical quantum physics.”

He had come to the right place. Some months later, Lee found himself as one of three co-authors on a paper that will appear in Physical Review Letters: “Model independent optimal pulse sequences to minimize spin dephasing in the central spin decoherence problem,.”

Along with Das Sarma, the other author is Wayne Witzel of UMD’s Condensed Matter Theory Center and the Naval Research Laboratory.

“My work with the Condensed Matter Theory Center was my first time interning and doing research and was also my first time as a co-author (or author) on a journal article, “ Lee says.

“So it has been very enlightening and exciting, giving me first-hand experience in a research environment. “

What’s next for Lee? “I have already been accepted into the University of Maryland, Caltech, University of Chicago, and MIT, but I haven’t made a final decision on which college to attend yet.”