Top prize for quantum physicist

A University of Nottingham physicist has won a prestigious medal from the Institute of Physics for his world-leading research in the world of quantum matter.

Professor Igor Lesanovsky has been awarded the Maxwell Medal and Prize which is an early career award for outstanding contributions to theoretical, mathematical or computational physics.

The Institute of Physics (IoP) is a leading global scientific society which supports physics education and research. Announcing the award, a statement from the Institute said:

“Igor Lesanovsky has made seminal contributions in atomic physics and quantum theory, with an outstanding breadth of expertise, covering quantum optics, quantum information, condensed matter theory, and cold atom physics. The body of his work on highly excited atoms — so-called Rydberg atoms — is comprehensive, ranging from novel ideas of trapping and manipulating them, to analysing their peculiar long-range interactions and exploiting them for quantum logic operations, to investigations of quantum many-body and far from equilibrium physics. The innovative character of his work has substantially promoted the field of ultracold Rydberg gases and has led to breakthrough experimental results at the forefront of atomic physics.

“A particularly impressive aspect of Lesanovsky’s theoretical work, is that it is always directly relevant to real systems and experiments. This is reflected in his extremely fruitful collaborations with a variety of experimentalists, which span experiments on interacting Rydberg gases, strongly-confined atomic systems and on ultracold atom based magnetic sensors. During his PhD work, together with experimental colleagues he developed a novel technique for shaping atom traps based on radio- and microwave fields. This technique has become a major tool in cold atom physics and atom interferometry, used in the leading laboratories around the world.”

Reacting to his award, Professor Lesanovsky said: “I am delighted to receive this prestigious medal and prize. I would like to express my gratitude to the numerous colleagues and friends who guided me and collaborated with me during the past 10 years. Only their support and encouragement has made it possible to create the body of work this award recognises. In particular I want to thank my collaborators at The University of Nottingham. It is very pleasing to see that we have created an internationally competitive environment for fundamental theoretical research into the equilibrium and non-equilibrium properties of quantum matter.

“One of our plans for the immediate future concerns the study of soft-matter phenomena such as glassiness in strongly interacting atomic gases. Our goal is to develop a detailed understanding of the role of quantum effects in the dynamics of metastable and slowly relaxing states of matter. Due to the very nature of fundamental research predictions on practical applications of its results can only remain very speculative. One hope is that they might lead to the understanding and design of novel materials.”

Professor Richard Bowtell, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Igor Lesanovsky has quickly become a fulcrum for research in the School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Nottingham, attracting many talented PhD students and postdocs, and diversifying into areas beyond atomic physics, such as quantum non-equilibrium and thermalisation of many-body systems.”

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