DOE Early Career Award for James McIver

MPSD research group leader James McIver, who is also an Assistant Professor of Physics at Columbia University in New York, has been awarded the prestigious Early Career Award by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). His group Ultrafast Transport in Quantum Materials investigates the high-frequency electrical properties of novel materials when driven out of equilibrium by strong terahertz laser pulses.

McIver is one of 93 researchers selected by the DOE for this highly sought-after award. His proposed research project, Ultrafast Control of Topological Transport in Quantum Materials, sets out to use ultrafast light-matter interaction to manipulate the topological character of materials. The results may reveal anomalous electrical behavior that could form the foundation of next-generation, energy efficient quantum technologies.

He is delighted that scientific experts and the program managers found the proposal exciting and promising in their peer review process: “This is an incredibly competitive award. Receiving it is a huge honor, and affirmation that the research undertaken in my group, and more broadly in the Max Planck—New York City Center, is at the frontier of modern physics. It's a very exciting time to be in this field.”

The McIver group is currently based at both the MPSD and Columbia University as part of the Max Planck—New York City for Nonequilibrium Quantum Phenomena, which was set up in 2019 as a partnership between the Max Planck Society, Columbia University and the Flatiron Institute. Its scientists are at the forefront of quantum materials research, with the central aim of tuning the properties of solids driven out of equilibrium by external stimuli, where quantum effects that have no equilibrium counterpart can emerge. Harnessing such phenomena could lead to applications in quantum computing, sensing and cryptography, and a wide range of other technologies. Nearly 100 publications have appeared with the support of the Center so far, including several highly cited papers.

The scientific discoveries that formed the foundation of McIver’s proposed research program could not have been made without the support of the Center. “The cross-institutional research infrastructure enabled critical elements of the devices used to capture the physics to be developed at Columbia, and measured using the highly specialized laser beam lines at the MPSD,” said McIver. “It’s an ideal collaboration.”

The DOE Early Career Award is intended to boost researchers in the early stages of their scientific journey. Announcing this year’s award, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said the funding would give “the recipients the resources to find the answers to some of the most complex questions as they establish themselves as experts in their fields.” 

James McIver received his Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard University in 2014, after completing a B.S. in Physics from Johns Hopkins University. He then joined the MPSD as a Humboldt postdoctoral fellow. In 2020, he was appointed as an independent Max Planck research group leader as part of the Max Planck—NYC Center for Nonequilibrium Quantum Phenomena. In 2022, he was appointed as an Assistant Professor of Physics at Columbia University.

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