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Department of Physics

News & Events

Thomas Mion awarded the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship

April 3, 2014 -

Congratulations to Thomas Mion, a graduate student in the Department of Physics, who was awarded the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions. As a NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Thomas will receive three years of support, a $32,000 annual stipend, a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for their institution, and international research and professional development opportunities.

Mapping a Mott Insulator

March 13, 2014 -

A team of BC physicists led by Assistant Professor Stephen D. Wilson has mapped the inner atomic workings of a compound within the mysterious class of materials known as spin-orbit Mott insulators, an advance that could lead to discoveries in superconductivity, the topological phases of matter and new forms of magnetism, the researchers report in Nature Communications. BC News Release | PhysOrg, Science Daily, Science Codex,

Vidya Madhavan promoted to Full Professor

March 10, 2014 -

The Department of Physics is pleased to announce the promotion of Dr. Vidya Madhavan to Professor of Physics. Professor Madhavan’s research interests include scanning tunneling spectroscopy of topological insulators and complex oxides.

Please join us in congratulating Professor Madhavan.

Seventeen undergraduate Physics majors inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma

February 13, 2014 -

The Department of Physics is thrilled to announce the induction of seventeen undergraduate Physics majors into Sigma Pi Sigma, this Spring. Sigma Pi Sigma exists to honor outstanding scholarship in physics; to encourage interest in physics among students at all levels; to promote an attitude of service of its members towards their fellow students, colleagues, and the public; to provide a fellowship of persons who have excelled in physics. Sigma Pi Sigma’s mission is not completed in the induction ceremony with the recognition of academic accomplishment. In the four dimensions of Honor, Encouragement, Service, and Fellowship, the mission of Sigma Pi Sigma takes a longer view.Founded in 1921, Sigma Pi Sigma is a member honor society of the Association of College Honor Societies. The society has 75,000 historical members. Election to Sigma Pi Sigma is a lifetime membership.

The seventeen students are: Andrew Boyce ’16 (Major: Physics), James Brogan ’16 (Major: Chemistry/Physics), Michael Cambria ’15 (Major: Physics), Brian Choi ’14 (Major: Mathematics, Minor: Physics), Michelle Cunningham ’14 (Major: Physics, Minor: Hispanic Studies), Peter Czajka ’16 (Major: Physics), David DePalma ’14 (Major: Physics, Minor: Mathematics), William Flaherty ’16 (Major: Economics / Physics, Minor: Mathematics), Linden Hayes ’15 (Major: Physics / Hispanic Studies), Masrur Khan ’14 (Major: Physics), Joseph Liguori ’15 (Major: Mathematics / Physics), Abigail Kopec ’16 (Major: Physics), Nicholas Martis ’14 (Major: Physics / Philosophy), Ryan Polischuk ’15 (Major: Physics / Mathematics), Laura Simko ’15 (Major: Physics), Michelle Solomon ’15 (Major: Physics), Erin Sutton ’16 (Major: Physics, Minor: Computer Science / Mathematics)

Asst. Prof. Kenneth Burch joins BC Physics

January 28, 2014 -

Asst. Prof. Kenneth Burch joined the department in December 2013, coming from the Departments of Physics and Material Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto. Dr. Burch's research is in experimental condensed matter physics, with emphasis on superconductivity, topology, and energy, as well as devising new methods to create and explore novel states of matter. He is developing new techniques for exploring the nanoscale, where the physical properties of a material can be directly engineered. Professor Burch aims to better understand and manipulate the fundamental properties of materials so that they can be used for practical applications. Through a variety of spectroscopic probes (infrared, Raman and tunneling), he seeks to improve our understanding of the subtle interplay between physical mechanisms in materials. Before Toronto, Dr. Burch was a Director’s Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California - San Diego, during which time he received the 2006 Outstanding Dissertation in Magnetism Award from the American Physical Society (APS). More recently, his work on the fabrication and study of novel materials on the nanoscale using mechanical exfoliation resulted in his being awarded the 2012 Lee-Osheroff-Richardson Prize, named in honor of the recipients of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of superfluid 3He. His work has resulted in numerous publications and citations in top journals of the APS and Nature Publishing Group, among others.

Please join us in welcoming Ken to BC!

2013-2014 GMAG PhD Dissertation Research Award

December 4, 2013 -

Congratulations to Chetan Dhital, a Ph.D. student working with Professor Stephen Wilson, who was awarded the 2013-2014 GMAG PhD Dissertation Research Award from the American Physical Society (APS). This prestigious award is given annually to a maximum of two students who have conducted outstanding dissertation research in the field of magnetism. The award includes a $500 cash prize and an invited talk at the APS March Meeting, which is in Denver in 2014.

Chetan's dissertation work focused on studying magnetic behavior in two different classes of intermediate bandwidth quantum materials. The first is a series of iridium oxide compounds with novel electronic behavior driven by the interplay of spin-orbit coupling and electron-electron correlation effects, and the second class is the new class of iron-based high temperature superconductors. The results of Chetan's research have been published in the APS journals Physical Review Letters and Physical Review B

Discovery in a new class of materials called topological crystalline insulators.

August 30, 2013 -

An international team of scientists led by BC Physics Assoc. Prof. Vidya Madhavan and including Asst. Prof. Stephen Wilson have reported the discovery of coexisting massless and massive "Dirac Fermions" in a new class of materials called topological crystalline insulators. This work will be published in Science and was released in the Aug 29th edition of the advanced online publication 'Science Express' ( The findings are also described at Former post-doctoral associate Dr. Yoshinori Okada was the lead experimentalist in this work along with BC physics graduate students Daniel Walkup, Wenwen Zhou and Chetan Dhital.

Professor Kalman elected to membership in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

August 26, 2013 -

69 highly acknowledged researchers, 31 full, 18 external, and 20 honorary members have been elected to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at the triennial election held on the first day of the General Assembly in June 2013. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) is the principal scientific body of Hungary. Created by public law, it is committed to the “advancement, shaping and serving of science”. According to its Statutes “Eligible to become External Members are scholars and scientists living abroad… who cultivate their fields of science on a well-recognized, extremely high and creative level, and maintain close relations with science and scholarship in Hungary.”

Professor Gabor J. Kalman, Distinguished Research Professor of the Physics Department at Boston College has been inducted as a newly elected External Member. His special fields are listed as many particle physics, plasma physics, strongly coupled Coulomb systems, relativistic many body systems, complex plasmas.

According to the citations  “He has developed a unique approach for the analysis of charged particle systems in the liquid state (Quasilocalized Charge Approximation, QLCA), which was applied to demonstrate that an optic mode develops in charged bilayer liquids. His name is associated with the development of quadratic response functions, the description of the role of impurity ions in plasma and the study of various instabilities.”

Prior to their election the new Members had received the required 50% majority of votes of their respective scientific sections. The Academy currently has 193 External Members from all disciplines of science.

First National Science Foundation CAREER Workshop

July 18, 2013 -

Associate Professor Vidya Madhavan was the recipient of a grant from the National Science Foundation this spring, which was used to organize and co-chair the first NSF CAREER workshop (Faculty Early Career Development). The primary objective of the workshop was to assist CAREER awardees in continuing their path to research leadership in their fields. A report of the event is available at:

New Insight into Thermal Transport

July 9, 2013 -

Professor David Broido and collaborators have predicted that an unlikely material, cubic boron arsenide, should have an extraordinarily high thermal conductivity on par with that of diamond, long known to be the best conductor of heat. The finding gives new insight into the nature of thermal transport and may open new opportunities for passive cooling of microelectronics. The paper, "First-Principles Determination of Ultrahigh Thermal Conductivity of Boron Arsenide: A Competitor for Diamond?", was featured as an Editor’s Suggestion in the journal Physical Review Letters It has also been featured in a Viewpoint article by the American Physical Society as well as an article on AAAS EurekAlert.