Kent State Physics Professor Receives NSF Grant to Research Novel States of Matter

Photo of Maxim DzeroMaxim Dzero, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics in Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has been granted $302,796 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his project titled “Spins and Knots: The Rise of Topology in F-Orbital Materials.” The focus of this project is to conduct theoretical research aimed at better understanding electron-electron interactions and how they can create novel states of matter.

Of particular interest to Dzero is finding new materials with topological properties, similar to topological insulators, which conduct electricity on the surface while the rest of the material acts as an insulator. These novel types of materials are difficult to produce, but have a variety of potential applications like high-speed computing and ultrasensitive magnetic devices.

The grant will allow Dzero to hire a postdoctoral researcher and financially support two graduate students who will be able to focus solely on research.

Dzero attributes his selection for this grant to its collaborative nature, including collaboration with Carmen Almasan, Ph.D., professor of physics at Kent State.

“Professor Almasan is doing research in experimental condensed matter physics, and for me, as a theorist, the collaboration with her is crucial in terms of generating new projects and new ideas,” Dzero said. “One of the research projects in my proposal concerns the formulation of the design principles to observe the topological superconductivity, so when I make a theoretical prediction, Professor Almasan’s group can almost immediately go and test it experimentally.”

As an educational component to this project, Dzero plans to redesign his existing undergraduate and graduate courses, including a popular course for freshmen called Seven Ideas That Shook the Universe, focusing more on active learning and peer discussion in order to improve student engagement.

In order to attract more physics majors and graduate students to condensed matter physics, Dzero will prepare engaging research plans for students. The plans will help the students grasp deeper conceptual issues underlying the problem at hand, get first-hand experience in cutting-edge research and develop their problem-solving skills.

For more information about Kent State’s Department of Physics, visit www.kent.edu/physics.

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Photo Caption:
Maxim Dzero, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics in Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has been granted $302,796 from the National Science Foundation for his project titled “Spins and Knots: The Rise of Topology in F-Orbital Materials.”

Media Contacts:
Jim Maxwell, jmaxwel2@kent.edu, 330-672-8028
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595