UNT Physics Assistant Professor Dr. Yuanxi Wang Receives NSF Career Award | College of Science
May 15, 2024

UNT Physics Assistant Professor Dr. Yuanxi Wang Receives NSF Career Award

Three University of North Texas assistant professors in the College of Engineering and College of Science have earned more than $1.8 million in total grants through the U.S. National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Program.

The NSF CAREER award is the most prestigious recognition for early career research faculty. It is granted to selected tenured-track faculty who haven't earned tenure and whose scholarly products have a high impact in their discipline and/or on society. Including its most recent honorees, UNT has 25 researchers who have earned NSF CAREER awards over the years.

The most recent recipients include Dr. Yuan Li (physics), Dr. Xiao Li (materials science and engineering) and Dr. Yuanxi Wang (physics). Over the next five years, they will use their grants to tackle research in areas ranging from unlocking new possibilities with liquid crystals to template nucleation and growth of inorganic species; furthering the understanding of supermassive black holes and investigating molecular defects in solid materials for quantum devices.

Dr. Yuanxi Wang of UNT Physics received a $545,391 grant with his CAREER Award. Dr. Wang, who studies computational materials theory for 2D layered nanomaterials, will develop computer algorithms to identify defects in solid materials with physical properties suitable for quantum devices, which includes a range of technologies from quantum computers to magnetic field sensors.

Dr. Wang will focus his research on two properties related to how atomic vibrations affect light absorption and how quickly defect spins can change states following light absorption. He'll then work with external research collaborators to put his computations on the defects into practice by realizing them in experimental labs and deriving more complex defects. "Once you understand simple defects as fundamental building blocks, you can more controllably combine them into more complex structures, making the design of defects more efficient," Dr. Wang says. "We hope our research can accelerate technological innovation by broadening the design space and delivering rational design rules for quantum devices."

By designing a workshop dedicated to scientific paper reading comprehension, Dr. Wang hopes to better prepare students from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at UNT to take an active role early in their summer research experiences. Wang is experimenting with using virtual reality as well to immerse the public into his research. "You can go to a planetarium to experience the massiveness of the solar system, but you rarely get that same immersive experience for nanosystems," Dr. Wang says. "It's usually hard for people to wrap their head around what we model, but I hope through VR we can change that and allow people to step inside a crystal structure and see atoms and defects up close."

Read the full story via UNT Research & Innovation