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U of I Physicist Named Packard Fellow
Oct 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Oct. 19, 2010 — Benjamin Lev, physics professor at the University of Illinois, has been named a Packard Fellow in science and engineering. He is among 17 early career researchers honored by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation in 2010 for outstanding creative research.

Lev was recognized for his proposal to study exotic phases of matter, such as supersolid, superglass and superstripe phases. Since its inception in 1988, the Packard Fellowship Program has named 457 fellows, including 11 U. of I. faculty members. Each year, new fellows are chosen from nominations submitted by the presidents of 50 top universities.

“We are extremely pleased that the Packard Foundation has provided this national recognition of Benjamin's superb technical achievements and extraordinary promise,” said Dale J. Van Harlingen, the head of the physics department at Illinois. “He has become a very active player in our physics research portfolio in Urbana.”

As an expert in atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics, Lev explores quantum properties of correlated matter by manipulating dipole interactions in exotic atoms. His group demonstrated the first magneto-optical cooling and trapping of the highly magnetic element dysprosium.

Lev currently is pursuing three main areas of research — quantum liquid crystal physics, soft quantum matter and atom chip microscopy.

“His merger of experiment and theory from both AMO and condensed matter physics should contribute to important breakthroughs in our understanding of strongly correlated quantum matter, the development of new architectures for quantum computation, and the development of new ultrasensitive probes for magnetic- and electric-field imaging,” Van Harlingen said.

The Packard Fellowship Program supplies an unrestricted five-year, $875,000 award to support research of the recipient’s choosing. Lev will apply his award to develop a new experimental technique to generate, detect, and manipulate complex quantum matter — supersolids and superglasses — using emergent atom-light crystals.

Lev earned his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in 2005, then worked as a National Research Council postdoctorate fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder before joining the Illinois faculty in 2008.

The Packard Foundation is not the first to recognize Lev as one of the most promising young researchers in the US, as he also has been honored with a Faculty Early Career Development (Career) Award from the National Science Foundation and a Young Investigator Program Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

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