Brookhaven’s Zhu Awarded MSA Award for Physical Sciences

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UPTON, N.Y., May 22, 2018 — The Microscopy Society of America (MSA) has selected Yimei Zhu, a senior physicist and leader of the Electron Microscopy and Nanostructure Group in the Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, to receive the 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award for physical sciences.

Yimei ZhuThe annual award recognizes two senior scientists — one in the physical sciences and the other in biological sciences — for their long-standing record of achievement in the field of microscopy and microanalysis.

"I am extremely humbled by this recognition, the highest honor of the society, and to be selected among the most distinguished scientists in the field worldwide," Zhu said. "Four Nobel laureates received the same award before winning the Nobel Prize: Ernst Ruska in 1985, Joachim Frank in 2003, Richard Henderson in 2005, and Jacques Dubochet in 2009. I strongly feel that my award is the result of not only my hard work, persistence, and curiosity about the inner world of matter but also my collaborations with colleagues and support from Brookhaven Lab and DOE over the past 30 years."

"Yimei Zhu has made significant contributions to advancing ultrafast electron diffraction instruments and developing fast direct-electron detectors," said Molly McCartney, MSA awards committee physical sciences co-chair. "Yimei's contributions to instrumentation and methods are extensive. His most highly recognized achievement is the successful imaging, at atomic resolution, of the atomic structure of bulk catalysts by detecting the secondary electron emission."

Zhu led the development of an ultrafast electron diffraction system that was commissioned at Brookhaven Lab in 2012 through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, which promotes exploratory, mission-supported research. With an unprecedented temporal resolution 10 orders of magnitude faster than high-speed video cameras, this system is the first of its kind in the world.

This capability has opened up the possibility for scientists to understand the dynamic behavior of materials — such as the intriguing transition between insulating and superconducting phases — and to discover hidden states of matter beyond the solid, liquid, gas, and plasma states that are observable in everyday life. Zhu has also contributed to the development of novel electron optics and detectors that can record signals from secondary electrons at unprecedented resolution.

Zhu's main contributions to the field are his development and application of advanced electron microscopy methods to understand the structure and property of materials. To probe their behavior at the nanoscale, together with his students and postdocs, he designed and fabricated unique sample stages enabling materials to be studied under various electric and optical stimuli and with high-frequency resonance excitation. Throughout his career, Zhu has pushed the frontier of modern electron microscopy by developing various techniques for characterizing materials, particularly their atomic-scale interfaces and defects. For instance, he and his team developed methods for mapping valence and orbital electron distributions, imaging the switching behavior of charges and spins, and accurately measuring atomic displacements and vibrations.

The Microscopy Society of America is an affiliate society of the American Institute of Physics and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Published: May 2018
An SI prefix meaning one billionth (10-9). Nano can also be used to indicate the study of atoms, molecules and other structures and particles on the nanometer scale. Nano-optics (also referred to as nanophotonics), for example, is the study of how light and light-matter interactions behave on the nanometer scale. See nanophotonics.
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