Maissam Barkeshli, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Maryland and fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, has been awarded a 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship. Granted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this award identifies 126 early-career scientists based on their potential to contribute fundamentally significant research to a wider academic community.  

Barkeshli, a theoretical condensed matter physicist interested in complex quantum many-body phenomena, will use the fellowship to further his research into the collective behavior that emerges in systems of strongly interacting particles governed by the laws of quantum mechanics.

“I am honored to receive this prestigious fellowship,” said Barkeshli. “It represents an affirmation of my work by distinguished members of the physics community, and it encourages me to continue my efforts in understanding the complexities of quantum matter.”

Barkeshli’s research mixes physics with mathematics and draws motivation from the ongoing pursuit to build next-generation computing devices ruled by quantum physics. Beyond the applications, his research explores the many ways that atoms and electrons—prototypical quantum particles—can combine in large numbers to produce a range of novel behaviors.  

For example, interesting things seem to happen at the interface between two different quantum materials. In 2014, Barkeshli and several colleagues showed that, at least theoretically, electrons can lose their electric charge or shed a quantum property called spin when they hop between two quantum materials. With the Sloan Research Fellowship, Barkeshli hopes to continue studying the novel ways that electrons and other, more exotic particles behave at these interfaces. This research could uncover new ways of building quantum computers that are virtually immune to noise, and has led to experimental proposals that could soon be tested in the lab.

Barkeshli has authored more than 35 peer-reviewed journal articles. Before joining the UMD faculty in 2016, Barkeshli worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research’s Station Q (2013-2016) and at Stanford University (2010-2013). He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and a second bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004. He received his doctoral degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010.

Barkeshli joins the list of 39 current UMD College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences faculty members who have received Sloan Research Fellowships.  

The two-year $65,000 Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded to U.S. and Canadian researchers in the fields of chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics.  Candidates must be nominated by their fellow scientists and winning fellows are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of each candidate’s independent research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field.

“The Sloan Research Fellows represent the very best science has to offer,” said Adam Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “The brightest minds, tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly—Fellows are quite literally the future of twenty-first century science.”

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Writers: Abby Robinson and Chris Cesare
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About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 9,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college’s 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary researchcenters foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $175 million.