Mengkun Liu, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy at Stony Brook University, has received a $1.25 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as part of its Experimental Physics Investigators Initiative. Allocated over the next five years, this award is dedicated to supporting the ambitions of investigators at the forefront of experimental physics research. Professor Liu is one of 21 scientists to receive a grant in the initiative’s second round of funding.
With the core focus of driving advancements in the field of experimental physics, the initiative invests in innovative projects at the bleeding edge of scientific discovery that may otherwise lack available funding. In professor Liu’s case, the grant will support the study of polaritons, which are miniscule excitations that comprise aspects of light and material and behave like particles. This research aims to visualize and better understand these particle-like structures by studying how polaritons in low dimensional systems react to the presence of a magnetic field.
“This Moore Foundation Award has provided me and my colleagues with the unique opportunity to embark on uncharted territories of condensed matter experiments,” said Professor Liu. “It allows us to investigate nano-optics and the complexities of nanoscale quantum phenomena at cryogenic temperatures, all while navigating the challenges posed by high magnetic fields.”
In addition to enhancing scientific understanding of the natural world, projects funded through the Experimental Physics Investigators Initiative must demonstrate practices that promote inclusion and equitable access to education and career development within the experimental physics community.
“This is a highly coveted award that allows the winning investigator to pursue cutting-edge research which would be very difficult to pursue otherwise,” said Chang Kee Jung, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “With this award, Mengkun can make crucial upgrades to his infrared near-field microscopes, while also creating a new avenue for investigating nanoscale quantum phenomena in the presence of high magnetic fields. In 2021, Mengkun received an NSF Early CAREER award for his outstanding research accomplishments and potential, and his continued pioneering research in nano-physics led to this richly-deserved Moore Foundation Experimental Physics Investigators Initiative award.”
Professor Liu is also one of three finalists for the Stony Brook Foundation 2023 Discovery Prize.