FSU physics professor wins early career award from Department of Energy

Assistant Professor of Physics Guangxin Ni received an early career award from the Department of Energy.

A Florida State University researcher has received an award from the Department of Energy to conduct cutting-edge research on quantum materials and optical physics.

Assistant Professor of Physics Guangxin Ni was selected to receive the award as part of the DOE’s Early Career Research Program. Under the program, university-based researchers will receive $150,000 annually over five years to help fund their research.

Ni’s research proposal focuses on using light-matter interactions, specifically long-wavelength excitations at the infrared and terahertz frequencies, to noninvasively explore critical low-energy physics in quantum materials at unprecedented nanometer length scales. Ni plans to develop advanced, 4-dimensional scanning near-field optical microscopy capable of examining these materials under extreme conditions, including cryogenic temperatures and high magnetic fields.

“This is my first major successful grant, and I am humbled to receive this prestigious award from the DOE Office of Science,” Ni said. “I am extremely thankful for the strong support from both the DOE and my peers to carry on cutting-edge studies of quantum materials at the extreme conditions.”

Ni said with the support of the DOE award, his team will be able to develop new types of nano-optics methodologies to examine novel quantum devices on-demand. This could benefit the exploration of a broader class of quantum materials for both fundamental science and potential technological applications.

“Guangxin’s research is timely, meaningful and filled with potential,” said Sam Huckaba, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This DOE early career award is prestigious and will provide important support.”

After earning his doctorate in physics from the National University of Singapore in 2013, Ni worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California San Diego and as a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University before joining the Florida State University Department of Physics faculty in 2020. He currently heads the Ni Lab, where researchers on campus and at the FSU-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory use nano-optics to explore the new phase of matter in low-dimensional quantum materials.

Ni was one of 83 scientists across the country selected for the 2021 awards by the DOE’s Office of Science. To be eligible for the DOE award, a researcher must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant or associate professor at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at a DOE national laboratory, who received a doctoral degree within the past 10 years.

“Maintaining our nation’s brain trust of world-class scientists and researchers is one of DOE’s top priorities — and that means we need to give them the resources they need to succeed early on in their careers,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “These awardees show exceptional potential to help us tackle America’s toughest challenges and secure our economic competitiveness for decades to come.”