LSU Physics Professor Receives Esteemed NSF CAREER Award

Assistant Professor Justin Wilson
Assistant Professor Justin Wilson
Olivia Crowell

LSU Assistant Professor Justin Wilson in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, with a joint appointment in LSU’s Center for Computation and Technology, has received a five-year National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, award to support his research on “Active Feedback to Control Dynamic Quantum Phases.”

Wilson is a theoretical and computational condensed matter theorist with diverse interests from quantum materials to quantum information and analog gravity.

The NSF CAREER award is one of the foundation’s most prestigious grants awarded to early-career faculty who effectively integrate research and education within their organization's mission. Wilson will receive $505,000 over 5 years for his research integrating theoretical condensed matter ideas into dynamic quantum phases for innovative research, outreach, and ideas to build a critical quantum workforce.

“We are at the beginning of a revolution in information technology where data won't just be zeros and ones, but instead a complex and powerful landscape that is not so concrete,” said Jeffery C. Blackmon, Russell B. Long Professor, Chair, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy. “Dr. Wilson's research is providing new insights into understanding and manipulating the properties of materials in this quantum realm for information storage and processing. We are very pleased to see NSF's investment in this promising research program, which is closely aligned with research priorities for LSU and the nation.”

Scientifically, Wilson proposes to use feedback to uncover new dynamic quantum phases and control chaotic systems onto specific states. The main objectives of this proposal are to develop models involving quantum dynamics and measurements that have controlled phase transitions onto specific states of the system and learn about existing dynamical phase transitions, instituting control with both prescribed feedback and machine learning. 

“Recent advances in quantum hardware in both industry and academia have enabled the observation of phenomena that merge theoretical condensed matter and quantum information sciences within actual quantum simulations,” said Wilson. “Our research plan focuses on controlling quantum information phase transitions using measurements, feedback, and occasionally machine learning. These phase transitions, which indicate the effectiveness of a quantum system's information encoding, have been challenging to observe experimentally. However, our work aims to facilitate the detection of these transitions while providing insights into the nature of chaos in quantum systems. This is particularly relevant for controlling noisy intermediate-scale quantum devices, utilizing state-of-the-art quantum hardware available today.”

The research will be integrated into a broader impact plan to grow a critical quantum work force, including: creating a podcast on quantum sciences, ‘Quantum Matters’ to educate the general public on this growing area of research. The educational component will incorporate building a quantum technology course focused on technologies and applications being developed in the industry, with all course materials made accessible and open-source online. In addition, Wilson will bring career development for graduate students to LSU in collaboration with the Erdős institute, including an ‘Invitations to Industry’ seminar, a data science boot camp, and career coaching.

Wilson received his PhD from the University of Maryland in 2015, focusing on condensed matter theory and cold atoms with Victor Galitski. Wilson also served as a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech with Gil Refael, and at Rutgers with Jed Pixley.


The National Science Foundation CAREER awards 

The CAREER program embodies NSF’s commitment to encourage faculty and academic institutions to value and support the integration of research and education. Successful Principal Investigators are required to propose creative, effective research and education plans, developed within the context of the mission, goals, and resources of their organizations, while building a firm foundation for a lifetime of contributions to research, education, and their integration.



Mimi LaValle

LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy