Dr Bartomeu Monserrat has clinched the prestigious James Clerk Maxwell Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics (IOP) for his outstanding early-career contributions to theoretical physics.
The Institute of Physics is the professional body and learned society for physics, and the leading body for practising physicists, in the UK and Ireland. Its annual awards proudly reflect the wide variety of people, places, organisations and achievements that make physics such an exciting discipline.
Monserrat received the James Clerk Maxwell Medal and Prize in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the development of computational techniques that bring temperature to modern electronic structure methods, and their application to topological materials, photovoltaics, superconductors and planetary physics.
Monserrat is a Winton Fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory and the Gianna Angelopoulos Lecturer in Computational Materials Science at the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. His research focus is on quantum mechanics, which is the theory that allows us to understand the behaviour of the basic building blocks of nature, such as electrons or atoms.
The equations of quantum mechanics are incredibly difficult to solve, and researchers often struggle to do so even using the largest supercomputers on earth. In particular, it has proven pretty much impossible to solve the equations of quantum mechanics at any temperature above absolute zero, which is -273 °C.
“While plenty of interesting stuff happens at very low temperatures, if we want to exploit quantum physics in new technologies like quantum computers, we need to be able to solve this theory at room temperature. This is where our work comes in,” Monserrat explained. “We have developed new algorithms to solve the equations of quantum mechanics at room temperature or higher.”
This powerful computational framework has allowed Monserrat and his team to study a wide range of phenomena, from designing novel materials for technologies that are environmentally sustainable to understanding the behaviour of matter under the extremely high temperatures found in the cores of planets.
Reacting to his award, Monserrat said: “I am honoured to receive the Maxwell medal, but I want to emphasise that all this work is possible thanks to an excellent and dedicated team of students and postdocs, and the recognition goes to all of them too.
“This motivates us to continue exploring how we can use quantum physics to understand how nature works at the microscopic level, and how we can use this knowledge to improve society through new technologies.”
Congratulating this year’s Award winners, Institute of Physics President, Professor Sheila Rowan, said: “On behalf of the Institute of Physics, I warmly congratulate all of this year’s Award winners.
“Each and every one of them has made a significant and positive impact in their profession, whether as a researcher, teacher, industrialist, technician or apprentice.
“Recent events have underlined the absolute necessity to encourage and reward our scientists and those who teach and encourage future generations. We rely on their dedication and innovation to improve many aspects of the lives of individuals and of our wider society.”
The Institute of Physics (IOP) Awards
The IOP Awards proudly reflect the wide variety of people, places, organisations and achievements that make physics such an exciting discipline. They celebrate people at every stage of their career, from those just starting out through to those at their peak. They also recognise and celebrate companies which are successful in the application of physics and innovation, as well as employers that demonstrate their commitment and contribution to scientific and engineering apprenticeship schemes.
More information about the IOP Awards on the IOP website.