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Three MIT researchers win U.S. Air Force Young Investigator Research Program grants

Riccardo Comin, Phillip “Donnie” Keathley, and Luqiao Lui are among 31 selected nationwide.
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Three MIT researchers (l-r) Riccardo Comin, Luqiao Lui, and Phillip Keathley, have all been awarded three-year, $450,000 grants.
Three MIT researchers (l-r) Riccardo Comin, Luqiao Lui, and Phillip Keathley, have all been awarded three-year, $450,000 grants.
Images courtesy of Physics, EECS, and DSL

Three MIT researchers, representing the departments of Physics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), are among 31 scientists and engineers nationwide who have been awarded three-year, $450,000 research grants by the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).

Selected from a pool of more than 290 proposals, the three MIT grant winners are Riccardo Comin, an assistant professor of physics; Phillip “Donnie” Keathley, a research scientist in the RLE’s Quantum Nanostructures and Nanofabrication group; and Luqiao Lui, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and an RLE principal investigator.

Awarded by the AFOSR’s Young Investigator Research Program, the grants are intended to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, and support early career development of outstanding young investigators who show exceptional ability and promise for meeting the challenges of science and engineering research related to the Air Force's mission.

Riccardo Comin is an experimental condensed matter physicist whose research explores the rich variety of electronic phases that can be crafted and engineered in the broad class of quantum materials. Comin’s research focuses on unconventional superconductors, where he studies the interplay between superconductivity and other competing electronic orders in pure materials and in nanostructured devices.

For his work using X-ray probes to elucidate the inner anatomy of quantum solids, Comin has received several awards, including a 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship, the 2016 Bryan R. Coles Prize, and the 2015 McMillan Award, among others.

Phillip Keathley PhD '15 develops optical-field-driven electronics, nanoscale free-electron light sources, and nanoscale vacuum-electronic devices for harsh environments. His research experience spans the areas of areas of ultrafast optics, strong-field science, attosecond physics, nanophotonics, and plasmonics. He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, both in electrical engineering, from the University of Kentucky in 2009, and a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science.

Luqiao Lui conducts research is in the field of spin electronics; in particular, he focuses on nanoscale materials and devices for spin logic, non-volatile memory, and microwave applications. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Peking University and a PhD in applied physics from Cornell University. Before joining MIT, he was a research staffer at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center.

Among other honors, he has received the Patent Application Achievement Award from IBM, the Young Scientist Prize in the Field of Magnetism from the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, and the William L. McMillan Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions by a young condensed-matter physicist, from the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

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