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Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Yazdani named one of 'Brilliant 10' by Popular Science magazine

Popular Science magazine has named Princeton's Ali Yazdani, a professor of physics, one of its "Brilliant 10" in its seventh annual listing of top young scientists.

"The Brilliant 10 are the brightest researchers of 2008, making the breakthroughs of tomorrow," said Mark Jannot, editor in chief of Popular Science. "PopSci is paying homage to these young scientists, who explore the world with an altogether original eye."

Described as "The Atomic Visionary" by the magazine, Yazdani gained attention for his work using a desk-size scanning-tunneling microscope to study high-temperature superconductors. The device can cool a sample to just above absolute zero, seal it in a near-perfect vacuum and block the faintest noise. "As a result," the magazine said, "he can continuously track single atoms for months at a time."

Yazdani's fascination with science began as a teen in Iran when he signed up for class on how to repair television sets. After he emigrated to the United States, a course in quantum mechanics at the University of California-Berkeley pulled him into science. He earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1995 and then conducted postdoctoral research at the IBM Almaden Research Center. He served on the physics faculty of the University of Illinois-Urbana from 1997 until 2005, when he came to Princeton.

Recently, he has overturned the accepted thinking on high-temperature superconductors with provocative results reported in Science and Nature magazines, based on two years of experiments he led with his research group at Princeton. In one experiment, he and his group have shown that high-temperature superconductivity does not hinge on a magical glue binding electrons together. The secret to superconductivity may rest instead on the ability of electrons to take advantage of their natural repulsion in a complex situation.

Yazdani conducts his research in the Princeton Nanoscale Microscopy Laboratory, a state-of-the-art, ultra-low-noise lab constructed at the site of an old cyclotron in the basement of Jadwin Hall. Yazdani and his group study condensed matter physics, searching for simple, unifying explanations for complicated phenomena observed in liquids and solids.

Another member of this year's list, Caltech bioengineer John Dabiri, earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton in 2001.

In selecting the 10 recipients, the editors at Popular Science contacted hundreds of individuals, including heads of departments at universities around the country, professional associations, and award-granting institutions.

In the past, several other Princeton researchers have made the list. In 2007, Popular Science selected physicist Frans Pretorius for the "Brilliant 10." Mathematician Maria Chudnovsky and electrical engineer Claire Gmachl were chosen in 2004. And in 2002, mathematician Manjul Bhargava was similarly named.

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