By Kim Gudeman for IQUIST and Siv Schwink for Illinois Physics
Illinois Chemistry and Physics Professor Prashant Jain, Illinois Physics Professor Nicolás Yunes, and IQUIST Executive Director Emily Edwards have been elected Fellows of the American Physical Society (APS).
Election to Fellow recognizes outstanding contributions to the field of physics. This prestigious peer recognition is limited in number annually to one-half percent of the current APS membership.
Jain was elected by the APS Division of Chemical Physics (DCP) “for the development of plasmonic semiconductors and the use of plasmons to drive simultaneous multielectron reduction reactions with chemical specificity.”
Jain works at the intersection of chemistry and physics, using light–matter interactions to probe and characterize a range of systems, from catalysts involved in multielectron chemistry to the behavior and interactions of quasiparticles in complex materials. Jain is best known for his pioneering work studying collective electron oscillations—or plasmon resonances—induced by photoexcitations in metals, semiconductors, and quantum dots. These resonances enable strong and tunable light absorption and scattering. His work has applications in biomedicine, optoelectronics, optical computing, and sustainable manufacturing.
Jain and his research group in Urbana are noted for discovering unusual catalytic activity that emerges on metal nanoparticles under light excitation. The photoexcitation of plasmon resonances in these nanoparticles induces multielectron chemical reactions that are otherwise not favored under thermal conditions. Jain’s discoveries bring together a merger of the disparate fields of photonics and catalysis making it possible to manipulate reaction pathways optically and to use photons as reagents in chemical synthesis. Jain and his group have applied these ideas to optically drive thermodynamically uphill processes involved in carbon and nitrogen fixation.
Jain is further recognized for his experimental and theoretical work on plasmon resonances in semiconductor nanocrystals doped with defects and impurities. Prior to his discoveries with coworkers at UIUC and University of California Berkeley, plasmon resonances were thought to be limited to metal nanoparticles. In 2013–14, his laboratory achieved plasmon resonances of a handful of carriers in ultrasmall nanoparticles. These few-carrier resonances have quantum mechanical attributes and are actively switchable, which opens up applications in quantum sensing and photonic switches.
At UIUC, Jain holds appointments in the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Physics, the Materials Research Laboratory, the Beckman Institute, and the Institute for Quantum Information Science and Technology (IQUIST). He also holds an associate appointment at the Center for Advanced Studies.
Jain is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK. His research published in peer-reviewed journals has been cited ~29,000 times. Jain currently serves as a member of the Defense Science Study Group of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense.
Jain is the recipient of too many research accolades to comprehensively list here. Among these, he was selected a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2022 University Scholar at UIUC, and a 2021 Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. He won the 2021 Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award of the American Chemical Society, a 2020 Distinguished Promotion Award from UIUC, the 2019 Beilby Medal and Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), a 2015 NSF CAREER Award, and a 2014 Sloan Fellowship.
A dedicated teacher, Jain’s physical chemistry courses regularly appear on the UIUC List of Teachers Ranked Excellent by their Students. He is a recipient of the 2015 School of Chemical Sciences Faculty Teaching Award.
Jain received his bachelor’s degree from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai in 2003 and his doctoral degree in physical chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and a Miller Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, prior to joining the University of Illinois faculty in 2011.
Edwards was elected “For creating innovative communication and outreach programs in quantum physics that broaden participation and for leadership in advancing informal quantum information science education for early learners.”
Edwards is a physicist who specializes in communicating quantum science via illustrations, science writing, and outreach. She also co-leads the National Q12 Education Partnership, which is spearheaded by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation; it is supporting the development of a diverse quantum workforce with a focus on empowering teachers and providing equitable access to quantum learning opportunities.
Through Q-12 and Q2Work (the NSF-funded program that enables Q-12), Edwards co-led the development of QuanTime, a program that disseminates various fun educational activities designed to introduce middle and high school classrooms to quantum information science. QuanTime activities, which are developed by contributors across the quantum education community, were used in schools around the nation during World Quantum Day in April 2022 and are expected to appear in classrooms again during next year’s event.
The QuanTime team also released a video in support of World Quantum Day that was widely shared via social media and blogs, including by NASA, WHOSTP, and industrial partners such as Google. Edwards collaborates with Diana Franklin (U. Chicago) and Chandralekha Singh (U. Pittsburgh) on the Q-12 and Q2Work programs. Edwards is also working with U. Chicago and UCSB researchers to develop video games that help build awareness about quantum computing among middle grade students.
Another major project is the Quantum Atlas. The Atlas offers an approachable guide to quantum physics for non-experts—anyone looking for an introductory explanation of a quantum concept. Edwards, along with collaborators at the University of Maryland, created images, animations, short podcasts, and written explanations of the most fundamental quantum concepts for a general audience.
As executive director of IQUIST, Edwards also facilitates quantum information science research, education, and workforce development. She works with colleagues at the Chicago Quantum Exchange, HQAN, Q-NEXT in Argonne National Labs, and quantum start-up accelerator Duality to cultivate a thriving quantum ecosystem in the greater Chicago area, including Champaign-Urbana.
Edwards received a bachelor’s degree in physics and chemistry from Appalachian State University in 2002, a master’s in chemical physics from the University of Maryland in 2008, and a PhD in physics from Maryland in 2009. Prior to joining UIUC, she was a postdoctoral researcher in ion trap quantum information and Director of Communications and Outreach at the Joint Quantum Institute at Maryland.
“It is an honor to have these achievements recognized with APS Fellowship,” said Edwards. “I am very passionate about quantum education, and I hope that more people in physics and quantum information science do public engagement and think about it through the lens of research, efficacy, and the best way to connect with different audiences and communities.”
Yunes was elected by the APS Division of Gravitational Physis (DGRAV) “For numerous contributions to general relativity and gravitational wave astrophysics, particularly the discovery of the ‘I-Love-Q’ property of neutron stars.”
Yunes is a theoretical gravitational physicist. His research program in Urbana explores extreme gravity—from binary pulsars to the gravitational waves emitted by the inspiral and merger of the most compact objects in the universe, black holes and neutron stars.
Yunes and his group investigate gravity through Einstein’s theory of general relativity and possible extensions to general relativity, using sophisticated analytical techniques and data analysis to make observational predictions and interpret experimental data. Through these techniques, research in the Yunes group sheds new light on outstanding problems in fundamental physics—from dark matter and dark energy to the physics of quantum gravity.
Among his most significant contributions to our understanding of the universe, Yunes is one of the creators of the parameterized post-Einsteinian framework, which tests Einstein's theory in a model-independent way using gravitational waves. In addition, Yunes is one of the scientists who discovered the I-Love-Q and the Binary Love universal relations of neutron stars, which are used by the LIGO scientific collaboration to infer the equation of state of matter at extreme densities.
At UIUC, Yunes is the founding director of the Illinois Center for Advanced Studies of the Universe (ICASU), an interdisciplinary center that facilitates collaboration across disciplines on open questions in fundamental physics relating to the nature of the universe.
Yunes also currently serves as co-chair of the Fundamental Physics Working Group of the International LISA Consortium.
Yunes is author of 234 research papers in peer-reviewed physics journals, which collectively have been cited over 14,000 times. He is coauthor with Clifford M. Will of a popular science book on gravitational waves and testing Einstein’s theories of gravity, titled Is Einstein Still Right?. He is coauthor with M. Coleman Miller of a textbook titled Gravitational Waves in Physics and Astrophysics, relevant to nuclear physics, cosmology, astrophysics, and tests of general relativity.
Yunes served on the chair line of the APS DGRAV from 2018-2021. He is the recipient of a Fox Faculty Award at Montana State University (2017) and of a General Relativity and Gravitation Young Scientist Prize of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (2015).
Yunes received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Washington University in St. Louis in 2003 and a doctorate in physics from Pennsylvania State University in 2008. He held two postdoctoral positions, as a Research Fellow at Princeton University and as a NASA Einstein Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty at Montana State University in 2011, where he cofounded the eXtreme Gravity Institute. He joined the faculty at Illinois Physics in 2019 as a full professor.