August 5, 2021

Matthew Yankowitz wins NSF CAREER Award

Matthew Yankowitz, an assistant professor in the departments of Physics and MSE, has been honored with a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The CAREER award is the most prestigious award given by the NSF in support of junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent teaching and the integration of education and research.

Matthew Yankowitz
Matthew Yankowitz

The five-year award will provide $650,000 of funding to support Yankowitz’s research investigating and controlling novel topological states of matter in twisted van der Waals heterostructures.

Yankowitz and his group plan to explore the exotic behavior of electrons in two-dimensional materials that are stacked atop one another and rotated slightly. This small twist creates a geometric interference pattern known as a “moiré pattern,” akin to that seen in overlapping lace drapes. Yankowitz explains, “the moiré pattern allows us to create and study new quantum mechanical properties in these materials that wouldn’t exist otherwise. The primary focus of our study will be to look for new topological states of matter, in which electrons are able to circulate around the edge of the material but cannot travel through its bulk.” Yankowitz plans to construct new moiré materials out of graphene building blocks and explore their topological properties with tuning knobs such as pressure and electrical screening. “We aim to discover and manipulate systems with never-before-seen topological properties, and we’re certainly prepared for a few surprises along the way,” says Yankowitz. The award will also allow Yankowitz to engage members of the Seattle community in the research, including with hands-on summer outreach activities for high school students.

Yankowitz is the recipient of several awards, including the Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize from Oxford Instruments (2021) and the Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award from the Army Research Office (2020). He was also named a Finalist for the Blavatnik Regional Award for Young Scientists from the New York Academy of Sciences (2019). Yankowitz has published dozens of scientific papers in journals including Science, Nature, Nature Physics, Nature Materials, Nature Nanotechnology, and Physical Review Letters. 

Yankowitz joined the UW faculty in 2019. He previously worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University. He earned his PhD in Physics from the University of Arizona in 2015, and his B.S. in Physics from Stanford University in 2011.

Originally published on the Materials Science & Engineering website.