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Silver medal awarded to St John’s physicist for ground-breaking work in quantum technologies

The Thomas Young Medal and Prize is presented for distinguished contributions to optics

A world-leading scientist from St John’s has been awarded a medal and prize from the Institute of Physics for his contribution to advancing the understanding of light.

Professor Mete Atatüre has won the 2020 Thomas Young Medal and Prize for his pioneering contributions to quantum optical phenomena in semiconductors and diamond, creating ‘exciting applications’ in quantum technologies.

The annual awards from the Institute of Physics (IOP) – the professional body and learned society for physics in the UK and Ireland – recognise and reward excellence in individuals and teams and their contribution to physics. The Thomas Young Medal and Prize is presented for distinguished contributions to optics, including work related to physics outside the visible region.

Based at Cambridge’s famous Cavendish Laboratory, Professor Atatüre is Director of Studies in Physics and Astrophysics and in Mathematics for Natural Sciences at St John's. In April this year the European Research Council awarded him £2.5 million over five years for his research on diamond-based technologies. His project, PEDESTAL, investigates diamond as a material platform for quantum networks, such as a quantum internet.

Mete Atature

The IOP award citation states: “Building on their more recent series of work on optical polarization and cooling of the QD nuclei to enhance electron spin coherence, in 2019 Atatüre’s team achieved the first all-optical coherent control of nuclear many-body states – an exciting development for deterministic quantum memories.

“Atatüre’s work on spin-photon quantum interfaces in diamond and atomically thin layered materials is also ground breaking… He continues to lead this field with important contributions to the investigation of the other group-IV colour centres. In atomically thin 2D materials Atatüre and his team developed the first atomically thin quantum LED and, in 2017, invented a fabrication method for creating deterministic and large-scale quantum-emitter arrays in layered materials.”

The IOP also recognises Professor Atatüre for dedicating significant time to science communication and public engagement: “He routinely gives highly attended public talks promoting the role of science and optics in society, as well as addressing topics like the importance of scientific integrity, the diversity of scientific community and widening participation in higher education.”

Professor Atatüre said: “I am very much honoured and humbled by this recognition. Science is more collaborative now than ever before, and for me this award recognises the collective effort of our research team members and collaborators, past and present."

Jonathan Flint, IOP President CBE, said: “Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s IOP Awards, which recognise and reward excellence in individuals and teams and their contribution to physics. We’re delighted to celebrate the winners’ extraordinary achievements.” 

The medal is named after Thomas Young, a 19th century English polymath noted for having established the wave theory of light via his famous double-slit experiment, and for what is now known as Young’s modulus, which relates the stress in a body to its associated strain. He also made contributions to the theory of colour vision and to the understanding of surface tension. Previous awardees include Professor Jeremy J Baumberg, Charles Townes, Arthur Schawlow, Dennis Gabor and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji.

Several of the Institute’s medals are also named after world-renowned physicists from St John’s: Fred Hoyle and Nobel Laureates Paul Dirac, Edward Appleton and Nevill Mott.

Professor Atatüre receives a silver medal, certificate and £1,000 prize.

All the winners in the 2020 Institute of Physics Awards

Published: 29/10/2020

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