Stanford professor wins Buckley Prize, the top honor in condensed matter physics

KapitulnikAHARON KAPITULNIK, the Theodore and Sydney Rosenberg Professor in Applied Physics, has been awarded the 2015 Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize. The Buckley Prize is the oldest prize awarded by the American Physical Society (APS). It is one of the most prestigious prizes awarded in the field of physics, and is considered the highest honor in condensed matter physics.

The APS selected Kapitulnik for his “discovery and pioneering investigations of the superconductor-insulator transition, a paradigm for quantum phase transitions.”

The work deals with several fundamental issues in physics, particularly how phases of matter transition from one to another at absolute zero temperature. His efforts also led to the development of experimental methods to study the dynamics of quantum phase transitions, which were then used to study other problems in condensed matter physics.

“There are no real applications now,” Kapitulnik said. “But the way we treat dissipation and quantum phase transitions may bear on all future quantum information applications, such as quantum computers and quantum teleportation.”

Kapitulnik is one of several current faculty at Stanford to have won the Buckley Prize: Professors THEODORE GEBALLE, DOUGLAS OSHEROFF, ROBERT LAUGHLIN, ZHI-XUN SHEN and SHOUCHENG ZHANG have all shared the distinction. Kapitulnik shares the 2015 Buckley Prize with Matthew Fisher of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Allen Goldman of the University of Minnesota; and Arthur Hebard of the University of Florida.

Kapitulnik received both his undergraduate (1978) and graduate (1983) degrees from Tel-Aviv University in Israel, and took a postdoctoral research position at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was briefly an assistant professor in residence. He joined Stanford’s Department of Applied Physics in 1985, and since 1993 holds joint appointments in the Applied Physics and Physics departments.