14 April 2021 Jessica Blakeney

The IQ Welcomes Lu Chen as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics

Lu Chen

Photo : Provided

In November 2020, the Institut quantique (IQ) welcomed Lu Chen amongst its postdoctoral fellows. For the next three years, she will be working on experimental condensed matter physics in Professor Louis Taillefer’s group in the Department of Physics. More specifically, Miss Chen will be studying the physical properties of solid-state materials like high temperature superconductors, topological materials, and spin liquids. 

From Beijing to the US to Sherbrooke: Physics as a Common Thread  

Lu Chen grew up in China and did her undergraduate studies in physics at the Peking University in Beijing. She knew as early as high school that she wanted to pursue a career in physics. She later completed her PhD in physics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the United States, during which she published four first-author papers. To follow up on these accomplishments, she chose to pursue her postdoctoral studies at the Université de Sherbrooke. 

Throughout Lu Chen’s entire schooling career, she always held a particular interest for condensed matter physics on the experimental level: “In my second year of undergraduate studies at Peking University I joined a lab. In my research as an undergraduate student, I was studying the same topic as I am today, that is to say that I was growing the same types of materials that I’m now studying at the Université de Sherbrooke. That experience made me want to continue in research, because with that experience, I was able to know exactly what it looked like to work in a physics lab, to conduct experiments,” shares Lu Chen. 

“Condensed matter physics was a prevalent interest amongst my classmates. We were hearing about unconventional superconductors and graphene. As I started graduate school, topological materials were highly advertised in many publications and experiments within the physics community. These interesting topics are what attracted me to this field.”  

The Thermal Hall Effect as an Ongoing Study 

“As soon as I arrived at the IQ, I was able to start hands-on experiments in condensed matter physics. The project that I am currently working on is about the thermal Hall measurement, an analogy of the electrical Hall effect. Instead of measuring the electrical Hall effect, we are measuring a thermal signal from the sample in which we apply a magnetic field. Studying the thermal Hall effect in different types of novel solid-state materials is the main project that I’m working on right now.” 

When physicists synthesize new materials, experimental physicists like Lu Chen study the physical properties of these materials, explain their behaviour, and explore potential applications. This field of research currently holds a subject undergoing intense study: quantum computingLu Chen’s experiments could help find the appropriate materials that could be used to build a quantum computer. “It’s a very exploratory type of work, and we are currently focusing our efforts on finding ways to get superconductors as close to room temperature as we can, so that we could potentially use them in the future.” 

“One of the main challenges we face as experimentalists in our field of research is that we rely on the quality of our samples. We don’t grow our own materials, but rather get them from different research groups from around the world, and so there are fluctuations within the properties, or they sometimes hold impurities. This can directly impact promising result in experiments,” she adds. 

In addition to her research project, Lu Chen is also taking part in side projects, all within Professor Taillefer’s group: “There is a lot of collaboration between different group members. For example, I’m doing a thermal power measurement in some hightemperature superconductors, as well as a thermal conductivity measurement in a spin liquid material, RuCl3, which is of broad and current interest.” 

Current Involvement 

Even though Covid-19 has a grave impact on all social activities, Lu Chen is finding ways to make the best out of her stay in Canada for the duration of her post-doctorate fellowship. “Next semester, I’ll be taking a French course, which I’m anxious to start. Currently, I’m taking part in other social activities via Zoom meetings, like the Diversity Committee within the Physics Department, and conferences that are usually held across Canada. Despite the current situation, everything is moving nicely and I’m happy with my experience so far,” she adds. Other than involvement related to her field of study, Lu Chen picked up a passion for skiing during her doctorate in Ann Arbor, and plans on continuing to develop her slope skills during her time in Sherbrooke. 

Stay connected