UT Physics Student Takes Top Honors at Conference

KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee physics graduate student has earned a big honor for research on a small scale.

Murat Özer
Murat Özer
Murat Özer was awarded the prestigious Nottingham Prize, at the Physical Electronics Conference, held June 18-21 at Princeton University.

“Özer has been driven — unstoppable — in stellar research at the convergence of several subfields of physics and is bringing excellent recognition to the department, the college, and the university,” said Physics Professor Jim Thompson, who has been a co-advisor on Özer’s work. Özer is originally from Turkey.

The Nottingham Prize is named in honor of the late Wayne B. Nottingham of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The award recognizes the best paper, based on a Ph.D. thesis, given by a student at the conference. The annual meeting is devoted to new research results in the physics and chemistry of surfaces and interfaces, with emphasis on the fundamental science in materials systems including metal, semiconductors, insulators, and biomaterials.

The prize is the latest in a series of honors for Özer in 2006. In April, he won both a University Chancellor’s Citation for Professional Promise and a Paul H. Stelson Research Fellowship from the physics department. He was the lead author on a paper in the March 2006 issue of Nature Physics showing that films only a few atom layers thick can carry enormous supercurrents, defying theories that superconductivity is typically weak at the nanoscale.

The potential for electricity to flow through components at such a tiny size with no resistance opens a new realm of prospects. One potential application could be ultra-fast quantum computers that could process data and perform calculations at speeds far faster than anything currently possible.

Among previous winners with UT connections are 2003 winner John Pierce and 1996 winner Joseph Carpinelli, each of whom did doctoral research at UT. Both were students of UT distinguished professor and National Academy of Sciences member Ward Plummer, who won the prize in 1968 when he was a graduate student at Cornell.

This year’s Nottigham award was split between Özer and Paul Snijders of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft in The Netherlands. Both are students of UT physics professor Hanno Weitering, who also spent time as a professor at Delft.

“I am extremely proud of both students with this clean sweep of the Nottingham awards,” said Weitering.


Jay Mayfield, (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)