Cui-Zu Chang, assistant professor of physics at Penn State, has been awarded the Outstanding Young Researcher Award (Macronix Prize) from the International Organization of Chinese Physicists and Astronomers. This award highlights the research contributions of a young Chinese physicist or astronomer working in a region outside Asia. Chang was selected for his pioneering realization of the quantum anomalous Hall effect in magnetic topological insulator films.
The quantum anomalous Hall effect is a phenomenon where electrons in a two-dimensional plane have dissipation-free current—similar to a superconductor—that is incredibly resistant to change and is driven by internal remnant magnetism. Chang first demonstrated the quantum anomalous Hall effect in a magnetic topological insulator film in 2013, where impurities were intentionally introduced to impart magnetism. His work was featured in the official announcement of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics for David Thouless, Michael Kosterlitz, and Duncan Haldane. The realization of this phenomenon has potential applications for reducing power consumption in future electronic and spintronic devices.
After establishing his own research group at Penn State in February 2017, Chang led a team that discovered the axion insulator in the quantum anomalous Hall sandwich heterostructures, which may resolve a famous problem in particle physics. The realization of an axion insulator in the laboratory provides a promising table-top experimental platform for the detection of the topological magnetoelectric effect and the pursuit of anyon physics (i.e. beyond fermions and bosons). Chang’s recent interests include the pursuit of high temperature and high Chern number quantum anomalous Hall effects and the exploration of Majorana physics in the quantum anomalous Hall insulator-superconductor hybrid structures.
Chang's awards and honors include the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award in 2019, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2018, the Arm Research Office (ARO) Yong Investigator Program (YIP) Award in 2018, the MIT Tech Review 35-Under-35 Innovation Award (China region) in 2018, the Young Scientist Prize from the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in 2017, and the Switzerland Dimitris N. Chorafas Foundation Award in 2013. Chang is a member of the American Physical Society and holds five patents in both the United States and China.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Chang was a postdoctoral associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned a doctoral degree in condensed matter physics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, in 2013 and a bachelor's degree in optical engineering at Shandong University in Jinan, China, in 2007.