TOPNES at the Fife Science Festival 2017

May 2017

Come and meet the TOPNES team at the Fife Science Festival Family Fun Days and learn all about low temperature phenomena and superconductors and how we can harness these properties to design the materials of the future.

The team will at Cowdenbeath Leisure Centre on Saturday 27th May and the Lomond Centre, Glenrothes on Saturday 3rd June, from 11.00am to 4.00pm.

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TOPNES Videos For Next Generation of Physicists

January 2017

A suite of short video clips has been developed to explain the work of researchers on the TOPNES programme to young people interested in physics, as well as to non-scientists. These use animation to help illustrate the 'science bit' and are designed to give a brief insight into the world of condensed matter physics.

The video clips will be used by the TOPNES team when giving talks and at events and they can be viewed by clicking  here. 

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Peter Wahl, Phil King and Shirley-Anne Somerville

Designer Quantum Materials Facility Opened by Education Minister

December 2016


The official opening of a new Designer Quantum Materials Facility at the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews was held on 8 December. Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, performed the opening ceremony and was given a tour of the facility by TOPNES Principal Investigator Dr Peter Wahl. 

Guests were able to learn about the science the new facility has been designed for from presentations by invited speakers Prof John Irvine (University of St Andrews) and Dr Dave Rogers (Nanovation), as well as through facility tours.

The Designer Quantum Materials lab allows the composition of a material to be changed between each layer, effectively making entirely new “supermaterials” – combinations and structures which would be impossible to create by any other means. At the heart of the facility is a molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) system which can custom engineer materials that can be used in a host of applications from super-efficient energy distribution to high performance computing and sensing. The development of the facility was led by Dr Peter Wahl and TOPNES Co-Investigator Phil King, together with Prof John Irvine.

The facility represents an investment of £2m by the University, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) and builds on previous investment of more than £4m by SUPA, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the University to create a facility that is unique within the UK and one of only a handful with similar capabilities worldwide.

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TOPNES Puts on a Show for Explorathon

September 2016

TOPNES was well represented at the recent Explorathon event in St Andrews, organised to coincide with European Researchers Night on 30th September. The PDRAs developed a magnetic chessboard to demonstrate magnetic properties which members of the public could try out and also showed the levitating train, which uses liquid nitrogen to cool superconducting material.

Co-Investigator Jonathan Keeling and PDRA Kyle Ballantine were also involved in an interactive stage show 'Quantum Digits and Dances', exploring the complex 'dances' betweeen quantum particles and explaining how the quantum world helps technology design.

Around 500 people attended the event from all age groups. back to top




Chi Ming Yim

Dr Chi Ming Yim

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of St Andrews

Chi Ming joined TOPNES in May 2016. Working with Dr. Peter Wahl, his research is concentrated on the investigation of the magnetic orders at the atomic scale in unconventional superconductors using cutting-edge spin-polarized scanning tunneling spectroscopy.

Chi Ming was born in Hong Kong. He obtained his bachelor degree in Physics from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2005, and MPhil degree in Physics from the same institute in 2007. In his MPhil project, he worked in Prof. Michael Altman’s group to investigate the diffusion behaviour of CO molecules on the Pt(111) surface using low energy electron microscope. Later, he joined Prof. Geoff Thornton’s group at University College London to pursue his PhD degree, studying the electronic and chemical properties of the TiO2 surfaces using low temperature scanning tunnelling microscope (STM). After obtaining his doctoral degree in 2012, Chi Ming continued his research in Thornton group, investigating molecular adsorption on supported metal nanoparticles using both STM and synchrotron radiation facilities, as well as the electronic structures of atomic-scale metal clusters supported on TiO2 using scanning tunnelling spectroscopy.
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Topological Insulators Explained in 100 Seconds

February 2016

TOPNES Co-Investigator Dr Chris Hooley of the University of St Andrews has taken up the challenge of explaining 'What is a topological insulator?' as part of the Institute of Physics 100 Second Science series.

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Jiagui Feng

Dr Jiagui Feng

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of St Andrews

Jiagui Feng obtained his PhD degree from the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2013. He joined the University of St Andrews as a postdoc recently. His research is focused on designing low dimensional structures with functional materials by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and investigating their emerging phenomena with Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM) and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES).
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Haibiao Zhou

Dr Haibiao Zhou

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of St Andrews

Haibiao joined TOPNES in November 2015. Working with Dr. Peter Wahl, his research is concentrated on the investigation of the magnetic orders at the atomic scale in unconventional superconductors using cutting-edge spin-polarized scanning tunnelling spectroscopy.

Haibiao was born in China and he obtained his bachelor degree in Applied Physics from Hefei University of Technology in 2010. Later he joined Prof. Qingyou Lu’s group at the University of Science and Technology of China to pursue his PhD degree, working on the design and construction of a high-field magnetic force microscope. He then used this apparatus to investigate the magnetic transitions and phase separation in strongly correlated electron oxides, mainly in manganites.
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Thorsten Wahl

Dr Thorsten Wahl

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of Oxford

Thorsten uses Tensor Network States to tackle various problems in Condensed Matter Physics: The complexity of calculating the ground state of a quantum-many body problem generally scales exponentially with the number of particles. This makes the exact calculation of the ground states of Condensed Matter systems a completely hopeless enterprise, which necessitates the use of efficient approximation schemes. Tensor Network States are one of them. They are non-perturbative and do not suffer from the so-called sign problem, i.e., can be applied to fermionic and frustrated systems as well. For a given accuracy as compared to the real ground state, they require only a polynomial number of parameters, which makes the quantum many-body problem - in principle - accessible for conventional computers. Contrary to previous convictions, Thorsten has demonstrated that they can also describe Quantum Hall systems and is now working on their application to such systems in a realistic setting. Furthermore, he works on the use of Tensor Network States for Lattice Gauge Theories, where they present an unprecedented approach, as they can also be employed in the presence of both fermionic matter and strong interactions. Moreover, he is currently exploring the optimal use of Tensor Network States for the calculation of the ground and excited states of many-body localised systems and the excitation spectra of translationally invariant one dimensional quantum spin chains.

Thorsten was born in Ludwigsburg, Germany. He studied physics at the University of Stuttgart, Germany, from 2006 to 2010 (diploma). In 2009/10 he did the research required for his diploma thesis at the University of Cambridge in the group of Richard Needs. Thereafter, he joined the group of Ignacio Cirac at the Max-Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, for his doctorate. During his PhD, he mainly worked on the application of Tensor Network States to Quantum Hall systems, but also used them to characterise all translationally invariant one dimensional quantum spin systems with long-range localisable entanglement. In October 2015, he started working in the group of Steve Simon at the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics at Oxford.
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Roberto Bondesan

Dr Roberto Bondesan

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of Oxford

Roberto is a theoretical physicist working in the group of Steve Simon at the University of Oxford. His research interests are Anderson localization, conformal field theory, quantum Hall effects and topological phases of quantum matter.
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Kyle Ballantine

Dr Kyle Ballantine

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of St Andrews

Kyle joined TOPNES in October 2015. Working with Dr. Jonathan Keeling, his research focuses on theories of artificial gauge fields in ultracold atom systems. These fields act on neutral atoms to simulate the effect of a magnetic field.

Kyle was born in Ireland, and obtained his degree in Theoretical Physics from Trinity College Dublin in 2010. Following this he completed an MSc in optical design of plasmonic elements. Kyle's PhD, also completed at Trinity College Dublin, focused on topological classification of optical systems, particularly for the case of inhomogeneous polarisation. He has also worked on topics including optical angular momentum, hyperbolic metamaterials and conical diffraction.
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TOPNES Researchers Take Part in European Researchers' Night

September 2015

Several members of the TOPNES team are looking forward to presenting their research at ResearchLIVE, taking place at the School of Medicine, University of St Andrews on 25th September, to mark European Researchers' Night.

This event is open to the public and activities include 'Ask me, I'm a researcher' and demonstrating a 'superconducting train'.

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Liam Collins-McIntyre

Dr Liam Collins-McIntyre

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of St Andrews

Liam Collins-McIntyre joined the TOPNES programme grant on 1st August 2015, working under the supervision of Dr. Phil King. His research focuses on the investigation of novel electronic and topological materials by angle-resolved photoemission. This technique allows for direct investigation of a material’s band structure, permitting a unique insight into its electronic properties and the possibility of tuning and manipulating these for future applications.

Liam was born in Bristol and grew up in an eclectic mixture of South Wales, Republic of Ireland, California and the Midlands. He received his MPhys in Physics from University of Warwick in 2011, before joining the University of Oxford for DPhil study. Liam’s doctoral thesis investigated the role of transition metal dopants for the breaking of time reversal symmetry in the topological insulators Bi2Se3 and Bi2Te3 thin films grown by molecular beam epitaxy. His DPhil was awarded in June 2015.
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Ana Maldonado

Ultra-low Vibration Lab Opened by Education Secretary

May 2015


The official opening of a new Ultra-low Vibration (ULV) Lab and Clean Room at the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews was held on 21st May, attended by over 100 guests. Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, performed the opening ceremony and was given a tour of the ULV Lab by TOPNES Principal Investigator Dr Peter Wahl. 

Guests were able to learn about the science the new facilities have been designed for through presentations by invited speakers Prof Klaus Kern (Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research), TOPNES Co-Investigator Prof J C Seamus Davis (Cornell), and Prof Jeremy Baumberg (Cambridge). Staff also gave tours of the ULV Lab and demos of research done in the clean room.

The ULV Lab is the most advanced of its kind in the UK and one of just a handful worldwide.It is designed to provide an ultra-low vibration environment for the custom-built microscopes developed in Peter Wahl's group. These allow imaging and study of individual atoms in advanced materials, including superconductors and quantum materials for next generation technologies.

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TOPNES in Texas at the APS March Meeting

March 2015

The TOPNES team are presenting their research at the APS March Meeting in San Antonio, Texas from 2nd to 6th March. We have the following contributions:


Dr Phil King Direct observation of spin-valley-layer locking in centrosymmetric bulk WSe2 by spin- and angle-resolved photoemission 


Prof Andrew Green  Quantum Indian Rope Tricks: Fluctuation driven magnetic hard-axis ordering in metallic ferromagnets
Dr Chris Hooley Non-Fermi-liquid behavior and anomalous suppression of Landau damping in layered metals close to ferromagnetism
   Disorder effects on quantum quenches in cold-atom systems
Prof Andrew Huxley Superconductivity in Electric Double Layer Capacitor under Pressure
Dr Jonathan Keeling & Dr Chaitanya Joshi Steady-state phases of the non-equilibrium Rabi-Hubbard Model
Dr Ana Maldonado & Dr Peter Wahl Superconductivity in non-centrosymmetric BiPd 
Prof Andy Mackenzie & Prof J C Seamus Davis  Intra unit cell electronic structure of the d-symmetry form factor density wave in the underdoped cuprates -- Part I

Intra unit cell electronic structure of the d-symmetry form factor density wave in the underdoped cuprates -- Part II 

Prof Andy Mackenzie Optical Spectroscopy of Fermi Liquids 
A new uniaxial strain measurement technique for improved strain homogeneity 
Transport and torque magnetometry measurements on CeAuSb2 
Effects of uni-axial strain on electronic nematic state in Sr2RuO4 
Dr Jean Philippe Reid & Prof Andrew Huxley Superconducting and normal state properties in Uranium-based materials from thermal and thermoelectric measurements
Prof Steve Simon  Large Chern Number and Edge Currents in Sr2RuO4 
Flat Chern Bands and Edge States in the Hofstadter Model Near to Rational Flux 
Topological Flux Phases of Levin-Wen String-Net Models 
Josephson-coupled Moore-Read states 
Dr Peter Wahl Real Space Imaging of the Atomic-Scale Magnetic Structure of Fe{1+y}Te


Prof Steve Simon Exact solutions of fractional Chern insulators: interacting particles in the Hofstadter model at finite size



Converge Challenge Prize

October 2014

A start-up business partnership of three University of St Andrews scientists has won one of the top prizes in a national competition aimed at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship amongst academics. Dr Clifford Hicks, a former postdoctoral researcher on the TOPNES programme, and PhD research students Alexander Ward and Jack Barraclough of the School of Physics and Astronomy, were awarded third place in the Converge Challenge 2014 for their company Razorbill Instruments.

The technology behind the company, and for which they won the award, is a nanopositioner – a device which can move with minute detail, especially useful in the manufacturing of microchips, and in physics and biomedical research. As a prize for third place the partnership received a cash sum of over £13,000, as well as a range of business support from leading legal, financial and branding companies.



Ana Maldonado

Solving a Mystery in Solid State Physics

July 2014


Science may be a step closer to solving one of the outstanding mysteries of solid state physics after Dr Peter Wahl’s research group has developed magnetic imaging for quantum materials, which is likely to shed new light on the behaviour of high-temperature superconductors. The search for an explanation for high temperature superconductivity and a means of making superconductors work at room temperature is considered to be the Holy Grail of condensed matter physics - and the new results spark hope that these explanations will be found before the Holy Grail.

Dr Wahl’s group used ultra-low temperature scanning tunnelling microscopes (STM), which operate at temperatures down to hundreds of a degree above absolute zero. The surface of the material, provided by colleagues from the University of Augsburg, is probed with a tip which hovers just a few atomic radii above the material. To enable imaging of the magnetic properties of the material the researchers needed to make the tip act like a magnet. They were then able to image the magnetic order in iron tellurium, the parent compound of an iron-based superconductor, at the atomic scale.

This is the first report of magnetic imaging by STM on a strongly correlated material of a type similar to high temperature superconductors and first results of the experiments are published in Science, volume 345.back to top



Ana Maldonado

Dr Ana Maldonado

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of St Andrews

Ana joined the TOPNES programme in February 2014. The main aim of her research is focused on searching for signatures of Majorana fermions in topological superconductors using low temperature scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy (STM/S).

Ana was born in Madrid, Spain. She obtained her degree in Physics from Universidad Complutense de Madrid in June 2008. As an undergraduate student, she collaborated in different research projects in meteorology and condensed matter physics, awarded by a grant from Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid. From September 2008, she started work in the Low Temperature Laboratory of Universidad Autónoma de Madrid funded by a pre-doctoral FPU grant from the Spanish Ministry of Education, obtaining her Masters degree in Condensed Matter Physics and Nanotechnology in July 2009 and her PhD in Physics in July 2013 from this University. During this period, she invented a primary thermometer and developed an experimental technique to study superconductors under current flow by STM/S. She also characterized heavy fermion compounds and unconventional superconductors using tunneling spectroscopy.

At the end of her PhD she spent three months at the Max Planck Institute in the group of Dr. Peter Wahl, where she continued to work as a postdoctoral researcher from September 2013.
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Alexander Steppke

Dr Alexander Steppke

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

University of St Andrews

Alexander joined the TOPNES programme in August 2013. His research is focused on thermodynamic investigations of strongly correlated electron systems, especially heavy fermion materials and unconventional superconductors at low temperatures.

During his undergraduate degree in Germany from the Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena, Alexander worked on superconducting magnetic field sensors based on high-temperature superconductors. For his PhD research he joined the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden to study magnetic phase transitions and quantum critical phenomena using specific heat and the magnetocaloric effect. Alexander's aim includes the development of new experimental probes such as uniaxial strain to complement established methods for the tuning of magnetic or superconducting ground states.
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Chaitanya Joshi

Chaitanya Joshi

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Chaitanya Joshi will be joining the TOPNES group on 1 October 2012. The theme of Chaitanya's research will be the theoretical investigation of quantum effects in systems driven away from equilibrium. The main focus will be on building a theoretical framework required to describe wide class of physical systems which exhibit quantum behaviour under the combined action of external driving and unavoidable coupling to the external environment.

Chaitanya was born in a suburb of New Delhi, the vibrant capital of India. Chaitanya received his undergraduate degree in Physics from Delhi University and a M.Sci. degree from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. Chaitanya then moved to the UK to pursue a doctoral degree from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Chaitanya's doctoral work included theoretical investigations of quantum features in mesoscopic mechanical systems. Chaitanya blended theoretical tools of quantum optics and quantum information to propose few feasible schemes to test the quantum-classical border using mesoscopic mechanical systems. The emphasis of Chaitanya's doctoral study has been to study genuine quantum effects manifested in coupled oscillators with infinite dimensional Hilbert spaces.

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Peter Kirton

Peter Kirton

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Peter Kirton will be joining the TOPNES group on 1 July 2012, focusing on developing ways to understand the quantum mechanical behaviour of systems driven out of equilibrium.

Peter obtained his undergraduate degree, a M.Sci., from the University of Nottingham in 2008 where he stayed to complete his doctoral studies. His Ph.D research focused on the role which fluctuations and noise play in systems with both electrical and mechanical degrees of freedom (nanoelectromechanical systems). He developed theoretical techniques for calculating the quantum noise properties of mesoscopic conductors, with a particular emphasis on systems in which quantum coherence is important. The way in which classical noise can have a large influence on the behaviour of nanoelectromechanical systems was also studied in detail. He was able to find interesting non-linear behaviour in both the dynamics and energy of the mechanical part of the system, induced by the fluctuations in the conductor.

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Dr Jean-Philippe Reid

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Jean-Philippe Reid joined the Programme grant on 8 April 2012 and is currently working with Prof. Séamus Davis at the University of Cornell.

Jean-Philippe's research will focus on the properties of many quantum materials such as heavy fermions, unconventional superconductors, and, mainly, topological insulators, using transport as a probe.

Jean-Philippe was born in Montréal, Québec. He received his B.A. in Mathematics and Physics from the Université de Montreal and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. at the Université de Sherbrooke in Applied Physics.

Experimentalist in condensed-matter physics, Jean-Philippe's doctoral research work examined the properties of various heavy fermions that show non-Fermi liquid properties near a quantum phase transition. He also studied the gap structure of several iron-based superconductors.

Jean-Philippe's and his collaborators' most important results are the discovery of accidental nodes located on the flared region of the Fermi surface of the materials Ba(FeCo)2As2 and the observation of the universal heat conduction of KFe2As2, which strongly suggests a d-wave symmetry. These discoveries contributed greatly to the progression of the theoretical framework for the origin of the superconductivity of these materials.  

Congratulations are extended to Jean-Philippe who was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in May 2012.

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Wei Guan

Dr Wei Guan

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Wei Guan joined the TOPNES group on 1 April 2012, based in the University of Edinburgh, focusing on developing a low temperature magneto-optical Kerr effect (MOKE) microscope to study topological states at extreme conditions.

Born in China, Wei obtained the MSc degree from Peking University, studying low temperature physics and superconductivity, after he received his BSc in theoretical physics from Shandong University, China. Then he moved to the UK and completed a PhD at University of Salford, working on surface and magneto-optical studies of ultrathin magnetic films grown by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) on semiconductors. Before joining Edinburgh, Wei worked at NanoLAB, University of Sheffield as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. His research there included combining piezo-electrical nanomanipulation and advanced transitional electron microscopy (TEM), in-situ TEM, electron tomography and patterned ion implantations to form nanoparticles.

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TOPNES Website Live

30th August 2011

The Topological Protection & Non-Equilibrium States in Strongly Correlated Electron Systems (TOPNES) research programme website is now live. We shall be updating the site regularly with the latest news on the programme, information about related events we shall be running and promoting the highlights of our research at various stages throughout the programme. You will also be able to find the latest availabilities in research and PhD positions with the programme.
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epsrc logo

EPSRC Funding Application Approved

1st July 2011

We are delighted to announce that the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has approved a proposal to fund the Topological Protection & Non-Equilibrium States in Strongly Correlated Electron Systems (TOPNES) research programme. The grant enables the project, already with strong support from Microsoft Corporation (USA), CEA-Grenoble, Harvard University, University of California, Berkley, RIKEN and Kyoto University, to conduct crucial new research.

The collaborative research programme between the Universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh and Oxford – based primarily at the University of St Andrews – will work closely with the Scottish Doctoral Training Centre in Condensed Matter Physics and will provide a number of new research and PhD positions.

For further information on the grant programme, the institutions involved or the supporting partners, please visit the About section of this site.
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