Johannes Pollanen named Jerry Cowen Chair of Experimental Physics

  • Sep 22, 2017
  • Homepage Hero, Faculty & Staff, Research, Physics & Astronomy

Randy Cowen, Johannes Pollanen and Phil Duxbury at Pollanen's investiture as a Jerry Cowen Chair in Experimental Physics

Randy Cowen (left), son of Jerry Cowen, poses with Johannes Pollanen (center) and Phil Duxbury, Department of Physics and Astronomy chair, following Pollanen's investiture as a Jerry Cowen Chair of Experimental Physics. Randy Cowen established the chair in honor of his father's life and career as a physics and astronomy professor at MSU.

Johannes Pollanen, Michigan State University assistant professor of physics and stronomy, was formally invested as a Jerry Cowen Chair of Experimental Physics.

The endowed chair was established by Jerry Cowen’s son, Randy, who represented the Cowen family at the investiture, held Sept. 14 at MSU’s Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building—home to the physics and astronomy department.

“This chair honors my father, who had a passion for research and teaching, especially in working with his graduate students,” Cowen said. “We felt that the right way to honor him was creating a chair so that the university—especially the physics department, which is where my father spent his whole life—had the opportunity to go out and recruit extremely talented young professors to come, be endowed chairs and grow their careers at Michigan State and in this department. I thank the university and the physics department for providing an environment where this can happen in a way that is great for MSU, great for the faculty and students, and great for our family.”

Pollanen received his B.S. in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his Ph.D. in experimental condensed matter physics from Northwestern University. Before joining MSU in 2016, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM) at the California Institute of Technology. While at Northwestern, he discovered a new chiral quantum state of superfluid 3He, which he engineered by introducing anisotropic disorder to the superfluid in the form of high porosity silica aerogel. During his time at Caltech, he demonstrated a novel method for controlling the orientation of a class of 2d electronic liquid crystalline phases of matter that exist in ultra-clean semiconductor structures.

"As a young assistant professor in the field of experimental quantum physics it is an amazing honor to hold a Cowen Chair faculty position,” Pollanen said. “It's clear to me that Randy Cowen has an incredible passion for physics; and the support that he provides to the department, and to my research group specifically, is vital for creating an atmosphere where exploration and discovery can flourish."

Pollanen is also the principal investigator leading the Laboratory for Hybrid Quantum Systems (LHQS) at MSU. Pollanen's research group explores the fundamental physics and potential quantum information science applications of a variety of low-dimensional quantum electronic materials and devices.

Philip Duxbury, professor and Department of Physics and Astronomy chair in the College of Natural Science, was thrilled that the department was able to attract Pollanen to the department.

"Congratulations to Johannes Pollanen, who is the newest Jerry Cowen Chair of Experimental Physics,” Duxbury said. “He is an outstanding experimentalist studying quantum science at the most fundamental level; and he is developing devices that may eventually yield disruptive quantum information or sensing technologies.  The Cowen endowment is vital to our department's ability to recruit faculty of Johannes' caliber."

Jerry Cowen received his Ph.D. in physics from Michigan State University in 1954. In 1955, he and his wife, Elaine, moved to Okemos, Mich., where he returned to teach in the physics department—a position that he held until just weeks before his death in 1999. Professor Cowen excelled in both materials science research and teaching. His research spanned five decades and included many international collaborations.

In addition to Pollanen, Matthew Comstock, an assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department, also currently holds a Cowen Chair.