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Tongcang Li

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Tongcang Li
PHYS 91 Lab
(765) 496-0072
(765) 494-3020

Lab Homepage:


  • 2011: Ph.D. in Physics, The University of Texas at Austin, USA.
  • 2004: B.S. in Physics, University of Science and Technology of China


  • 08/2014 - : Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Purdue University
  • 08/2014 - : Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University
  • 08/2011 - 07/2014: Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 06/2011 – 07/2011: Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of Texas at Austin.
  • 01/2005 – 05/2011: Graduate Research Assistant, The University of Texas at Austin.
  • 09/2004 – 12/2004: Teaching Assistant in Physics, The University of Texas at Austin.

Other Experiences

  • Reviewer for Nature Photonics, Nature Communications, PNAS, Physical Review Letters, Physical Review A, Nano Letters, Laser & Photonics Reviews, New Journal of Physics, Optics Express, Nanotechnology, etc.
  • Reviewer for National Science Foundation, European Research Council, German Research Foundation, French National Research Agency, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, etc.

Awards and Honors

  • Senior member, the Optical Society (OSA), 2019 
  • Top 10 finalists for the 2019 Moore Inventor Fellows Award, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
  • APS Physics Top 10 "Highlights of the Year" of 2018, American Physical Society
  • Purdue's Top 10 Research Stories of 2018, Purdue University
  • Seed for Success Award, Purdue University, 2018
  • Science Bulletin 2017 Best Paper Award, Science China Press
  • NSF CAREER Award, National Science Foundation, 2016
  • Our paper "Science, 328, 1673 (2010)" on Brownian motion was included in the “Science in the Classroom”, an NSF-funded AAAS project for teaching high school and college students, 2013
  • Springer Theses Prize, Springer Science + Business Media, 2012
  • Outstanding Dissertation in Physics, Department of Physics, The University of Texas at Austin, 2011
  • Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad, China Scholarship Council, 2011
  • Jean Bennett Memorial Student Travel Grant, Optical Society of America Foundation, 2010
    (Only one student is awarded this grant per year. Citation: “In recognition of outstanding research excellence”.)
  • Lawrence C. Biedenharn Endowment for Excellence, University of Texas at Austin, 2010

Research Interests

Quantum optomechanics, quantum photonics, quantum information and quantum computing, nonequilibrium thermodynamics, etc.


  • Tongcang Li, Fundamental Tests of Physics with Optically Trapped Microspheres (Springer Theses) (Springer, New York, 2013)

Selected Journal Publications

  • Jonghoon Ahn, Zhujing Xu, Jaehoon Bang, Yu-Hao Deng, Thai M. Hoang, Qinkai Han, Ren-Min Ma, Tongcang Li. "Optically Levitated Nanodumbbell Torsion Balance and GHz Nanomechanical Rotor", Phys. Rev. Lett., 121, 033603  (2018) (widely reported by APS website Physics, Nature magazine, NBC News, Fox News, Yahoo! News, Optics & Photonics News, Gizmodo, and many other major media) 
  • Thai M. Hoang, Rui Pan, Jonghoon Ahn, Jaehoon Bang, H. T. Quan, Tongcang Li. "Experimental test of the differential fluctuation theorem and a generalized Jarzynski equality for arbitrary initial states", Phys. Rev. Lett., 120, 080602 (2018) (Featured in APS website Physics; PRL Editors' Suggestion)
  • Hao-Kun Li, Erik Urban, Crystal Noel, Alexander Chuang, Yang Xia, Anthony Ransford, Boerge Hemmerling, Yuan Wang, Tongcang Li, Hartmut Häffner, and Xiang Zhang. "Realization of Translational Symmetry in Trapped Cold Ion Rings", Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 053001 (2017).   (PRL Editors' Suggestion)  
  • Thai M. Hoang, Yue Ma, Jonghoon Ahn, Jaehoon Bang, F. Robicheaux, Zhang-Qi Yin, Tongcang Li. "Torsional optomechanics of a levitated nonspherical nanoparticle", Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 123604 (2016) (Featured in Physics; PRL Editors' Suggestion)  

  • Thai M. Hoang, Jonghoon Ahn, Jaehoon Bang, Tongcang Li. "Electron spin control of optically levitated nanodiamonds in vacuum", Nature Communications 7, 12550 (2016)

  • Peng Zhang*, Tongcang Li*, Jie Zhu*, Xuefeng Zhu, Sui Yang, Yuan Wang, Xiaobo Yin, and Xiang Zhang. "Generation of acoustic self-bending and bottle beams by phase engineering", Nature Communications5, 4316 (2014) (* coleading authors)

  • S. Kheifets, A. Simha, K. Melin, Tongcang Li, M. G. Raizen. "Observation of Brownian motion in liquids at short times: instantaneous velocity and memory loss", Science, 343, 1493 (2014)

  • Peng Zhang, Yi Hu, Tongcang Li, Drake Cannan, Xiaobo Yin, Roberto Morandotti, Zhigang Chen, Xiang Zhang. Nonparaxial Mathieu and Weber accelerating beams. Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 193901 (2012) (PRL cover story)

  • Tongcang Li, Z.-X. Gong, Z.-Q. Yin, H. T. Quan, X. Yin, P. Zhang, L.-M. Duan, X. Zhang, “Space-time crystals of trapped ions”, Phys. Rev. Lett., 109, 163001 (2012) (PRL cover story)

  • Tongcang Li, Simon Kheifets, Mark G. Raizen, “Millikelvin cooling of an optically trapped microsphere in vacuum”, Nature Physics, 7, 527 (2011)

  • Tongcang Li, S. Kheifets, D. Medellin, and M. G. Raizen, “Measurement of the instantaneous velocity of a Brownian particle”, Science, 328, 1673 (2010)

  • K. Henderson, H. Kelkar, B. Gutierrez-Medina, T. C. Li, and M. G. Raizen. "Experimental Study of the Role of Atomic Interactions on Quantum Transport". Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 150401 (2006) 

Last Updated: Jun 24, 2019 11:00 AM

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