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New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Tiancong Zhu


The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University welcomes Dr. Tiancong Zhu. Zhu is an assistant professor and began setting up his research program in the 2024 spring semester. He brings with him expertise in condensed matter physics and materials science, where he designs 2D quantum materials and heterostructures with novel properties and investigates their underlying physics at the atomic scale. He also explores the applications of these materials for both spintronics and quantum information science. He is currently setting up his lab in the Birck Nanotechnology Center with a state-of-the-art scanning tunneling microscope and a molecular beam epitaxy system. He is also setting up another lab in the physics building for van der Waals material assembly, hoping to provide more research opportunities to undergraduate students. In addition, he plans to develop a class on scanning probe microscopy and thin film deposition in the future to share his knowledge to the students who are interested in these topics.

“I am thrilled to join the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University, eager to embark on this new venture in physics,” says Zhu. “I look forward to collaborating with exceptional colleagues and inspiring students, exploring new frontiers in physics during this exciting quantum era.”

Zhu is an experimentalist who designs and investigate new materials with state-of-the-art technologies at atomic precision.

“My research delves into understanding how electrons behave within the atomic lattice of materials, and how that leads to intriguing quantum phenomena like magnetism, topological properties, and superconductivity,” explains Zhu. “I meticulously design new materials with atomic precision using molecular beam epitaxy and van der Waals stacking. Employing scanning tunneling microscopy, I explore the properties of materials at the atomic scale, hoping to bridge the gap between macroscopic quantum phenomena and microscopic intricacies and explore their usage in quantum technology and information science.”

Zhu is originally from Anhui, China. He earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Peking University in China. He spent six years in Columbus, OH, working on his Ph.D. at the Ohio State University. While there, he worked with Prof. Roland Kawakami, focusing on spin and magnetism in 2D materials. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, he collaborated with Prof. Michael Crommie studying correlated and topological properties in 2D materials with scanning tunneling microscopy. He says the Midwest, including West Lafayette, feels like a second home.

“I love the people here, who are always warm-hearted and down-to-earth,” he says. “I was attracted to Purdue for its stellar academic reputation, highly collaborative research environment, and visionary approach to quantum materials and quantum information science. During my visit last year, I was impressed by the innovative research directions and ideas, vast research opportunities, and world-leading research facilities at both the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Birck Nanotechnology Center. I feel that my expertise will fit very well with the existing research agenda at Purdue, and Purdue will also provide a perfect platform to advance my research goals.”

When not conducting research and teaching physics, Zhu can be found outside enjoying the great outdoors. He is an outdoor enthusiast and avid cyclist.

“Cycling, for me, is not just a sport but a way to enjoy nature and engage in conversations with friends,” he says. “During my postdoc at UC Berkeley, I organized cycling trips, forming lasting connections with lab mates and friends outside of work. I am hoping to establish something similar here at Purdue.”


Tiancong Zhu (left) is an avid cyclist and likes to organize cycling trips with friends and coworkers. Pictured above is a cycling trip he organized with friends while a postdoc at UC Berkeley.  Photo provided by Zhu.



About the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University

Purdue Department of Physics and Astronomy has a rich and long history dating back to 1904. Our faculty and students are exploring nature at all length scales, from the subatomic to the macroscopic and everything in between. With an excellent and diverse community of faculty, postdocs, and students who are pushing new scientific frontiers, we offer a dynamic learning environment, an inclusive research community, and an engaging network of scholars.  

Physics and Astronomy is one of the seven departments within the Purdue University College of Science. World-class research is performed in astrophysics, atomic and molecular optics, accelerator mass spectrometry, biophysics, condensed matter physics, quantum information science, particle and nuclear physics. Our state-of-the-art facilities are in the Physics Building, but our researchers also engage in interdisciplinary work at Discovery Park District at Purdue, particularly the Birck Nanotechnology Center and the Bindley Bioscience Center. We also participate in global research including at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, many national laboratories (such as Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermilab, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Stanford Linear Accelerator, etc.), the James Webb Space Telescope, and several observatories around the world. 




Written by Cheryl PierceCommunications Specialist

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2024 3:53 PM

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