Séamus Davis awarded Royal Society Research Professorship

9 April 2020

Professor Séamus Davis is one of six world-class scientists to have been awarded a prestigious Royal Society Research Professorship. The appointment recognises scientists that have made – and that continue to make – exceptional contributions to science; the Research Professorship award provides the means for eminent scientists to focus on, and devote more time to, their ambitious and original research.

Professor Davis studies exotic new quantum mechanical states of matter and this appointment specifically supports his work in atomic-scale visualisation of quantum spin liquids. His work aims to advance our understanding of this enigmatic and challenging state – quantum spin liquids – by developing two new types of quantum microscopes which will be the first instruments capable observing quantum spin liquids directly.

Making advances in quantum materials

Spin liquids are materials in which every electron is quantum ‘entangled’, instantaneously influencing all the others by what Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance’. They rival dark matter in their power to stubbornly resist direct observation. Understanding and controlling the properties of quantum spin liquids appears vital for the development of types of quantum materials that will allow widespread implementation of superconducting quantum computers.

'For me, this is a delightfully timely confluence of scientific opportunities,' confirms Professor Davis. 'We have developed two new modalities for visualising fundamental states of quantum matter just as the superlative facilities ideally suited to such research come online. Atomic scale visualisation of quantum spin liquids requires world class ultra-low-vibration and ultra-low-temperature (ULVT) lab facilities – and the next-generation ULVT labs some 30m underground in the new Beecroft building at Oxford University perform these functions superbly.'

Professor Davis is a Fellow of Wadham College at Oxford and Professor of Quantum Physics at University College Cork.

'We are incredibly proud of Séamus’ Royal Society Research Professor award; it is testament to the exceptional quality of his work,' comments Professor Ian Shipsey, Head of Department. 'Séamus has been one of the first to benefit from one of the lowest-vibration laboratory environments at any university worldwide. Our state-of-the-art Beecroft building was opened in 2019 and made possible by a combination of University and benefactor funding. We are all very excited to see how Séamus' research develops in this remarkable facility.'