Martin Mourigal: 2019 Sigma Xi Young Faculty Award; 2019 CTL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

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Georgia Tech has named Martin Mourigal as the recipient of two awards: The 2019 Sigma Xi Young Faculty Award and the 2019 CTL/BL Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award. Mourigal is an assistant professor in the School of Physics.

Sigma Xi Young Faculty Award

This award recognizes a faculty of rank no higher than assistant professor for outstanding research achievements at Georgia Tech, as evidenced by publications, program development results, and other research contributions.

Since Mourigal joined Georgia Tech in 2015, he rapidly assembled a group of talented students and postdocs working in the area of quantum magnetism, a new research direction in the School of Physics. Mourigal’s scientific productivity raised Georgia Tech’s profile in a research area of strategic importance for the National Quantum Initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Congress in 2018. “This is not only admirable,” a colleague says. “It is truly exceptional. Martin now leads an exceptionally vibrant and creative experimental physics laboratory focusing on intriguing new states of matter found in quantum magnetic materials, called spin liquids.”

Spin liquids are exotic magnetic materials in which dipole moments – atomic-scale compass needles also known as “spins” – never organize in periodic patterns, even at very low temperatures. Definitely not your typical fridge magnets! As spins do not freeze and remain dynamic, they can form highly entangled states. Entanglement is an essential ingredient to realize quantum computers. Although spin liquids are primarily studied for their fundamental properties, they also have promising technological potential.

Mourigal’s team uses neutron scattering experiments, simulation techniques, and cryogenic characterization tools to study new crystalline materials in search for elusive spin liquids. Mourigal’s laboratory is supported by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

“I am honored that the efforts of my laboratory are recognized by Sigma Xi” Mourigal says. “It has been really fun and exciting to work with brilliant and very creative team members, and to have wide access to top research infrastructure, such as the neutron sources at nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the cryogenic equipment in my laboratory.”

CTL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

Jointly supported by the Center for Teaching and Learning and BP America, this award recognizes the excellent teaching and educational innovations that junior faculty bring to campus.

According to colleagues, Mourigal is extremely enthusiastic about teaching and has demonstrated unusual skills and determination to engage, motivate, and care for students in his classes. Mourigal has taught different flavors of Electromagnetism at all undergraduate levels.

In Introduction to Physics II, a course required for all engineering and science majors and known for its conceptual rigor and depth, Mourigal brought a liberal-arts flavor by offering many office hours and posting hand-written notes after class to make the course feel more personalized and warm.

In higher level classes, such as Electro-Magnetostatics and Solid-State Physics, Mourigal has increased students’ appreciation for mathematics-heavy courses that tackle the inner workings of matter. For instance, Mourigal asks Solid-State Physics students to participate in a poster session and present on modern topics well beyond the content of the lectures. The foundational concepts and methods exposed in these courses train a future workforce that will embrace the quantum technologies revolution.

Mourigal is a former Class of 1969 Teaching Fellow and a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award.

“I am surprised and delighted to be recognized by this award, and I am thankful to those students and colleagues who supported my nomination” Mourigal says. “Overall my teaching style is relatively traditional, yet I love to be in a classroom and ‘relearn’ the material through my students. The highlight of my week is often to walk in the legendary L5 auditorium in the Howey Physics building to interact with students and share with them what I love about physics.”


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