Public Lecture

Creating New Universes Inside of Quantum Materials

Erica Carlson

Purdue University

Wed, Dec 13, 5:30–6:30pm

Flug Forum, Aspen Center for Physics


Quantum physics is about how the world works on its tiniest scales, typically a few atoms or smaller. In the quantum realm, particles are waves and waves are particles. Things we take for granted about how the world works no longer seem to apply, and the line between what is and what is not gets blurred. With quantum materials, scientists are trying to take these strange quantum properties inside of materials and bring them to the forefront where we can use them and where we can control them. Inside of each new quantum material, it’s like a whole new universe, and new particles can emerge inside. Within the quantum materials known as spin ice, we can create the elusive magnetic monopole, a particle long theorized to exist, but not yet observed out in the wild. Inside of semiconductor sandwiches, we can even create particles that are otherwise impossible, like anyons, which have no counterpart in the natural universe. In this talk, Carlson will discuss these and other quantum materials, including one that we already use every day.

Erica Carlson Headshot

About Erica Carlson

Erica W. Carlson, Ph.D., is Professor of Physics at Purdue University. Prof. Carlson holds a BS in Physics from the California Institute of Technology (1994), as well as a Ph.D. in Physics from UCLA (2000). Prof. Carlson researches electronic phase transitions in quantum materials. In 2015, she was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society "for theoretical insights into the critical role of electron nematicity, disorder, and noise in novel phases of strongly correlated electron systems and predicting unique characteristics." Prof. Carlson has been on the faculty at Purdue University since 2003, where she was recently named a "150th Anniversary Professor" in recognition of teaching excellence. Her latest work popularizing science can be found at and

Nick and Maggie DeWolf Public Lecture Series

The Nick and Maggie DeWolf Foundation has sponsored our winter public lecture series since their inception in 1985. The Nick and Maggie DeWolf Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Aspen, Colorado. Its core tenet is to provide support to groups and organizations interested in improving the quality of life and education in the world. During the winter, Aspen Center for Physics hosts week-long conferences, and during each conference one of the conference participants is asked to give a public physics talk. You can watch past talks on our YouTube channel here.

Nick DeWolf and fountain.