Norman Yao receives $2M Brown Investigator award

Professor of Physics Norman Yao

Kris Snibbe / Harvard Staff Photographer

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Norman Yao, professor in Harvard’s Department of Physics, has been named a 2024 Ross Brown Investigator by the Brown Institute for Basic Sciences at Caltech.

As one of eight awarded mid-career faculty working on fundamental challenges in the physical sciences, Yao will receive up to $2 million over five years. The award will fund Yao’s work in developing sensors embedded into the surfaces of diamond anvils to image microscopic physics, including superconductivity. Yao’s research at Harvard lies at the interface among atomic, molecular, and optical physics; condensed matter; and quantum information science.

The Brown Institute for Basic Sciences at Caltech was established in 2023 through a $400 million gift from entrepreneur and philanthropist Ross M. Brown, with the goal of advancing fundamental science discoveries. In administering the program, Caltech refrains from nominating its own scientists for Brown Investigator Awards. In return, the institute draws other funds from Brown’s gift to support research in chemistry and physics.

For the 2024 class, a select number of research universities from across the country were invited to nominate faculty members who had earned tenure within the last 10 years and who are doing innovative fundamental research in the physical sciences. Nominees were then evaluated by an independent scientific review board that recommended grant winners.

Brown established the Investigator Awards in 2020 through the Brown Science Foundation, in support of the belief that “scientific discovery is a driving force in the improvement of the human condition,” according to its news release from the Science Philanthropy Alliance.