“I use computational models to study the electronic structure and spectroscopies of various novel materials.”
In the field of physics, the biggest breakthroughs often take place on the smallest scale imaginable – and that realm is Christopher Lane’s playground. Throughout his collegiate career, he has been fascinated by the inscrutable interactions that take place at the atomic level; a New England Native, Lane graduated from Clarkson University in New York with a dual degree in physics and mathematics. “My interests at the time focused around non-linear systems, and the remarkable phenomena that can happen there,” he explains, “And when I went looking for graduate programs, Northeastern had a critical mass of people who were studying those sorts of things.”
Early in Lane’s graduate studies at Northeastern, he attended a seminar by University Distinguished Professor Arun Bansil, where he discussed his research on high-temperature superconductors and his broader efforts in theoretical condensed matter. “I found it fascinating how even the smallest, most subtle changes can have dramatic effects on the macroscopic properties of a material,” He says, “When I approached Professor Bansil, he told me to come to his group’s weekly meeting, and I ended up going to his group meetings for the next seven years.”
After joining Professor Bansil’s group as a graduate researcher, Lane earned his PhD in Physics in 2019. “We model the electronic structure and spectroscopy of many novel materials composed of atoms from around the periodic table, assembled together in different forms, whether it be a crystal, a 2-D thin film, or some other state,” he explains, “With today’s high resolution spectroscopies extracting the origin of key features becomes impossible without modeling. Therefore the work of myself, and our group as a whole, is crucial in deciphering spectroscopic characteristics and to figure out their underlying fundamental origin.”
Though he describes himself as a student of fundamental principles, Lane sees his area of research having direct impact on a wide range of applications, ranging from the development of faster and more compact computer processors and memory, more efficient batteries and fuel cells for energy conversion and storage, to state-of-the-art electrical grid design using superconductive materials. The intertwining of fundamental research and cutting-edge novel materials has served him well – now in his post-doctoral research, he has accepted a prestigious position within the Theoretical Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
In the long term Lane hopes to return to academia, where he can split his time between teaching and his research. “I have had the opportunity to teach at both Clarkson and Northeastern and I find working with students and enabling their curiosity vastly rewarding and beneficial to my own deeper understanding. Furthermore, I believe teaching and mentoring the new generation is one of the most important undertakings one can perform.”
“The thing that excites me about quantum materials is how very subtle changes to their atomic arrangement, composition, pressure, etc, can give way to huge changes in the materials’ behavior, creating phenomena that did not exist before.”