October 11, 2022
Elbio Dagotto doesn’t necessarily take things at face value, at least not when it comes to materials. He is interested in the complexity often going on below the surface—how electrons move, spin, and interact and what happens as a result, often with competing tendencies leading to unusual patterns and properties. Superconductivity, magnetism, and quantum computing all have ties to the fundamental research Dagotto conducts as both a Distinguished Professor of Physics at UT and a Distinguished Scientist in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Materials Science and Technology Division. For his outstanding contributions to materials physics, the American Physical Society (APS) has awarded him the 2023 David Adler Lectureship Award in the Field of Materials Physics.
"Professor Dagotto is a leader in the field of strongly correlated electrons, consistently pushing forward new paradigms and ideas to solve some of the most pressing problems facing the world today," said Professor and Department Head Adrian Del Maestro. "At the same time, he is well known for his dedication to teaching and mentorship, having trained a large number of successful scientists as well as consistently being a recipient of departmental undergraduate teaching awards. He has a knack for communicating complicated ideas in a pedagogical manner, demonstrated through his popular review papers, and he is always at the top of my list to teach introductory quantum mechanics."
Dagotto is a condensed matter theorist and uses advanced models and computational tools to predict how correlated electrons behave in a wide variety of materials, as well as nanoscale systems.
"We say electrons are correlated when the properties of one individual electron depend strongly on what the rest of the ensemble of many other electrons is doing, a formidable challenge for calculations," he explained.
These studies provide the bedrock for understanding at a fundamental level how several properties, such as insulation, magnetism, and superconductivity arise: crucial discoveries for unveiling new exotic materials as well as developing atomic scale devices. Dagotto literally wrote the book on Nanoscale Phase Separation and Colossal Magnetoresistance and co-edited another on Multifunctional Oxide Heterostructures. He has authored or co-authored more than 450 publications that have been cited more than 30,000 times. In 2004 he joined UT and ORNL with a 50-50 percent split appointment; that same year he was listed among the world’s top 250 most Highly Cited Physicists. His research is currently funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division.
Dagotto’s expertise is so well regarded that he has been invited to weigh in—often as sole author—on the state of condensed matter physics for prestigious journals including Science, Nature, and Reviews of Modern Physics. For four years he was a divisional editor specializing in condensed matter for Physical Review Letters. He has also served on the National Academies’ Solid State Sciences Committee (now the Condensed Matter and Materials Research Committee), a body that helps set the national agenda for materials research.
Dagotto earned a PhD in physics at Instituto Balseiro, Bariloche, in his native Argentina. He has a keen interest in supporting other Hispanic scientists at all stages of their careers. To that end he and Professor Adriana Moreo have organized a series of Hispanics in Physics lunch gatherings for the department, welcoming everyone from undergraduates to senior faculty.
The Adler Lectureship Award will now appear on Dagotto’s CV among a host of other honors, including his election as a Fellow of both the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The UT Society of Physics Students has also recently selected him as Teacher of the Year the last two times he taught quantum mechanics for undergraduate students.
Dagotto’s official citation for the Adler Lectureship reads:
"For pioneering work on the theoretical framework of correlated electron systems and describing their importance through elegant written and oral communications."
The David Adler Lectureship Award in the Field of Materials Physics is awarded annually to a scientist making outstanding contributions to the field of materials physics and who is notable for high quality research, review articles, and lecturing. The honor is named for the late David Adler, a condensed matter physicist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The official award presentation will be next March at the American Institute of Physics meeting, where Dagotto will give an invited talk.