Lucas Brito Awarded Goldwater Scholarship

Physics concentrator Lucas Brito was recently awarded a prestigious Goldwater scholarship. Goldwater Scholarships are awarded to second- or third-year students planning research careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

According to the Barry Goldwater Scholarship & Excellence in Education Foundation, Brito is among 413 students named 2023 Goldwater Scholars from more than 5,000 nominations by 427 academic institutions. “The Department of Defense’s continued partnership with the Goldwater Foundation ensures we are supporting the development of scientific talent essential to maintaining our Nation’s competitive advantage,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Acting Deputy Director of Research, Technology and Laboratories, who oversees the NDEP program, as he explained the partnership.

Of his experience overseeing Lucas' research, Professor Brad Marston said "This past summer Lucas started working on research under my direction as part of our NSF EPSCoR grant led by Prof. Vesna Mitrović. He collaborated closely with our EPSCoR postdoc, Dr. Stephen Carr. Lucas’s project seeks to estimate model parameters for quantum matter. Dirac observed in 1929 that all of condensed matter and chemistry may be understood from many-electron quantum theory. On the other hand, theoretical understanding of the emergent properties of condensed matter has benefitted more from models of severely reduced complexity such as the Hubbard model. Simple models of condensed matter suffer, however, from at least two drawbacks. First, very interesting physics occurs in the proximity of transitions between different phases of matter. Second, it is sometimes desirable to create a highly accurate model so that precise experiments can be carried out. Lucas is using multi-point correlations of quantum matter in a virtuous cycle to realize the best features of both idealized and precise but complex models."

Physics Communications spoke to Lucas, who thanked his faculty and peer mentors and detailed the ways in which the Goldwater Scholarship will help to answer the questions that drive his research. Read on!

What brought you to Brown Physics, and who has most directly impacted your journey and how?
"I was drawn to Brown's physics department by the vast undergraduate research opportunities, the close relationship with the arts maintained by faculty such as Prof. Alexander, and the collaborative student culture. Throughout my time here, I've been met with generosity and intellectual engagement from all faculty members, most notably Profs. Mitrović and Marston and Dr. Carr. I'm also grateful to peer mentors such as alumni Adam Tropper and Alex Jacoby, as well as like-minded members of the class of 2024 Elijah, Gareth and Smita."

How have the Department and the faculty supported you?
"I'm immensely grateful to Prof. Mitrović for accepting me into her group in the Fall of 2021 and thus introducing me to research in condensed matter physics, Prof. Marston for overseeing my more recent projects in theoretical many-body physics and entertaining my various questions about all facets of physics, and Profs. Dell'Antonio and Fan for assisting in navigating the department's courses and offering general mentorship. It has also been a privilege to work so closely with Dr. Stephen Carr, whose abundant wisdom and general kindness have been inspirational to me. More generally, I'm thankful for the liberty the department affords students in exploring their interests and challenging themselves through coursework and research; I hope this culture persists long after I graduate."

Please elaborate on what real-world questions drive your research and the ways in which being a Goldwater Scholar will help answer them.
"I am broadly interested in the intersection of quantum statistical mechanics, quantum field theory, and quantum information theory; this interest is informed by scientific and technological demands to understand the foundational principles of quantum matter, and more generally by the philosophical puzzles offered by quantum theory. I am especially drawn to work that leverages computational methods to treat and provide intuition for previously intractable problems.

Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship has been a blessing for my family and me - it provides a financial incentive to continue pursuing the questions I have been drawn to and reaffirms that the nation maintains a commitment to the pursuit of scientific knowledge by assisting young scientists in their early careers."