The University of Utah
Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah

Physics student Ethan Lake awarded prestigious Hertz Fellowship

Ethan Lake becomes 2nd Hertz Fellow for the U.

Ethan Lake, an undergraduate student in physics and math at the University of Utah, has received the prestigious and highly competitive Hertz Fellowship, a $250,000 grant for up to five years of graduate study in the STEM fields. Lake is one of only 12 students nationally to receive this award and the second Hertz Fellow for the U. The first Hertz fellow was in 1989, when Eric Kelson received the award.

Etahn Lake applies his physics knowledge to defeat gravity. Here, Lake celebrates the victory atop a desert tower in Castle Valley, southern Utah.

“Ethan’s receipt of the Hertz Fellowship has opened the door for other U students to follow in his footsteps,” said Ruth Watkins, senior vice president for Academic Affairs at the U. “We have no doubt Ethan will continue to make a significant contribution to research and be an excellent representative of our university and state.”

The Hertz Fellowship, established in 1963 by the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, seeks to support America’s most promising students in the applied physical, biological and engineering sciences who possess technical talent and the potential to solve difficult, real world problems. This year, 721 students applied and went through a rigorous merit-based process. The top 150 applicants were invited for an in-depth technical interview and of those, 40 were invited back for a second interview, with each interview increasing in difficulty.

“I found the application process, especially the interviews, to be intellectually rewarding and very enjoyable,” said Lake. “I would definitely encourage other students to apply.”

Lake’s passion for science began a world away in astrophysics. In his first year at the U, he joined professor Zheng Zheng’s computational astrophysics group where he studied the environments surrounding galaxies in the early universe and the gravitational microlensing of extrasolar asteroid belts.

“I’m extremely impressed by Ethan’s strong learning and research abilities and by his curiosity and creativity,” said Zheng. “He is truly exceptional.”

In the summer following his second year, Lake made an impulsive decision to switch to condensed matter theory, and began working on a problem in theoretical superconductivity with professors Dima Pesin and Oleg Starykh.

Ethan Lake, undergraduate student in physics and math, has received the prestigious and highly competitive Hertz Fellowship, a $250,000 grant for up to five years of graduate study in the STEM fields.

“Ethan has progressed steadily from a theoretical physics novice learning such basic theory as unitary transformations and second quantization to an expert in exotic p-wave superconductivity and many-body perturbation theory,” said Starykh. “This progress is truly amazing and in my experience, unprecedented.”

In fall 2015, Lake joined professor Yong-Shi Wu’s group to study topological quantum matter and in spring 2016 Lake was awarded the prestigious Barry Goldwater scholarship for excellence in STEM research. This past summer he attended the premier summer school on topological quantum matter at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In the school’s 17-year history, Lake was one of only three undergraduate students invited to participate. He also participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergrads program with Michael Hermele, associate professor of physics, also at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“His strong interpersonal and collaborative skills are extraordinary for someone who has advanced to the frontiers of science so early in his career,” said Hermele. “Ethan is on a trajectory to become one of the leading lights of theoretical physics in the 21st century.”

During his undergraduate career, Lake has written six first-author publications with another three papers either submitted or in progress. Through his research, he has collaborated with scholars at various institutions around the world, including Princeton University, Caltech, CU Boulder, Peking University and Tokyo University.

Click here to see the full list of Ethan's publications on the arXiv.


“I’m very grateful to the mentors I’ve worked with for their constant patience, and I appreciate the freedom they’ve given me to explore and think about research problems independently,” added Lake.

Lake is currently studying the role that topology plays in condensed matter theory and quantum information theory. In this field, he has found a balance between his aptitude for abstract mathematics and his desire to work on problems that can be tested by experiment. He plans to perform related work in graduate school, while pursuing a doctorate in theoretical physics.

“I’m psyched to use the freedom this fellowship grants me to explore different areas of theoretical physics. Graduate school is going to be a ton of fun,” said Lake.

Official Announcement from the Hertz Foundation

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Additionally, Ethan has also been awarded the 2017 College of Science Research Scholar Award, as well as the National Science Foundation's 2017 Graduate Research Fellowship. Click here to see the full list of awardees, and to learn more about the NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

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Frontiers of Science with Dr. Frank Brown

Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 6:00 p.m. - Frontiers of Science with Dr. Frank Brown! "The Omo-Turkana Basin, East Africa: A Treasury of History" in room 220 of the Aline Wilmot Skaggs Building (ASB) on the U of U Campus!


with Dr. Frank Brown,
College of Mines & Earth Sciences, University of Utah

The Omo-Turkana Basin, East Africa: A Treasury of History

Image Credit: College of Mines & Earth Sciences

Date & Time: Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 6:00pm

Location: 220 Aline Skaggs Building at the University of Utah
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Lake Turkana, the last major lake in East Africa to become known to Europeans, has been studied since the 1900s. Since then, The Omo-Turkana basin has yielded a treasure trove of fossil and anthropological findings, including the only Cretaceous dinosaurs from East Africa, specimens of the Miocene primates, early evidence of bipedalism, the oldest record of stone tools, the oldest known Homo sapiens (195,000 years old), and much more.

In this talk, Dr. Frank Brown will discuss the importance of the Omo-Turkana Basin as a site of historical and contemporary importance for research and technological innovation in paleoanthropology and scientific innovation.

Frontiers of Science is free and open to the public. Please arrive early, as seating and parking will be limited. Click here to learn more about the Frontiers of Science lecture series.


Tabitha Buehler Receives College of Science Award for Teaching Excellence

Dr. Tabitha Buehler

The College of Science's 2017-2018 Award for Teaching Excellence has been awarded to Dr. Tabitha Buehler, an Assistant Professor (Lecturer) in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. This award recognizes Tabitha's accomplishments in challenging and stimulating the intellectual curiosity of her students.

The department congratulates Dr. Buehler for her accomplishments, as well as commends her for her ongoing dedication and enthusiasm for teaching, education, and outreach!



Science Night Live with Dr. Stefan Patrikis

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 @ 6:00 p.m. - Science Night Live with Dr. Stefan Patrikis! "Symmetry And The Primes" at Keys on Main (242 South Main Street) in downtown Salt Lake!


"Science Night Live public lectures offer a casual social and educational event in downtown Salt Lake. All events are held at Keys on Main (242 South Main Street), beginning with a social at 5:30 and a lecture at 6:00 p.m. Free and open to the public! Must be 21 years of age or older. Right across the street from the Gallivan TRAX station."

with Dr. Stefan Patrikis,
Department of Mathematics, University of Utah

Symmetry And The Primes

Date & Time: Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 6:00pm (Social begins at 5:30pm)

Location:Keys on Main (242 South Main Street)
View Map

First we learn to count; next we learn to multiply. From the interaction of these two elementary operations emerge the prime numbers, the building blocks of the integers.

The patterning of the primes continually reveals itself to be richer than mathematicians could ever have expected. A well-placed application of 18th century number theory exploits the richness of this patterning to build the public-key cryptography algorithms that secure many of our electronic communications. Number theory in the 21st century, while still grounded in the study of the primes, takes form through surprising connections with geometry, topology, algebra, and analysis, and even suggests bizarre and tantalizing analogies with fundamental physics.

These astonishing connections express previously hidden symmetries in the prime numbers, which we are only in the very first stages of understanding. In this talk we will explore how elementary questions of arithmetic lead us to this strange mathematical landscape.

Science Night Live is free and open to the public 21 or over. Please arrive early, as seating and parking will be limited. Click here to learn more about the Science Night Live lecture series.



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