Francesca Ferlaino (Photo: Martin Vandory)

This week quantum physicist Francesca Ferlaino will receive the Antonio Feltrinelli Giovani Prize in physics. This is the first time the prize, valued at 50,000 Euro, will be awarded to young scientists. It recognizes the achievements of Italian scholars under the age of 40 who have achieved results of outstanding originality and international significance.

On 10 November 2017, the Italian National Academy of Sciences “Accademia dei Lincei” will award the Antonio-Feltrinelli Prizes to outstanding figures from the fields of science and the arts during the traditional annual opening of the academic year. It is the most prestigious award of its kind in Italy. For the first time this year four new prizes, each valued at 50,000 Euro, will be awarded to junior scientists in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, medicine and physics. Naples born quantum physicist Francesca Ferlaino will receive the award in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the field of ultracold quantum gases. Ferlaino is Professor at the Institute for Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck and Scientific Director at the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The other prizes will go to cancer researcher Carlotta Giorgi, mathematician Alessio Figalli, and astrophysicist Antonino Milone. The International Prize for Literature, valued at 250,000 Euro, will be awarded to well-known Israeli author Abraham B. Yehoshua.

Ultracold gases

Experimental physicists Ferlaino studies quantum matter in the extreme regime of ultra low temperature, where the rules of quantum mechanics govern the behavior of the particles. In the laboratory, the properties of such systems can be tuned in a controlled way, which allows the scientists to study quantum mechanical phenomena that are otherwise hard to access. Ferlaino's research focuses on the study of dipolar quantum phenomena. Together with her team, she was the first one to prepare ultracold quantum gases of erbium atoms, which is among the most magnetic species in the periodic table. These relatively heavy atoms of rare earth metals offer a new playground to study complex quantum behavior, where interaction on long distance and anisotropy are in play. The goal is to provide a basic understanding of complex geometry-dependent quantum systems, which will lead them into areas of quantum physics that have not been investigated so far. Using this system as quantum simulator, the group aim at gaining a deep knowledge of the quantum properties of matter.

About Francesca Ferlaino

Francesca Ferlaino studied physics at the University Federico II in Naples, where she received her diploma in 2000 for a theoretical work on Bose-Einstein condensates, jointly conducted in Naples and at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste. She then directed her research interest towards experimental physics and received her PhD at the European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy (LENS) in Florence. She was involved in the first realization of quantum gases mixture of different atomic species. In 2007, Ferlaino moved to Austria first as a visiting scientist, then as postdoctoral researcher, and Lise-Meitner fellow. Since 2014, she has been Professor for Atom Physics at the University of Innsbruck and Scientific Director at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI).
The 39-year old researcher is awardee of numerous prestigious prizes and distinctions, including the Alexander-von-Humboldt Professorship, the Science Prize of the City of Innsbruck, the Ignaz L. Lieben Prize, and the Fritz-Kohlrausch Prize for experimental physics. In addition, she received the START Prize, one ERC-Starting and one ERC-Consolidator grant.