Vito Scarola, assistant professor of physics, was recently named a Young Faculty Award winner by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  

The program allows junior faculty members broad latitude to explore scientific advancement in a particular research area.

“This is a very prestigious honor,” said Beate Schmittmann, chair of the physics department. “It appears to be the first DARPA Young Faculty Award going to Virginia Tech since the program began in 2006.”

Out of 407 applicants this year, 39 of the nation’s brightest young scientists were selected to receive grants totaling $11.7 million. The objective of the award is to identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions and expose them to Department of Defense needs as well as DARPA's program development process.

Scarola’s research in theoretical physics explores the fundamental properties of quantum materials.

“The ability to understand and harness quantum matter, for example, superconductors and quantum magnets, offers opportunities for new technologies but pose challenging theoretical problems.” Scarola said.

“Researchers hope to tailor recent experiments trapping atomic gases with interfering laser to replicate models of poorly understood, but potentially useful, quantum materials.”

Scarola’s work will explore pioneering new directions for these tools as emulators of quantum materials in connection with DARPA’s Optical Lattice Emulator program. He earned his Ph.D. from Penn State University.

DARPA’s mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military. Over the years, it has worked to enhance national security by funding research and technology development that not only have improved military capabilities but have changed the way we live.