Virginia Tech College of Science faculty members Sophia Economou and Giti Khodaparast have each been awarded a fellowship to support their efforts in research and teaching.

Funded by Virginia Tech alumnus William E. Hassinger Jr. ’50, the awards were approved at the Aug. 25-26 meeting of the Board of Visitors.

The L.C. Hassinger Faculty Fellowship was created and named in honor of William Hassinger’s grandfather. The three-year grant provides support for an outstanding faculty member who holds the rank of associate or full professor, and whose work in the field of nanoscience supports the missions of the college’s Academy of Integrated Science (AIS). Recipients are nominated by the College of Science Dean Sally C. Morton with support from the Hassinger Faculty Fellowship selection committee, composed of AIS faculty members with expertise in nanoscience, and AIS director Michel Pleimling.

The William E. Hassinger Jr. Senior Faculty Fellowship in Physics was established in 2007 by Hassinger to enhance the national and international prominence of Virginia Tech’s Department of Physics. The three-year grant supports the teaching and research of a tenured faculty member of the physics department. Recipients are likewise nominated by Morton, concurring with the recommendation of a selection committee convened in the physics department and of the College of Science Honorifics Committee.

L. C. Hassinger Faculty Fellowship

A professor of physics, Khodaparast’s research focuses on understanding the quantum states and charge/spin dynamics in low-dimensional systems. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the latter for a long-lasting and strong collaboration with the University of Florida, Texas A&M, and the University of Colorado Boulder on electro-optic and magneto-electric materials.

She is a core member of the nanoscience degree program and served on the committee that developed this innovative new degree program, one of only two of its kind in the United States. As part of her teaching efforts, she has mentored 27 undergraduate students, majoring either in physics or in nanoscience, and eight graduate students on various research projects.

Among her numerous awards are the 2018 International Association of Advanced Materials Certificate and the March 2016 Woman Physicist of the Month award from the American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics. A member of the National Research Council since 2014, she organized an international conference on narrow gap semiconductors at Virginia Tech in 2011, and co-led the 2017 American Physical Society Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, hosted by Virginia Tech for the first time. She has collaborations with national and international user facilities such as the National High Magnetic Field in Florida and the Megagauss Laboratory in Japan.

William E. Hassinger Jr. Senior Faculty Fellowship in Physics

An associate professor of physics, Economou focuses her research on theoretical quantum information science, a widely popular field of science due to the technological revolution it could bring to communications and computing. She leads an active research group with seven graduate students and six postdoctoral fellows. She has created two new courses in quantum information technologies and quantum optics for undergraduate and graduate students.

Economou has played a key role in establishing a quantum information science program at Virginia Tech. Her research has been recognized with substantial funding. Since coming to Virginia Tech in 2015, she has been lead or colead investigator on 13 grants with a personal share of $2.8 million from a variety of agencies including the NSF, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Research Office, and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA).

She is the primary researcher on five of these grants, including two competitively solicited calls from the NSF: a $2 million "Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation" grant on quantum communications, and a $1 million "Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering" grant on quantum simulation of chemical systems. 

She has 52 publications in peer reviewed journals and 25 invited or keynote presentations at professional conferences. Her publications have garnered 1,900 citations to date. In 2017, she was the lead organizer of a NSF-sponsored Quantum Leap Workshop on Quantum Elements of Secure Communication held in Arlington, Virginia.