Credit: Laurel Hungerford Photography

Pavel Maksimov is a recent graduate of the Department of Physics and Astronomy who studied condensed matter physics, specifically “frustrated” magnets. He decided to study this topic when his advisor, Professor Sasha Chernyshev, suggested it to him. A lot of the calculations can be done analytically, which is something that Pavel was drawn to. He studies phase diagrams of various frustrated magnets, excitations of magnetically ordered phases – magnons, and their interaction. One particular effect that Pavel studies is spontaneous magnon decay. Since magnons are bosons, their number is not conserved and they are able to decay into two other magnons even at zero temperature. However, this is only possible if the interaction is allowed by symmetry – which is common in frustrated magnets – and energy-momentum conservation. Post PhD, Pavel would like to continue doing research. Outside of the department, Pavel enjoys playing for the Department IM soccer and football teams. He recommends that everyone try a sport since it helps clear your mind and is more fun than just running. Pavel is also a member of UAVs@UCI – an RC drone and plane club that goes out to fly every weekend. To maintain a good work/life balance Pavel spends his weekends reading or going out. He also says its important to maintain friendships.

The condensed matter journal club is a journal club within the Department of Physics and Astronomy composed of graduate students who get together and discuss various topics within condensed matter physics. Pavel and Mingru Yang, another graduate student, decided to start the journal club because they wanted to discuss topics and material that wasn’t being discussed in the courses. During their first year they would meet twice a week and went through several books. They studied many-body theory, quantum magnetism, and went through introductory course in Condensed Matter Physics. It was beneficial both to first year students and to older students, since both got practice explaining and teaching the topics. They assigned students to specific chapters a couple weeks ahead of the discussion so that the students could prepare to talk about that topic. This year the journal club shifted their focus to articles since it is hard to find good graduate level books that they haven’t already discussed. Similarly, they plan couple weeks ahead and assign people to a specific date to present on a paper they selected. The journal club now only meets once a week. Instead of a lecture style meeting, the club discusses the topics together with one person leading the discussion. If that person struggles to explain a topic, everyone tries to figure it out together, and sometimes they fail – which is okay. Pavel hopes that the condensed matter journal club will increase interaction between students within the different condensed matter groups in the department. He also hopes that the format of the journal club will help students learn new topics and allow them to practice their presentation skills at the same time.

The Student Spotlights are a series brought to you by a collaboration between the UCI Physics and Astronomy Blog Team and the Physics Graduate Caucus at UCI