ISU assistant professor receives prestigious CAREER award

Alex Cory

It’s not every day someone gets an award from the National Science Foundation, but one ISU professor did.

Rebecca Flint, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, was awarded the prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.

“The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the [National Science Foundation’s] most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations,” according to the National Science Foundation.

Flint said the CAREER award is open to eligible assistant professors, with the purpose of awarding them a grant to be used to establish research.

The application process involved submitting a research proposal for a five-year plan of research that was then sent to five or six reviewers who decide the recipients of the award, she said.

Flint, who has been at Iowa State for two and a half years, will use her grant to study spin liquids. A spin liquid is a quantum state that can be reached in a system of interacting quantum spins.

“Spin liquids are something sort of in between a solid and a gas, and that gives them more interesting physics,” Flint said.

Spin liquids are very hard to find naturally occurring, so Flint instead looks at them from a theoretical view. In her research, Flint tries to find spin liquids through tweaking and reworking existing theoretical models.

“I think that quantum physics is really complicated and mysterious,” said Joseph Salaba, sophomore in microbiology. It’s interesting that we have research being done on it at ISU.”

For Flint, it’s humbling to receive the award.

“I guess I feel honored to think that my research is interesting. I mean, obviously I think it’s interesting, but it’s nice to know other people agree with that,” Flint said, adding that with the the National Science Foundation’s grant, she now has the funds to put a graduate student on her research team.