2012 Maxwell medal and prize

Dr Meera Parish, London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London.

For her pioneering work in the theory of cold fermionic matter and magnetotransport in highly disordered media.

Meera Parish is an outstanding theorist of remarkable versatility who in a short career has had a great impact on diverse fields. She began by solving an important problem in the transport of electrons in strong magnetic fields: Tom Rosenbaum’s group had observed that the resistance of certain materials appears to be linearly proportional to the magnetic field, without any saturation. Parish and her PhD supervisor, Peter Littlewood, had the insight to realise this was a general feature of a highly disordered network of classical resistors and Parish was able to write down and solve a simple but elegant model which captured all the essential physics. More recently she has produced a finite-frequency generalization of this result.

Parish then moved into the field of ultracold atomic Fermi gases. With Ben Simons and colleagues, she performed the definitive theoretical study of the Fermi gas when the populations of different components (for example the ‘up’- and ‘down’-spin atoms) are unequal. The competition between the energy scales produces a rich range of behaviour and their prediction of a region of phase separation terminating at a tri-critical point was subsequently verified experimentally at MIT.

Her work is characterised by a knack of picking out an interesting problem from experiments, and a facility to construct and solve just the right model. She has continued in the same vein with two more recent important results in ultra-cold fermions: finding the state of a single ‘spin-down’ impurity in a sea of ‘spin-up’ atoms, and predicting non-equilibrium spin states arising from the cooling in highly anisotropic traps. Both these predictions have recently been verified by experiments, in Cambridge and Rice respectively.