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Hafezi Named Blavatnik Award Finalist for Second Consecutive Year

June 17, 2020

For the second year in a row, JQI Fellow Mohammad Hafezi has been named a finalist of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences.

He is among 31 of the nation’s rising stars in science who will compete for three Blavatnik National Laureate Awards in the categories of Chemistry, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Life Sciences, and is one of 11 finalists in Physical Sciences & Engineering. Each of the three 2020 National Laureates will win $250,000—the world’s largest unrestricted prize for early-career scientists.

The Blavatnik Awards recognize the past accomplishments and future promise of the most talented faculty-rank scientists and engineers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions. This year, the Blavatnik Awards received 305 nominations from 161 academic and research centers across 41 states. The three 2020 National Laureates, chosen from the 31 finalists, will be announced July 22, 2020.

Inspired by the concept of topology in mathematics, Hafeziis making pioneering contributions in the fields of nanophotonics and quantum optics. His innovative research is tackling a challenge that has hindered the miniaturization and use of devices that use light-based components for decades: nano-scale fabrication defects that lead to random variations in device performance.

Hafezi’s topologically-inspired optical devices have proven to be incredibly robust against nano-scale fabrication defects and, together with his theoretical work, have spurred the entirely new field of “topological photonics.” Hafezi is an associate professor with affiliations in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Physics, Joint Quantum Institute, Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics, and Quantum Technology Center.

This year, Hafezi is joined in the Physical Sciences & Engineering category by fellow University of Maryland finalists Mohammad Hajiaghayi, a Professor of Computer Science, and Liangbing Hu, a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Awards ceremony and gala dinner in honor of the 2020 Blavatnik National Awards Laureates and finalists typically held each year in September will be postponed to 2021.

For updates about the Blavatnik Awards, visit or follow along on Facebook and Twitter (@BlavatnikAwards).

Adapted with permission from a story by the A. James Clark School of Engineering at UMD.

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