Columbia Physicist Tanya Zelevinsky Wins 2022 Brown Investigator Award

One of four mid-career researchers selected, Zelevinsky will use the $2 million award to advance the use of molecules to study fundamental science.

Ellen Neff
June 01, 2022

Today, professor of physics Tanya Zelevinsky was awarded a 2022 Brown Investigator Award from the Brown Science Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Ross Brown in 1992 to support scientific discovery. The award recognizes mid-career scientists for their curiosity-driven research in physics and chemistry.

Zelevinsky’s lab builds devices called molecular clocks to study fundamental physics questions, like gravity at nanoscales and the existence of so-called dark matter and antimatter in the universe. Such clocks, which can be built in labs, are smaller-scale, less expensive ways to measure unknown forces than high-energy particle accelerators.

Zelevsinsky joined Columbia in 2008. She received her PhD from Harvard and completed a postdoc at Colorado research institute JILA, where she first learned how to cool atoms and molecules to near absolute zero.

For her work on quantum control of clock molecules, Zelevinsky will receive $2 million over the next five years. The award is a testament to Zelevinsky, said Physics Professor Robert Mawhinney, who as a divisional dean of science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia nominated Zelevinsky.

“Her remarkable work has advanced the science driving ultracold molecules and molecular clocks, and we are excited to see how she will continue to push the field forward with this latest Brown Investigator Award,” Mawhinney said. 

Zelevinsky will use the award to improve her lab’s clock-building capabilities. “I want to strengthen fundamental science measurements with molecules,” she said.