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Alumnus Xie Chen Recipient of The 2020 New Horizons in Physics Prize

Alumnus Xie Chen Recipient of The 2020 New Horizons in Physics Prize

On the evening of September 5, 2019, Beijing time, the 2020 Breakthrough Prize was announced. Xie Chen, an alumnus from NFLS and an associate professor at the California Institute of Technology, won the New Horizons in Physics Prize, which recognizes her profound contribution to understanding the state of topological materials and their relationship.


Xie Chen graduated from Nanjing Foreign Languages ​​School in 2002. She studied at the Department of Materials at Tsinghua University and then transferred to the Department of Physics. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2006 and received her Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. From 2012 to 2014, she was a research fellow in theoretical physics at the University of California at Berkeley. She is currently an associate professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology.
Xie Chen’s research field is mainly in the phase and phase transition process in quantum multi-body systems, involving topological order, multi-body system dynamics, tensor network representation and its application in quantum information area. Since 2006 in graduate school, she has made many important achievements in the field of quantum multi-body systems.
Now in its eighth year, the Breakthrough Prize, was considered the world’s highest science prize. It has been awarded a collective $200 million so far. The Breakthrough Prizes are sponsored by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki. The Selection Committees are composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates in each field. The purpose of the Prize is to recognize top scientists in the world. This summer, the "Fan Pu" Official Account interviewed alumnus Xie Chen. During the conversation, Xie Chen said frankly that she did not want to be a scientist when she was a child. She was depressed and confused at the beginning of her research. It’s because of step-by-step self-understanding and exploration, with inspiration of scientists around her, she discovered the beauty and the pleasure of doing research.
She specifically mentioned the study experience in NJFS, and its diversified evaluation system. “It does not only focus on academic achievements, but also on the capabilities in speaking, organization and performing skills, etc. Students with strengths in different areas can find what they are good at. Teachers encourage you to develop your own personality and interests." This environment has led her to muddle along for years. Even when she was in college, she had not decided which way to go. "However, when looking back, it is actually a very good thing. Because people tend to grow to a certain stage to find out what they really like and what they are good at."
The following is the original text:
Interview with the Recipient of The 2020 New Horizons in Physics Prize, Caltech physicist Xie Chen
My impression of Xie Chen is confident, optimistic, and are very good in all aspects.
She is efficient and focused in the classroom; she is capable of self-study. She follows her heart, does things she is interested in, and is willing to try new things; She is delighted in answering questions from her classmates; She was often seen in physical exercises, sports games, long distance races, and volleyball games.
——Xie Chen’s high school teacher Yi Chen
Xie Chen is a graduate of ‘02 High School (1) class in NJFS. She is also a student of the first science experimenting class in NJFS. I remember that when I started the training for physics competition, I explained the relative movements. Chen’s solution was much better than mine. She impressed me with her unique understanding of physics and her ability to solve physics problems in a creative way.

——Yanming Liu, teacher of Physics Competition