Charles L. Kane of Penn Awarded the Dirac Medal for Contributions to Theoretical Physics

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Media Contact:Evan Lerner | | 215-573-6604August 9, 2012

PHILADELPHIA  – Charles L. Kane of the University of Pennsylvania is among three who have been awarded the 2012 Dirac Medal and Prize by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics.

Instituted in 1985, the Dirac Medal and $5,000 prize are awarded each year on Aug. 8, the anniversary of the 1902 birthdate of Paul A.M. Dirac, who won the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics. He and fellow Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrödinger were honored for their foundational work on quantum theory.

Kane is a professor of physics in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy. Along with F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University and Shoucheng Zhang of Stanford University. Kane is being recognized for contributions to condensed-matter physics, including furthering the understanding of the strange conductive qualities of topological insulators.

Kane describes a topological insulator as “a material that doesn’t conduct electricity on the inside, but it does conduct electricity in a very special way on its surface.” 

He was among those who were involved in the early research into this exotic form of matter, characterizing it theoretically prior to its experimental discovery.  

“It is unusual in condensed matter physics for theory to precede experiments,” Kane said.   

In notifying Kane and the other recipients of this honor, Fernando Quevedo, ICTP director, wrote: “Their research and the physical implications of the concepts and theories they developed have been instrumental to exciting recent developments in this new area of experimental and theoretical condensed-matter physics.”

Kane is the first Penn professor to be honored with the Dirac Medal.

In July, he received a five-year, $500,000 grant from the Simons Foundation to support his work, and previously he shared the 2012 Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society and the 2011 Europhysics Prize of the European Physical Society.