Superconductivity is that state of matter where electrical resistance vanishes and electrical currents flow without losing energy. It’s as strange as a river running uphill – and offers similarly tantalizing possibilities. A 25-year-old woman from Winnipeg recently made a major step towards understanding superconductivity – and flowed effortlessly into a spot on a Maclean’s list of Canada’s future leaders.
Lauren Hayward first came to Perimeter to join the Institute’s innovative master’s program, Perimeter Scholars International (PSI). She graduated from PSI in 2012 and stayed on as a PhD candidate studying at both Perimeter and the University of Waterloo, under the supervision of Perimeter Associate Faculty member Roger Melko.
“It is a pleasure to have Lauren work in my research group,” says Melko. “I believe she represents the bright future of physics, particularly in the sense that she combines analytical theoretical skills with high-performance computer simulation savvy.”
That combination – theoretical chops and simulation savvy – was the key to the recent progress on superconductivity.
The eureka moment occurred over lunch at Perimeter. A Waterloo condensed matter researcher named David Hawthorn had puzzling new data about a particular superconductor. He showed it to Subir Sachdev, one of Perimeter’s Distinguished Visiting Research Chairs. Sachdev had an idea about what might be behind the mysterious temperature dependence showing in the data, but needed help with a computer model. That’s where Hayward and Melko stepped in to build the simulation.
The result was a description of the transition phase to superconductivity. The work opens the way to the development of a new generation of superconductors. Perimeter recently shared the story of that lunchtime breakthrough.
Hayward is clearly only at the start of her career, and doesn’t quite know what she’s going to do next. Whatever it is, though, she aims to inspire.