Early Career Award recognizes leadership and pioneering work in materials and quantum science

Stephanie Law of the University of Delaware has received a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for pioneering research and leadership in materials and engineering.

Law, the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor in Materials Science and Engineering, was nominated for the award by the U.S. Department of Energy, which also recognized her in 2017 with an Early Career Award, a prize that came with $750,000 in research support.

Established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the PECASE is the highest honor given by the U.S. government in recognition of early-career scientists and engineers with exceptional promise as leaders in science and technology. According to the White House, it also acknowledges the contributions these scientists and engineers have made to the advancement of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and to community service.

This image, captured with a transmission electron microscope (TEM) in UD’s Keck Center for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis, shows the atom-by-atom layers of the topological insulators studied by University of Delaware researcher Stephanie Law.


Law is an expert in molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), which she describes as “3D printing at the nanoscale.” What she produces — one layer of atoms at a time — are precisely engineered materials with properties that can do new things and steer light in new and useful ways.

The DOE cites her pioneering work in that nanotechnology as well as her leadership in the relatively new field of topological insulators, which are one focus of her research. Topological insulators are materials that conduct electrons only on their surfaces. Law is studying the physics behind the interaction between surface electrons and exploring new ways to integrate their unique optical properties into terahertz devices including lenses, waveguides and gas sensors.

In her work, she makes use of the University’s Advanced Materials Characterization Lab, the Keck Center for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis, and the UD Nanofabrication Facility.

She said she is glad to be in a department that allows her to blend her background in physics with her interest in engineering.

“This department is very supportive of my interests both in fundamental science and in device creation,” she said. “For me, it’s a very good fit. Of course, without such fantastic students, none of this science would get done.”

Levi Thompson, dean of the College of Engineering and Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical Engineering, praised Law’s outstanding work.

“This award is a tremendous honor that recognizes the nation’s most promising young researchers and educators in science and engineering,” he said.

“Dr. Law’s contributions to energy and materials research have the potential to make the world a better and safer place today and for years to come. She is an outstanding scholar and an excellent role model for our students and faculty. We are extremely proud of Dr. Law and, personally, I am very pleased to have her as a UD Engineering colleague.”

About the researcher

Stephanie Law earned her doctorate in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012 and did postdoctoral research there in electrical and computer engineering before joining the UD faculty in 2014.

She won the North American Molecular Beam Epitaxy Young Investigator Award in 2016 and an Early Career Award from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2017.

Previous UD PECASE winners

2016, William Tisdale (UD alum, chemical and biomolecular engineering, then at Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Michelle O’Malley (UD alum, chemical and biomolecular engineering, then at the University of California Santa Barbara)

2012, John Kitchin (UD alum, chemical engineering, then at Carnegie Mellon University) and Joshua S. Figueroa (UD alum, chemistry and biochemistry, then at the University of California, San Diego)

2010, Matthew Oliver, oceanography, College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE)

2009, Thomas H. Epps, III, chemical and biomolecular engineering, College of Engineering (COE)

2002, Mark Moline, marine science and policy, CEOE

2001, Javier Garcia-Frias, electrical and computer engineering, COE

1997, Daniel van der Weide, electrical and computer engineering, COE