Benjamin Lev received his Bachelors degree Magna Cum Laude from Princeton in 1999 and his Ph.D. from Caltech in 2005, both in Physics.  He was an NRC postdoc at JILA (2006-2007), and an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2008-2011). He is currently an Associate Professor in Physics and Applied Physics.  Benjamin has received a Packard Fellowship and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) as well as NSF CAREER, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, DARPA, Office of Navy Research Young Investigator Program, Terman, and Chambers awards.  

His research focuses on exploring the organizing principles of quantum matter through the development of techniques at the interface of ultracold atomic physics, quantum optics, and condensed matter physics.  
Major achievements include:
-Production and study of the first quantum gases of the most magnetic element, dysprosium.
-Development of the novel SQCRAMscope, a Scanning Quantum CRyogenic Atom Microscope for imaging transport in strongly correlated and topological materials.
-Initial development of the theory of multimode cavity quantum electrodynamical systems as well as the successful construction of an apparatus to explore predicted phenomena; i.e., the physics associated with quantum liquid crystals and spin glasses as well as that associated with computation via dissipative neuromorphic quantum phase transitions. 

Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • Chambers Fellowship, Stanford University (2015)
  • Terman Fellowship, Stanford University (2014)
  • Young Faculty Award (YFA), DARPA (2012)
  • Young Investigator Award (ONR YIP), Office of Naval Research (2012)
  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), NSF (2011)
  • Terman Fellowship, Stanford University (2011)
  • Packard Fellowship, David and Lucile Packard Foundation (2010)
  • NSF CAREER Award, National Science Foundation (NSF) (2008)
  • Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award (AFOSR YIP), Air Force (2008)
  • Everhart Distinguished Graduate Student Lectureship, Caltech (2004)
  • Allen Goodrich Schenstone Prize for Outstanding Work in Experimental Physics, Department of Physics, Princeton University (1999)

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, Physics (2005)
  • A.B., Princeton University, Physics, Magna Cum Laude (1999)
  • Valedictorian, Crystal River High School (1995)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Dy Quantum Gases: Advances in the quantum manipulation of ultracold atomic gases are opening a new frontier in the quest to better understand strongly correlated matter. By exploiting the long-range and anisotropic character of the dipole-dipole interaction, we hope to create novel forms of soft quantum matter, phases intermediate between canonical states of order and disorder. Our group recently created Bose and Fermi degenerate gases of the most magnetic atom, dysprosium, which should allow investigations of quantum liquid crystals, analogs to the electron nematics and smectics thought to exist in, e.g., high-Tc cuprate superconductors.

Many-Body Cavity QED: Investigations of many-body physics in an AMO context often employ a static optical lattice to create a periodic potential. Such systems, while capable of exploring, e.g., the Hubbard model, lack the fully emergent crystalline order found in solid state systems whose stiffness is not imposed externally, but arises dynamically. Our multimode cavity QED experiment introduces fully emergent and compliant optical lattices to the ultracold atom toolbox and provides new avenues to explore beyond mean-field physics and quantum soft matter. Quantum liquid crystals, superglasses, spin glasses, and Hopfield associative memory may arise due to the oscillatory, frustrated, and tunable-range interactions mediated by the optical cavity modes. Coherent neural networks based on the quantum phase transtions in these driven, dissipative spin systems may prove powerful for computing solutions to NP-hard combinatorial optimization problems.

The SQCRAMscope: Microscopy techniques co-opted from nonlinear optics and high energy physics have complemented solid-state probes in elucidating exotic order manifest in condensed matter materials. Up until now, however, no attempts have been made to use modern techniques of ultracold atomic physics to directly explore properties of strongly correlated or topologically protected materials. We introduce the SQCRAMscope, a novel Scanning Quantum CRyogenic Atom Microscope technique for imaging magnetic fields arising from domain structure or electron transport near cryogenically cooled materials. With our SQCRAMscope, we aim to image inhomogeneous transport and domain percolation in technologically relevant materials whose order has evaded elucidation. Our current projects include imaging transport in unconventional superconductors and topologically non-trivial materials.

2016-17 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Anisotropic Expansion of a Thermal Dipolar Bose Gas PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Tang, Y., SYKES, A. G., Burdick, N. Q., DiSciacca, J. M., Petrov, D. S., Lev, B. L. 2016; 117 (15)


    We report on the anisotropic expansion of ultracold bosonic dysprosium gases at temperatures above quantum degeneracy and develop a quantitative theory to describe this behavior. The theory expresses the postexpansion aspect ratio in terms of temperature and microscopic collisional properties by incorporating Hartree-Fock mean-field interactions, hydrodynamic effects, and Bose-enhancement factors. Our results extend the utility of expansion imaging by providing accurate thermometry for dipolar thermal Bose gases. Furthermore, we present a simple method to determine scattering lengths in dipolar gases, including near a Feshbach resonance, through observation of thermal gas expansion.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.117.155301

    View details for Web of Science ID 000384612000003

    View details for PubMedID 27768342

  • Long-Lived Spin-Orbit-Coupled Degenerate Dipolar Fermi Gas PHYSICAL REVIEW X Burdick, N. Q., Tang, Y., Lev, B. L. 2016; 6 (3)
  • Coupling to modes of a near-confocal optical resonator using a digital light modulator OPTICS EXPRESS Papageorge, A. T., Kollar, A. J., Lev, B. L. 2016; 24 (11): 1447-1457
  • Bilayer fractional quantum Hall states with dipoles PHYSICAL REVIEW A YAO, N. Y., Bennett, S. D., Laumann, C. R., Lev, B. L., Gorshkov, A. V. 2015; 92 (3)
  • s-wave scattering lengths of the strongly dipolar bosons Dy-162 and Dy-164 PHYSICAL REVIEW A Tang, Y., Sykes, A., Burdick, N. Q., Bohn, J. L., Lev, B. L. 2015; 92 (2)
  • Bose-Einstein condensation of Dy-162 and Dy-160 NEW JOURNAL OF PHYSICS Tang, Y., Burdick, N. Q., Baumann, K., Lev, B. L. 2015; 17
  • An adjustable-length cavity and Bose-Einstein condensate apparatus for multimode cavity QED NEW JOURNAL OF PHYSICS Kollar, A. J., Papageorge, A. T., Baumann, K., Armen, M. A., Lev, B. L. 2015; 17
  • Fermionic suppression of dipolar relaxation. Physical review letters Burdick, N. Q., Baumann, K., Tang, Y., Lu, M., Lev, B. L. 2015; 114 (2): 023201-?


    We observe the suppression of inelastic dipolar scattering in ultracold Fermi gases of the highly magnetic atom dysprosium: the more energy that is released, the less frequently these exothermic reactions take place, and only quantum spin statistics can explain this counterintuitive effect. Inelastic dipolar scattering in nonzero magnetic fields leads to heating or to loss of the trapped population, both detrimental to experiments intended to study quantum many-body physics with strongly dipolar gases. Fermi statistics, however, is predicted to lead to a kinematic suppression of these harmful reactions. Indeed, we observe a 120-fold suppression of dipolar relaxation in fermionic versus bosonic Dy, as expected from theory describing universal inelastic dipolar scattering, though never before experimentally confirmed. Similarly, low inelastic cross sections are observed in spin mixtures, also with striking correspondence to predictions. The suppression of relaxation opens the possibility of employing fermionic dipolar species in studies of quantum many-body physics involving, e.g., synthetic gauge fields and pairing.

    View details for PubMedID 25635544

  • Observation of low-field Fano-Feshbach resonances in ultracold gases of dysprosium PHYSICAL REVIEW A Baumann, K., Burdick, N. Q., Lu, M., Lev, B. L. 2014; 89 (2)
  • Trapping ultracold gases near cryogenic materials with rapid reconfigurability APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS Naides, M. A., Turner, R. W., Lai, R. A., DiSciacca, J. M., Lev, B. L. 2013; 103 (25)

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.4852017

    View details for Web of Science ID 000329973800012

  • Synthetic gauge field with highly magnetic lanthanide atoms PHYSICAL REVIEW A Cui, X., Lian, B., Ho, T., Lev, B. L., Zhai, H. 2013; 88 (1)
  • Imaging topologically protected transport with quantum degenerate gases PHYSICAL REVIEW B Dellabetta, B., Hughes, T. L., Gilbert, M. J., Lev, B. L. 2012; 85 (20)
  • Quantum Degenerate Dipolar Fermi Gas PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Lu, M., Burdick, N. Q., Lev, B. L. 2012; 108 (21)


    We report the first quantum degenerate dipolar Fermi gas, the realization of which opens a new frontier for exploring strongly correlated physics and, in particular, quantum liquid crystalline phases. A quantum degenerate Fermi gas of the most magnetic atom 161Dy is produced by laser cooling to 10 μK before sympathetically cooling with ultracold, bosonic 162Dy. The temperature of the spin-polarized 161Dy is a factor T/T(F)=0.2 below the Fermi temperature T(F)=300 nK. The cotrapped 162Dy concomitantly cools to approximately T(c) for Bose-Einstein condensation, thus realizing a novel, nearly quantum degenerate dipolar Bose-Fermi gas mixture. Additionally, we achieve the forced evaporative cooling of spin-polarized 161Dy without 162Dy to T/T(F)=0.7. That such a low temperature ratio is achieved may be a first signature of universal dipolar scattering.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.215301

    View details for Web of Science ID 000304250000015

    View details for PubMedID 23003275

  • Atomic interface between microwave and optical photons PHYSICAL REVIEW A Hafezi, M., Kim, Z., Rolston, S. L., OROZCO, L. A., Lev, B. L., Taylor, J. M. 2012; 85 (2)
  • Exploring models of associative memory via cavity quantum electrodynamics PHILOSOPHICAL MAGAZINE Gopalakrishnan, S., Lev, B. L., Goldbart, P. M. 2012; 92 (1-3): 353-361
  • Frustration and Glassiness in Spin Models with Cavity-Mediated Interactions PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Gopalakrishnan, S., Lev, B. L., Goldbart, P. M. 2011; 107 (27)


    We show that the effective spin-spin interaction between three-level atoms confined in a multimode optical cavity is long-ranged and sign changing, like the RKKY interaction; therefore, ensembles of such atoms subject to frozen-in positional randomness can realize spin systems having disordered and frustrated interactions. We argue that, whenever the atoms couple to sufficiently many cavity modes, the cavity-mediated interactions give rise to a spin glass. In addition, we show that the quantum dynamics of cavity-confined spin systems is that of a Bose-Hubbard model with strongly disordered hopping but no on-site disorder; this model exhibits a random-singlet glass phase, absent in conventional optical-lattice realizations. We briefly discuss experimental signatures of the realizable phases.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.277201

    View details for Web of Science ID 000298611000018

    View details for PubMedID 22243326

  • Strongly Dipolar Bose-Einstein Condensate of Dysprosium PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Lu, M., Burdick, N. Q., Youn, S. H., Lev, B. L. 2011; 107 (19)


    We report the Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) of the most magnetic element, dysprosium. The Dy BEC is the first for an open f-shell lanthanide (rare-earth) element and is produced via forced evaporation in a crossed optical dipole trap loaded by an unusual, blue-detuned and spin-polarized narrowline magneto-optical trap. Nearly pure condensates of 1.5 × 10(4) (164)Dy atoms form below T = 30 nK. We observe that stable BEC formation depends on the relative angle of a small polarizing magnetic field to the axis of the oblate trap, a property of trapped condensates only expected in the strongly dipolar regime. This regime was heretofore only attainable in Cr BECs via a Feshbach resonance accessed at a high-magnetic field.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.190401

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297004600001

    View details for PubMedID 22181585

  • Dynamic polarizabilities and magic wavelengths for dysprosium PHYSICAL REVIEW A Dzuba, V. A., Flambaum, V. V., Lev, B. L. 2011; 83 (3)
  • Spectroscopy of a narrow-line laser-cooling transition in atomic dysprosium PHYSICAL REVIEW A Lu, M., Youn, S. H., Lev, B. L. 2011; 83 (1)
  • Dysprosium magneto-optical traps PHYSICAL REVIEW A Youn, S. H., Lu, M., Ray, U., Lev, B. L. 2010; 82 (4)
  • Atom-light crystallization of Bose-Einstein condensates in multimode cavities: Nonequilibrium classical and quantum phase transitions, emergent lattices, supersolidity, and frustration PHYSICAL REVIEW A Gopalakrishnan, S., Lev, B. L., Goldbart, P. M. 2010; 82 (4)
  • Anisotropic sub-Doppler laser cooling in dysprosium magneto-optical traps PHYSICAL REVIEW A Youn, S. H., Lu, M., Lev, B. L. 2010; 82 (4)
  • Cavity-Based Single Atom Preparation and High-Fidelity Hyperfine State Readout PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Gehr, R., Volz, J., Dubois, G., Steinmetz, T., Colombe, Y., Lev, B. L., Long, R., Esteve, J., Reichel, J. 2010; 104 (20)


    We prepare and detect the hyperfine state of a single 87Rb atom coupled to a fiber-based high-finesse cavity on an atom chip. The atom is extracted from a Bose-Einstein condensate and trapped at the maximum of the cavity field, resulting in a reproducibly strong atom-cavity coupling. We use the cavity reflection and transmission signal to infer the atomic hyperfine state with a fidelity exceeding 99.92% in a readout time of 100  μs. The atom is still trapped after detection.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.203602

    View details for Web of Science ID 000277945900016

    View details for PubMedID 20867027

  • Trapping Ultracold Dysprosium: A Highly Magnetic Gas for Dipolar Physics PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Lu, M., Youn, S. H., Lev, B. L. 2010; 104 (6)


    Ultracold dysprosium gases, with a magnetic moment 10 times that of alkali atoms and equal only to terbium as the most magnetic atom, are expected to exhibit a multitude of fascinating collisional dynamics and quantum dipolar phases, including quantum liquid crystal physics. We report the first laser cooling and trapping of half a billion Dy atoms using a repumper-free magneto-optical trap (MOT) and continuously loaded magnetic confinement, and we characterize the trap recycling dynamics for bosonic and fermionic isotopes. The first inelastic collision measurements in the few partial wave, 100 microK-1 mK, regime are made in a system possessing a submerged open electronic f shell. In addition, we observe unusual stripes of intra-MOT <10 microK sub-Doppler cooled atoms.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.063001

    View details for Web of Science ID 000274445100011

    View details for PubMedID 20366817

  • Powerful narrow-line source of blue light for laser cooling Yb/Er and Dysprosium atoms SOLID STATE LASERS XIX: TECHNOLOGY AND DEVICES Kobtsev, S., Lev, B., Fortagh, J., Baraulia, V. 2010; 7578

    View details for DOI 10.1117/12.841632

    View details for Web of Science ID 000284936100071

  • Emergent crystallinity and frustration with Bose-Einstein condensates in multimode cavities NATURE PHYSICS Gopalakrishnan, S., Lev, B. L., Goldbart, P. M. 2009; 5 (11): 845-850

    View details for DOI 10.1038/NPHYS1403

    View details for Web of Science ID 000271895500021

  • Biaxial nematic phases in ultracold dipolar Fermi gases NEW JOURNAL OF PHYSICS Fregoso, B. M., Sun, K., Fradkin, E., Lev, B. L. 2009; 11
  • Optical Interferometers with Reduced Sensitivity to Thermal Noise PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Kimble, H. J., Lev, B. L., Ye, J. 2008; 101 (26)


    A fundamental limit to the sensitivity of optical interferometry is thermal noise that drives fluctuations in the positions of the surfaces of the interferometer's mirrors, and thereby in the phase of the intracavity field. Schemes for reducing this thermally driven phase noise are presented that rely upon the coherent character of the underlying displacements and strains. Although the position of the physical surface fluctuates, the optical phase upon reflection can have reduced sensitivity to this motion. While practical implementation of such schemes for coherent compensation face certain challenges, we hope to stimulate further work on this important thermal noise problem.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.101.260602

    View details for Web of Science ID 000262247100012

    View details for PubMedID 19437630

  • Loss of molecules in magneto-electrostatic traps due to nonadiabatic transitions PHYSICAL REVIEW A Lara, M., Lev, B. L., Bohn, J. L. 2008; 78 (3)
  • Mitigation of loss within a molecular Stark decelerator EUROPEAN PHYSICAL JOURNAL D Sawyer, B. C., Stuhl, B. K., Lev, B. L., Ye, J., Hudson, E. R. 2008; 48 (2): 197-209
  • Prospects for the cavity-assisted laser cooling of molecules PHYSICAL REVIEW A Lev, B. L., Vukics, A., Hudson, E. R., Sawyer, B. C., Domokos, P., Ritsch, H., Ye, J. 2008; 77 (2)
  • Magnetoelectrostatic trapping of ground state OH molecules PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Sawyer, B. C., Lev, B. L., Hudson, E. R., Stuhl, B. K., Lara, M., Bohn, J. L., Ye, J. 2007; 98 (25)


    We report magnetic confinement of neutral, ground state OH at a density of approximately 3 x 10(3) cm(-3) and temperature of approximately 30 mK. An adjustable electric field sufficiently large to polarize the OH is superimposed on the trap in various geometries, making an overall potential arising from both Zeeman and Stark effects. An effective molecular Hamiltonian is constructed, with Monte Carlo simulations accurately modeling the observed single-molecule dynamics in various trap configurations. Magnetic trapping of cold polar molecules under adjustable electric fields may enable study of low energy dipolar interactions.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.98.253002

    View details for Web of Science ID 000247469400017

    View details for PubMedID 17678020

  • OH hyperfine ground state: From precision measurement to molecular qubits PHYSICAL REVIEW A Lev, B. L., Meyer, E. R., Hudson, E. R., Sawyer, B. C., Bohn, J. L., Ye, J. 2006; 74 (6)
  • Integration of fiber-coupled high-Q SiNx microdisks with atom chips APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS Barclay, P. E., Srinivasan, K., Painter, O., Lev, B., Mabuchi, H. 2006; 89 (13)

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.2356892

    View details for Web of Science ID 000240875800008

  • Quantum information processing in optical lattices and magnetic microtraps FORTSCHRITTE DER PHYSIK-PROGRESS OF PHYSICS Treutlein, P., Steinmetz, T., Colombe, Y., Lev, B., Hommelhoff, P., Reichel, J., Greiner, M., Mandel, O., Widera, A., Rom, T., Bloch, I., Hansch, T. W. 2006; 54 (8-10): 702-718
  • Precision measurement based on ultracold atoms and cold molecules ATOMIC PHYSICS 20 Ye, J., Blatt, S., Boyd, M. M., Foreman, S. M., Hudson, E. R., Ido, T., Lev, B., Ludlow, A. D., Sawyer, B. C., Stuhl, B., Zelevinsky, T. 2006; 869: 80-91
  • Proposed magnetoelectrostatic ring trap for neutral atoms PHYSICAL REVIEW A Hopkins, A., Lev, B., Mabuchi, H. 2004; 70 (5)
  • Feasibility of detecting single atoms using photonic bandgap cavities NANOTECHNOLOGY Lev, B., Srinivasan, K., Barclay, P., Painter, O., Mabuchi, H. 2004; 15 (10): S556-S561
  • Fabrication of micro-magnetic traps for cold neutral atoms QUANTUM INFORMATION & COMPUTATION Lev, B. 2003; 3 (5): 450-464
  • Atom mirror etched from a hard drive APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS Lev, B., Lassailly, Y., Lee, C., Scherer, A., Mabuchi, H. 2003; 83 (2): 395-397

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.1592305

    View details for Web of Science ID 000184038900064

  • QUANTUM NETWORKS BASED ON CAVITY QED QUANTUM INFORMATION & COMPUTATION Mabuchi, H., Armen, M., Lev, B., Loncar, M., Vuckovic, J., Kimble, H. J., Preskill, J., Roukes, M., Scherer, A., van Enk, S. J. 2001; 1: 7-12
  • Radiation hardness evaluation of the Analog Devices AD9042 ADC for use in the CMS electromagnetic calorimeter NUCLEAR INSTRUMENTS & METHODS IN PHYSICS RESEARCH SECTION A-ACCELERATORS SPECTROMETERS DETECTORS AND ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT Denes, P., Lev, B., Wixted, R. 1998; 417 (2-3): 371-376