The SmartState Center for Experimental Nanoscale Physics (CENPhys), based in the UofSC Department of Physics and Astronomy, was the first SmartState Center funded after the South Carolina General Assembly passed the Endowed Chairs Act in 2002, with Richard A. Webb joining the Physics and Astronomy faculty in 2004 as the first SmartState Chair in South Carolina and the only member of the National Academy of Science. During his tenure at Carolina, he created a top-quality facility for nanoelectronics research, while simultaneously recruiting 5 current faculty members (Profs. Bazaliy, Crawford, Crittenden, Pershyn and Wu) to Physics and Astronomy to build the Condensed Matter Physics group. Center personnel have created experimental and theoretical research programs in diverse areas ranging from magnetism to surface science and photonics. Unfortunately, Webb passed away in early 2016. Over the next 2 years, the Center kept operating, and to honor Professor Webb, held a series of public lectures that included several members of the National Academy of Science and a Nobel Laureate. In Fall 2019, the College of Arts and Sciences approved a search for an outstanding physicist to lead the Center. Despite a delay in early 2020 because of COVID-19, the search proceeded and had recruited Professor Rongying Jin, formerly in Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University, to UofSC beginning in August, 2021.
Dr. Rongying Jin is a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. Her goal is to help the team already in place realize their potential and achieve research excellence in the future. Her focus on Quantum Materials going forward will cement Webb’s legacy, one defined by his measurements of the Aharonov-Bohm Effect in mesoscopic gold rings. The explosion in Quantum Materials arose from the identification of the nontrivial Berry Phase and topology in the very system Webb studied. She intends to continue that legacy by building a team that creates new understanding of quantum materials and phenomena, taking them from the laboratory to the real world of applications.