Leon Balents is a theoretical physicist known for his work on the quantum physics of materials. He was born in Somerville, New Jersey, and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with bachelors degrees in physics and mathematics, and received his PhD in physics from Harvard University in 1994. After postdoctoral training, he became a member of technical staff at Bell Laboratories, and subsequently joined the faculty at University of California Santa Barbara in 1999, where he is now a permanent member of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics, and the Yzurdiaga Chair of Theoretical Physics. He is co-director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Study’s Quantum Materials program, a fellow of the American Physical Society, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Balents is interested in the quantum physics of matter, magnetism, correlated electronic states, and complex materials. He is a theorist known for charting new directions for experiments in quantum materials. He is expert in one dimensional systems, and pioneered the theory of Coulomb interaction effects in quantum wires and carbon nanotubes. With Joel Moore, he discovered three dimensional topological insulators, the first example of bulk materials with topologically protected surface states, and later established the existence of Weyl semimetals, another type of topologically protected electronic phase. He is actively interested in quantum spin liquids, exotic states of matter with macroscopic quantum entanglement of electronic spin, describing their properties and predicting their presence in materials like spin ice pyrochlores. Other current research subjects of his group are topological spintronics, two dimensional Van der Waals materials, and ultra-fast non-equilibrium probes of quantum materials.

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Primary Section

Section 13: Physics

Secondary Section

Section 33: Applied Physical Sciences