Nicola Hill, 30
University of California, Santa Barbara
Nicola Hill’s work shows how little space sometimes separates research and commercial application. Her work is in very basic research: fundamental physics and theoretical chemistry. Yet it centers on a growing field called "spintronics" that attempts to exploit the spin of electrons in magnetic fields as a means of information storage. Spintronics remains in its early stages, but one day it could have exciting applications for ultra-high density magnetic data storage, even powerful quantum computers. "But even if it didn’t turn out to be all that practical, the physics is so exciting, it would never be a lost effort," Hill says.
Hill’s research skills, intellect, and the gracious way she serves as a role model for young women in physics and materials science combine to make her an innovator to watch. She has started an "ambitious new research program in the theory of magnetic nanostructures, a field which holds great promise for its potential to revolutionize technologies such as magnetic data storage, next generation computers and magnetoelectronic devices," says Fred Lange, chairman of the materials science department at UC, Santa Barbara.