UWinnipeg alumna continues to garner attention for her research

Alannah Hallas, photo supplied

Alannah Hallas, photo supplied

UWinnipeg alumna, Dr. Alannah Hallas (BSc [Hons], 11), continues to make waves with her neutron scattering research. Hallas is the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Prize for Outstanding Student Research from the Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA). She was awarded the prize, “For her exploration of new families of quantum pyrochlore magnets and elucidating their phase behavior and excitations using forefront neutron scattering techniques.”

Hallas succeeded in preparing about a dozen new pyrochlore materials while on a visit in Japan, working almost completely independently. These materials have been investigated using neutron scattering in a series of publications, with a particular highlight being two Physical Review Letters articles as first author on Tb2Ge2O7 and Er2Pt2O7. 

The neutron scattering work she was involved in required the use of a wide range of new forefront instrumentation for neutron scattering, primarily at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and NIST, but also at the Institute Laue Langevin and the FRM II Reactor in Germany. It also included a wide range of neutron scattering applications, using both time-of-flight inelastic scattering, triple axis inelastic scattering, and sophisticated neutron diffraction, both polarized and unpolarized, from both single crystals and powder samples of topical materials — and mostly from materials which she synthesized herself.

Hallas was an exceptional PhD student, jointly supervised by UWinnipeg’s Dr. Chris Wiebe, Dr. Graeme Luke and Dr. Bruce Gaulin, who has been working at the boundary between materials physics and chemistry. Her research focused on forefront elastic and inelastic neutron scattering techniques applied to topical problems in exotic magnetic ground states, mainly involving geometric frustration. Her main project involved the synthesis and characterization of new pyrochlore compounds through high pressure techniques. The pyrochlore lattice is a structure type which exhibits strong magnetic frustration that often leads unconventional magnetic ground states.

“Alannah is one of the finest students that I have ever worked with,” shared Wiebe. “She is a wonderful example of how students can become involved with undergraduate research at the University of Winnipeg that can forever change the trajectory of their lives. Her PhD thesis for research on quantum magnetism is very impressive, and well deserving of this recognition. I am very proud of her achievements and I am grateful for having the experience of working with her, and other fantastic students like her, at The University of Winnipeg.”

The NSSA established the Prize for Outstanding Student Research to recognize outstanding accomplishments in the general area of neutron scattering by graduate or undergraduate students who have performed much of their work at North American neutron facilities. Nominees must be either current graduate students or scientists within two years of receiving their PhD. 

Hallas is also prolific in her many publications. To date she has co-authored 25 publications, mostly in Physics Review B and Physics Review Letters, and venues of similar high impact, and a prestigious review article “Experimental Insights Into Ground State Selection in Quantum XY Pyrochlores,” which is in press. 

Hallas earned her BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics at The University of Winnipeg, her MSc in Chemistry at the University of Manitoba, and her PhD in Physics at McMaster University (2017). She is currently the Smalley-Curl Postdoctoral Fellow in Quantum Materials at Rice University. She is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, including the NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship and the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. Hallas was appointed to the Neutron Scattering Society of America Executive Committee as a student representative in 2017.

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