Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Fanyi Zhao, a rising star in the area of nuclear and particle theory, tragically passed away on January 24, 2024 at the age of 27. She had joined MIT’s Center for Theoretical Physics (CTP) in September 2023.

Born in 1996 in China, Fanyi received her B.S. in Physics in 2018 from the University of Science and Technology in Anhui, China before heading to UCLA where she completed her PhD in Physics under the supervision of Professor Zhong-bo Kang. Her PhD thesis was titled “3D Imaging via Polarized Jet Fragmentation Functions and Quantum Simulation of the QCD Phase Diagram.”

During her time, at UCLA, she impressed in many ways with her research in QCD theory and phenomenology, and in quantum simulation to QCD and strong interactions. She was a recipient of the Mani L. Bhaumik Institute Nina Byers Summer Fellowship in Theoretical Physics and a fellowship in quantum information science. In addition to efforts in conference organizing and diversity and outreach she also found time to mentor undergraduate students at UCLA, a number of whom went on to PhD programs in Physics, including one at MIT.

Joining the CTP in the September 2023, Fanyi’s research involved using quantum field theory to investigate nucleon structure, including things like transverse momentum distributions, energy-energy correlators, and jets as a member of the research team of Professor Iain Stewart. Her work also continued to involve a significant component on quantum information science as applied to problems in nuclear physics.

She is remembered by Center members and other colleagues outside of MIT as a funny, generous, kind and thoroughly committed scientist with a great love of physics. Beyond her scientific passion, she embraced life fully, with passions ranging from music and martial arts to running and drawing. We are all greatly saddened by her passing.

In May 2024, the Center for Theoretical Physics will honor Fanyi’s memory with the announcement of the recipient of the first Fanyi Zhao Award for postdoctoral researchers in the CTP who have promoted collaboration and interactions between different CTP research groups, including scientific and/or social connections.

In the Fall of 2024, there will also be the Fanyi Zhao Memorial Lecture established at the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy. This lecture series will be awarded yearly to a young physicist, recognizing outstanding achievements in nuclear and particle physics.

Any donations made to the CTP to honor the memory of Fanyi Zhao will be used to support the award named in her honor.  Please see the Support CTP link on the CTP Homepage.

A reminder to all that MIT’s MyLife Services for staff, postdocs and faculty (844-405-5433), and Student Mental Health and Counseling for students (617-253-4481, Option 2), are available 24/7 including on the weekend.