Michael Zaletel among inaugural recipients of the L&S Faculty Award

April 21, 2023

Photo of Mike Zaletel

The College of Letters & Science Advisory Board is pleased to announce the inaugural recipients of the L&S Faculty Award.

Associate Professor of Physics Michael Zaletel is a 2023 co-recipient of the David Blackwell Award, which he shares with Associate Professor of Geography, Jovan Scott Lewis.

Zaletel joined the Berkeley Physics faculty in 2018 and his research focuses on theoretical condensed matter physics and its intersection with quantum information and computational approaches. The nomination letter commented, “Mike has received several prestigious awards, including the McMillan Award and the Sloan Fellowship. He is regularly invited to give seminars and talks at international conferences, and he has a very high profile, despite his early career stage. All of these, again, point to his rising trajectory as a young leader in the field of strongly correlated and topological physics, an area of huge contemporary interest.”

In his relatively short career, Zaletel has demonstrated himself to be a capable and organized instructor and has established a strong teaching record. Student comments include: "Zaletel is a brilliant professor, his attitude towards homework, students, and learning in general is amazing;” “Professor Zaletel is an amazing teacher and person. His enthusiasm for physics is amazing. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would magically wake up early, no matter what time I slept the night before, because I had a physics lecture with Professor Zaletel that I could not miss. Professor Zaletel also has a very good sense of humor. He also answered every question asked very well. He really really cares about his students and is a role model.”

Zaletel has made great strides in contributing to diversity, equity, and inclusion as an assistant professor of physics. A notable contribution in this area is his establishment of a peer tutoring program for Physics 5A, which has since been adopted department-wide. Steven Kahn, Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, remarked, "Mike is a young "superstar" and condensed matter theorist. He wrote papers and made discoveries that made him very well-known in his field. He's also involved in quantum information science and does pencil/paper theory as well as complex computational theory. He’s a great teacher and has led DEIBJ initiatives in the department."

The L&S Faculty Award recognizes and celebrates outstanding L&S faculty members for their exceptional scholarship, service to the College and community, and transformational teaching. These extraordinary individuals not only embody the excellence of the College of Letters & Science, but they also serve as an inspiration to the entire campus community.

Berkeley Letters & Science