O’Donnell Award in Science: Xiaoqin Elaine Li, Ph.D.

Dec 2017

Xiaoquin Elaine Li

UT Austin Researcher Xiaoqin Elaine Li Awarded for Innovations in Quantum Materials

Xiaoqin Elaine Li, Ph.D., of The University of Texas at Austin is the recipient of the 2018 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

Dr. Li ‘s research focuses on the interaction of light and matter at the nanoscale in quantum materials. Her innovative work has helped create and control materials that can emit one photon at a time. The creation and manipulation of these materials could open the door to major advances in energy, communications and computing.

“Dr. Li’s research makes a number of things potentially possible, one being completely secure communications,” says Jack L. Ritchie, Ph.D., Department Chair and Professor in the Department of Physics of the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. “She is doing the kind of foundational research that could lead to new types of improved solar cells and perhaps ultimately build new types of computers.”

Dr. Li is an associate professor in the Department of Physics of the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about Dr. Li and her discoveries.

“The TAMEST Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards showcase the best and brightest among Texas researchers,” says TAMEST President Gordon England. “Their work is helping to advance science and open new pathways to discovery. We’re proud to recognize Dr. Xiaoqin Elaine Li for her achievements.”

Interview opportunities with Dr. Li are available. Please contact:

Christine Sinatra
Director of Communications, College of Natural Sciences
The University of Texas at Austin

Research Highlights

Dr. Li has made seminal contributions at the frontier of quantum phenomena in solids and the interaction of light and matter on the nanoscale. Her research addresses the following grand challenges and questions: Can individual electrons be controlled for use as building blocks for information processing devices such as quantum computers? Can the quantum coherent properties of electrons be harnessed to improve the efficiency of energy transfer processes, ultimately leading to better solar cells and lasers? Can one design artificial materials in nanoscales that exhibit properties that simply do not exist in naturally available materials?

To answer these questions, Dr. Li has performed some of most challenging experiments in controlling individual electrons in quantum confined materials. She has implemented some of the most sophisticated ultrafast optical spectroscopy methods to unravel the intricate interaction and quantum phenomena in materials. More recently, her group has worked on the assembly and characterization of artificial molecules which exhibit exotic properties. In addition, her group has taken on completely new research directions on investigating magnetic materials that may lead to a new generation of thermoelectric applications or improved memory devices based on topological spin texture.

2018 TAMEST Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Recipients:

  • Medicine: Jordan Scott Orange, M.D., Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine
  • Engineering: Delia Milliron, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin
  • Science: Xiaoqin Elaine Li, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin

Over $1 million has been awarded to 50 recipients in the categories of medicine, engineering, science and technology innovation since the inception of the O’Donnell awards in 2006. The awards are named in honor of Edith and Peter O’Donnell, who are among Texas’ staunchest advocates for excellence in scientific advancement and STEM education. Read more about the 2018 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards recipients.

The recipients will be honored during the O’Donnell Awards dinner and reception on Thursday, January 11, 2018, at the TAMEST 2018 Annual Conference: Aerospace. The conference takes place January 10–12, 2018, at the South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center in League City, Texas, just outside of Houston. Media are encouraged to attend.


TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas) is the state’s premier scientific organization, bringing together Texas’ best and brightest scientists and researchers. TAMEST membership includes all Texas-based members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the state’s Nobel Laureates.

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