Published: July 22, 2020

Cindy Regal, associate professor of physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of Research Corporation for Science Advancement’s Cottrell Frontiers in Research Excellence and Discovery (FRED) Award. 

As one of the suite of Cottrell Plus awards given to advance the research of Cottrell Scholars throughout their careers, the $250,000 FRED Award recognizes and rewards innovative research that could transform an area of science. 

“This funding is designed to enable a big leap in a project that will have a big impact,” said RCSA President & CEO Dan Linzer. “We’re delighted to honor such an accomplished scientist and excited to see what Cindy achieves.” 

Regal, a 2014 Cottrell Scholar, is a distinguished scientist with many highly cited and pioneering papers. She has been praised as a creative and ambitious scholar who has already made seminal contributions in several areas of physics. 

Regal’s research program to date has focused on experimental feats in quantum information and quantum optics. She has both contributed to the development of atomic quantum bits and devised ways to cool and detect motion of tangible objects at their quantum ground state, bringing mechanical vibrations of solids to the toolbox of quantum physicists. 

For her project, Phononic Crystal Suspensions for Precision Mechanical Sensing, Regal will investigate mechanical films suspended with an engineered lattice of tethers to address existing challenges in nuclear spin detection and imaging. If successful, Regal’s approach would be a new pathway for observing spins through force signatures and may even enable 3D imaging at the nanoscale. Regal hopes this work will also lead to design principles of tunable detectors of force and acceleration that will broaden approaches to precision mechanical sensing. 

“This is high-impact work that could accelerate basic science,” notes RCSA Senior Program Director Silvia Ronco. “As a dedicated teacher and outstanding scientist, Cindy represents the best of our Cottrell Scholar community.” 

In addition to RCSA’s Cottrell Scholar Award (a requirement for FRED Award eligibility), Regal has previously received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2012 and a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering in 2011. She was named an American Physical Society Fellow in 2017.  

Regal will be honored with the FRED Award and will present a talk about her work at the 27th Annual Cottrell Scholars Conference in July 2021.

About Research Corporation for Science Advancement: RCSA ( was founded in 1912 and is the second-oldest foundation in the United States (after the Carnegie Corporation) and the oldest foundation for science advancement. Research Corporation is a leading advocate for the sciences and a major funder of scientific innovation and of research in colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada.