Justin Smith

Graduate student
NS II 2107
(949) 824-5742

About me

I’m a third year physics PhD student with a background in electronic structure calculations using DFT. My past work involved topological transitions in CoSb_3 and hydrogen impurities in semiconducting germanium. I have an interest in education and communicating science, and feel strongly about improving overall scientific literacy. One of the motivations to pursue condensed matter research is so that my work, or related work, can some day find application in technology and have some sort of positive impact on the world.

Group Life

This group is a small inclusive community. Often times we grab meals or coffee together, and always enjoy socializing. All the time we lose in socializing is made up for in the fact that we are happy -- and happiness results in higher quality work.

That and we're hilarious.

Current Research

My current work is focused on developing a new method of calculating electronic transport using density functional methods as well as understanding the current methods. I want to understand why the standard approach for this problem fails in certain cases and works in others. Using new quantum chemical techniques I hope to develop both a more accurate method for computing current across a molecular junction as well as a systematic way to understand our approximations.


My main outlet in life is fencing. I've been fencing since I was 15 and hold an A rating in epee which is the highest in the US. For the 2013-2014 season I competed 20 times, both in collegiate events and local tournaments that draw fencers from all over Southern California.

Here is a small taste:

Me vs. Stephen Crane - Gold Medal Bout at UC Santa Cruz 2011 Collegiate Tournament

part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dFIebiUyXI

part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujjEBuaq_Mk

part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pe3GHTrQL0

Me vs. Benjamin Leider - Semi-final Bout at Cal Tech 2013 Collegiate Tournament

part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4cPvIImnDU

part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21dyWhEAeDs

part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Tiv9IrtkHw

Publications with Kieron
[179] Warming Up Density Functional Theory Justin C Smith, Francisca Sagredo, Kieron Burke, Submitted (2017). [bibtex] [pdf]
[172] Exact conditions on the temperature dependence of density functionals K. Burke, J. C. Smith, P. E. Grabowski, A. Pribram-Jones, Phys. Rev. B 93, 195132 (2016). [bibtex] [pdf] [doi]
[167] Exact thermal density functional theory for a model system: Correlation components and accuracy of the zero-temperature exchange-correlation approximation J. C. Smith, A. Pribram-Jones, K. Burke, Phys. Rev. B 93, 245131 (2016). [bibtex] [pdf] [doi]
[162] The Hubbard dimer: a density functional case study of a many-body problem D J Carrascal, J Ferrer, J C Smith, K Burke, Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter 27, 393001 (2015). [bibtex] [pdf]

Publications without Kieron

V. Pardo, J.C.Smith, and W.E. Pickett, “Linear bands, zero-momentum Weyl semimetal, and topological transition in skutterudite-structure pnictides”, Phys. Rev. B 85 214531 (2012).

J.C. Smith, S. Banerjee, V. Pardo, and W.E. Pickett, “Dirac Point Degenerate with Massive Bands at a Topological Quantum Critical Point”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 106 056401 (2011).

Lightsaber photo shop credit: Marvin Martinez