Workshop: New Insights into Quantum Materials: Scattering, Other Probes and Theory

This workshop is sponsored by the US Department of Energy, through the UMN Center for Quantum Materials, and by the Simons Foundation, through the UMN Fine Theoretical Physics Institute.

Participation is by invitation only. Members of the School of Physics and Astronomy are invited. Please contact ftpi@umn.eduI for more information. 

School of Physics and Astronomy Graduation Ceremony and Reception

Physics and Astronomy 2024 graduates and their friends and family are invited to a stage-crossing ceremony and reception.

Workshop: Long-range Interactions and Strong Disorder: In Physics and in Life

The Fine Theoretical Physics Institute (FTPI) will host a workshop in honor of Professor Boris Shklovskii's career in physics on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Long-range Interactions and Strong Disorder: In Physics and in Life” will be held in Keller Hall 3-180 Friday, May 3rd – Sunday, May 5th

The first talk will be given by Nobel Prize winner 
Klaus von Klitzing.

Participation is by invitation only. Members of the School of Physics and Astronomy are invited, but are requested to fill in this google form if they plan to attend. 

2024 A.O.C. Nier Lecture: Dr. Robin Canup, "Origin of the Moon"

Dr. Robin Canup, Vice President of Solar System Science & Exploration at the Southwest Research Institute. She will be presenting a talk titled Origin of the Moon.

Dr. Canup joined Southwest Research Institute in Boulder in 1998. Her research utilizes both numerical simulations and analytical models to study the formation and early evolution of planets and their moons. She has modeled many aspects of the formation of the Moon, including hydrodynamical simulations of lunar-forming impacts, the accumulation of the Moon and its initial composition and orbital evolution, and how bombardment may have affected Earth-Moon isotopic compositions. Her models for the origin of the large satellites of the gas giant planets have emphasized the potential early loss of satellites due to gas-driven orbital decay, and how this process may both select for the similar observed ratios between the current satellite system masses and their host planets and provide a potential mechanism to produce icy rings at Saturn. She has also developed models for an impact origin of the satellite systems of Pluto and Mars. Canup was the recipient of the 2003 Urey Prize of the Division of Planetary Sciences and the 2004 Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017. She and Professor Phil Christensen (ASU) have been selected by the National Academies to co-chair the 2023-2032 Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. Canup and her husband and their two children live in the foothills outside Boulder.

A.O.C. Nier served as a highly distinguished faculty member of the Physics Department for 42 years starting in 1938. He was actively involved in research up to the time of his death in 1994. A firm believer in “pursuits of knowledge - in areas, which cross traditional lines” he had an enormous impact on the geological sciences by his pioneering work on isotope abundances and measurements of many elements which are used in radiometric age determinations of geologic materials. He received many national and international awards in recognition of his discoveries and contributions to Physics, Geological Sciences and many other fields.




Student Awards Ceremony

There will be a ceremony in recognition of undergraduate scholarship and graduate fellowship recipients. The ceremony will be followed by a reception in the atrium outside B50.


Colloquium: Simon Caron-Huot, McGill University

Abstract: "Please read these lectures last week," the late Sydney Coleman once joked.  Causality is so ingrained in our daily experience that this request seems absurd.  This talk will focus on relativistic causality: the notion that signals cannot move faster than light.  I will review its central role in modern physics and how it leads to surprising properties like analyticity in spin of various physical observables, gives insight on the dynamics of some strongly interacting systems, and restricts potential modifications to Einstein's gravity.

Professor Simon Caron-Huot, McGill will deliver a lecture in his area of research, Quantum Field Theory. He is the recipient of the 2023 Larkin Award for a Junior Researcher. There will be a brief award ceremony before his lecture.

Read more about the Larkin Award here

MIFA Public Talk 2024: Ali Sulaiman, University of Minnesota

About the Talk: 

Jupiter and Saturn’s internal magnetic fields carve out a cavity in the interplanetary medium to form two of the largest magnetospheres in our solar system. Immersed within their magnetic environments are geologically active moons. Two notable examples are Io’s volcanoes at Jupiter and Enceladus’ geysers at Saturn. The activities of these moons drive ebbs and flows of the magnetospheres. One obvious manifestation is powerful polar auroras. Another consequence of this coupling is the opportunity to sound the interior of moons, leading to discoveries of global oceans beneath their surfaces.

In the past decade, NASA’s Juno spacecraft undertook the first polar orbits of Jupiter, and NASA/ESA’s Cassini spacecraft performed its final orbits, which were highly inclined and adjusted to pass through the gap between Saturn’s atmosphere and innermost ring - both providing unprecedented coverage and proximity to their planets.

Dr. Sulaiman will highlight some discoveries enabled by planetary explorers that have revolutionized our view of the solar system, ushering in a new and exciting era for space plasma processes and the question of habitability beyond our planet. He will introduce the future ESA Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (launched in April 2023) and NASA Europa Clipper (launch late 2024), as well as a proposed orbiter to the Uranus system, which was listed as the highest priority during in the 2023-2032 Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey.


Van Vleck Public Colloquium: Paul Chaikin, New York University

About the Talk: 

While the equilibrium properties, states, and phase transitions of interacting systems are well described by statistical mechanics, the lack of suitable state parameters has hindered the understanding of non-equilibrium phenomena in divers settings, from glasses to driven systems to biology. Here we introduce a simple idea enabling the quantification of organization in non-equilibrium and equilibrium systems, even when the form of order is unknown. The length of a losslessly compressed data file is a direct measure of its information content. We use lossless data compression to study several equilibrium and out-of-equilibrium systems, and show that it identifies ordering, phase transitions, critical behavior and critical exponents in thermodynamic and dynamic phase transitions. Our technique should provide a quantitative measure of organization in systems ranging from condensed matter systems in and out of equilibrium, to cosmology, biology and possibly economic and social systems. More recently we have demonstrated that similar techniques can reveal local entropy production and the ability to extract work from non-equilibrium systems.

About the Speaker: 
Paul Chaikin is originally from New York City. He earned his Bachelors at Caltech in 1966, and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971 working with Kondo superconductors. He joined the physics faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1972 where he studied thermopower, density waves, and high field phenomena mostly in organic superconductors. The lure of actually seeing the microscopics of a system led him to soft matter. He helped develop techniques to measure elasticity and motion and understand colloidal interactions. Hard and soft matter interests continued after joining the faculty at UPenn (1983), the staff at Exxon Research (1983) and the faculty at Princeton University (1988).

His interests in geometry/topology led to his founding contributions to diblock copolymer nanolithography, and studies of defects, annealing, and pattern formation. He helped demonstrate and explain why ellipsoids pack more densely than spheres. In 2005 he helped found the Center for Soft Matter Research at New York University. His more recent research centers on artificial self-replication, self-assembly, active matter, DNA nanotechnology, topological defects on curved surfaces, and quantifying order far from equilibrium.

Professor Chaikin is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Science and a Oliver Buckley Prize recipient (2018). He is currently a Silver professor of Physics at New York University.


Van Vleck Public Lecture: Paul Chaikin, New York University

Public Lecture, Free and open to the public

Physics & Astronomy Colloquium: Chris Quigg, Fermilab

Title: A Century of Noether’s Theorem

Abstract: In the summer of 1918, Emmy Noether published the theorem that now bears her name, establishing a profound two-way connection between symmetries and conservation laws. The influence of this insight is pervasive in physics; it underlies all of our theories of the fundamental interactions and gives meaning to conservation laws that elevates them beyond useful empirical rules. Noether’s papers, lectures, and personal interactions with students and colleagues drove the development of abstract algebra, establishing her in the pantheon of twentieth-century mathematicians. This talk traces her path from Erlangen through Göttingen to a brief but happy exile at Bryn Mawr College, illustrating the importance of “Noether’s Theorem” for the way we think today.


School News

School of Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Fellowship and Award Winners for 2024

2024 Graduate Awards and Fellowships

There are 21 graduate award and fellowship recipients in the School for 2021.
Undergraduate Scholarship winners in Tate Hall

2024 Undergraduate Scholarship Recipients

There are 39 recipients and 14 undergraduate scholarships. The winners are as follows.
Sabrina Savage and Lindsay Glesener at the launch site in Alaska.

Glesener part of NASA's first solar flare observation campaign

Professor Lindsay Glesener, of the School of Physics and Astronomy is part of a research team launching a sounding rocket to study solar flares. The rocket, named Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (
Alexander McLeod, Nitzan Hirschberg and Alyssa Bragg

Inside Professor McLeod’s Nano-Imaging Laboratory

Professor Alexander McLeod’s nano-imaging lab creates novel ways to study materials as well as looking for new physics in those materials. Nano-spectroscopy is a technique that attaches conventional
Zhen Liiu smiling man in glasses and a blue polo shirt

Liu receives prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship for early-career researchers

School of Physics and Astronomy Assistant Professor Zhen Liu is one of only 126 early-career researchers who will receive a prestigious 2024 Sloan Research Fellowship.
Michael Coughlin and Alexander Criswell

Coughlin and Criswell part of comprehensive UV light survey

Assistant Professor Michael Coughlin and graduate student Alexander Criswell of the School of Physics and Astronomy are part of a new NASA mission that has just been selected to conduct a
Three School Alumni elected to engineering society

Three School Alumni elected to National Academy of Engineering

Three alumni of the School of Physics and Astronomy:  Martha C. Anderson (Ph.D., Astrophysics ‘93), Kei May Lau (B.A.,’76, M.S. ‘77), and Jeffrey Puschell (Ph.D., Astrophysics ‘79) have been elected
Michael Coughlin smiling man wearing glasses

Coughlin receives McKnight Professorship

School of Physics and Astronomy Assistant Professor Michael Coughlin has been awarded a 2024 McKnight Land-Grant Professorship.
Wall of Discovery shows the plot for the Humphreys-Davidson Limit, Professor Humphreys stands near it with Prof. Davidson.

Humphreys Awarded Medal from Royal Astronomical Society

Professor Emerita Roberta Humphreys of the School of Physics and Astronomy will receive the 2024 Herschel Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society for her discovery of the empirical upper luminosity
John Broadhurst

John Broadhurst, 1935 - 2023

Professor Emeritus John Broadhurst of the School of Physics and Astronomy passed away on October 17 th , 2023. He was 88 years old. John was born in England in 1935 and received all of his degrees

School of Physics and Astronomy Seminar Calendar