Colloquium: Leonid Glazman, Yale University

The quest for a quantum phase transition in a chain of Josephson junctions has led serendipitously to the invention of a new type of superconducting qubit, which became known as fluxonium. The technology built around it, combined with theoretical efforts, has enabled progress in resolving two puzzles in the physics of superconductors that have persisted for decades.

Colloquium: Dr. Jane Wang (Cornell University)

Abstract: Why do animals move the way they do? Bacteria, insects, birds, and fish share with us the necessity to move so as to live. Although each organism follows its own evolutionary course, it also obeys a set of common laws. At the very least, the movement of animals, like that of planets, is governed by Newton’s law: All things fall. On Earth, most things fall in air or water, and their motions are thus subject to the laws of hydrodynamics. Through trial and error, animals have found ways to interact with fluid so they can float, drift, swim, sail, glide, soar, and fly. This elementary struggle to escape the fate of falling shapes the development of motors, sensors, and mind. Perhaps we can deduce parts of their neural computations by understanding what animals must do so as not to fall.
We have been seeking mechanistic explanations of the complex movement of insect flight.. Starting from the Navier-Stokes equations governing the unsteady aerodynamics of flapping flight, we worked to build a theoretical framework for computing flight and for studying the control of flight.  I will discuss our recent computational and experimental studies of the balancing act of dragonflies and fruit flies:  how a dragonfly recovers from falling upside-down and how a fly balances in air. In each case,  the physics of flight informs us about the neural feedback circuitries underlying their fast reflexes.

"I am fascinated by the physics of living organisms, with a focus on understanding insect flight. How does an insect fly, why does it fly so well, and how can we infer its ‘thoughts’ from its flight dynamics? The movement of an insect is not only dictated by the laws of physics, but also by its response to the external world."

-Jane Wang


Colloquium: Dr. Saurabh Jha (Rutgers University)

Abstract: Observations of type Ia supernovae (SN Ia), a class of exploding stars, ushered in a cosmological revolution: the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, driven by dark energy. I will describe current cosmological applications of SN Ia to measure the expansion rate of the Universe and constrain the nature of dark energy. Despite the cosmological utility of SN Ia, we still lack a detailed understanding of their progenitor systems and explosion physics. I will present advances in our knowledge of white dwarf supernovae through observations, including new data from JWST, that reveal both surprising homogeneity and diversity. Finally, I will preview SN Ia cosmology with upcoming flagship projects like the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope.

Diving into Mathematics with Emmy Noether

Emmy Noether was one of the twentieth century's most important mathematicians.  Her contributions, spanning invariant theory, the calculus of variations, abstract algebra, and number theory, combined with her mathematical philosophy have had a profound impact in mathematics, physics, and beyond. 

In this session, supplementing the evening's performance of the play Diving into Math with Emmy Noether, the presenters will give short general audience talks on various aspects of Noether's life, contributions, and impact, to be followed by time for questions and a panel discussion.  


3:00-3:30  Refreshments and socialization, Vincent Hall 120 (Commons room)

3:30-4:30  Presentations and questions, Vincent Hall 16

David Rowe (Institut für Mathematik, Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany) — Emmy Noether: from Invariant Theory to Physics to Abstract Algebra

Peter Olver (Mathematics, University of Minnesota) — The Curious History of Noether's Two Theorems

Peter Webb (Mathematics, University of Minnesota) — Noether's Impact in Algebra

Fiona Burrell (Physics, University of Minnesota) — Noether's Impact in Modern Physics

4:30-5:00  Panel discussion, Vincent Hall 16

7:00 p.m. Performance of Diving into Mathematics with Emily Noether

Coffman Union Theater

Emmy Noether (1882-1935) was one of the most influential mathematicians of the last century. Her works and teachings left a lasting mark on modern algebra, opening new avenues for a new structural perspective in mathematics. Noether was also one of the first women to gain the right to teach at a German university. She acquired that certification (Habilitation) on June 4, 1919, after submitting a thesis in which she solved one of the central problems in Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Her two celebrated theorems relating symmetries of variational problems and conservation laws of the field equations form the cornerstone of modern physical theories and beyond.

To celebrate the centenary of this event and the career of a unique personality in the history of mathematics, the ensemble Portrait Theater Vienna has produced a biographical play, directed by Sandra Schüddekopf and starring Anita Zieher as Emmy. The play is based on historical documents and events, and was written in cooperation with the historians Mechthild Koreuber and David E. Rowe. Further information can be found on the play’s website.

The University of Minnesota is pleased to announce that an English-language version of the play will performed on Sep 26, 2023 at 7 p.m. in Coffman Memorial Theater. Associated events are being planned to showcase the mathematical, scientific, and philosophical impact of Emmy Noether’s legacy.

Colloquium: Ramamurti Shankar, Yale University

Abstract: This talk will detail the emergence of Ramanujan from an obscure village in South India to his entering the most select circles of the mathematical world. The true nature of his stunningly original work is still being uncovered. The talk will provide both mathematical and personal details of this extraordinary genius.

Misel Colloquium: Francis Halzen, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Abstract: Below the geographic South Pole, the IceCube project has transformed one cubic kilometer of natural Antarctic ice into a neutrino detector. IceCube detects more than 100,000 neutrinos per year in the GeV to 10 PeV energy range. From those, we have isolated a flux of high-energy neutrinos originating beyond our Galaxy, with an energy flux that is comparable to that of the extragalactic high-energy photon flux observed by the NASA Fermi satellite. With a decade of data, we have identified their first sources, which point to the obscured dense cores associated with the supermassive black holes of some active galaxies as the origin of high-energy neutrinos (and cosmic rays!).


2023 Misel Family Lecture: Francis Halzen


The William I. Fine Theoretical Physics Institute (FTPI) at the University of Minnesota is pleased to announce Professor Francis Halzen as the 16th Annual Misel Lecturer.  Dr. Halzen is a Vilas and Gregory Breit Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  This lecture is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Questions? Please contact us at or 612-625-6055. We look forward to seeing you there!

Abstract:  The IceCube project at the South Pole melted 86 holes 2.5 kilometer deep in the Antarctic icecap to construct an enormous astronomical observatory. The experiment discovered a flux of neutrinos from deep space with energies more than a million times those of neutrinos produced at accelerator laboratories. These cosmic neutrinos are created in some of the most violent processes in the universe since the Big Bang and originate in the cosmic particle accelerators that are still enigmatic sources of cosmic rays. This lecture will discuss the IceCube neutrino telescope and the discovery of high-energy neutrinos of cosmic origin. It will highlight the recent discovery that high-energy neutrinos—and cosmic rays—originate in sources powered by rotating supermassive black holes.

See more information on our 2023 Misel Lecture webpage.
Read more about Professor Halzen on his University of Wisconsin webpage.

Please register through the UMN Events Calendar (registration is encouraged but not required).

Colloquium: Fiona Burnell

Symmetry is powerful principle in physics, allowing us to make exact statements even in regimes where controlled calculations are challenging or impossible.  Thus understanding the ways in which different types of symmetries can constrain phases of matter is an important component of understanding what nature is capable of.  In this talk, I will describe how exploring new types of symmetries, including symmetries with unusual spatial structure, or symmetries that act on particles in exotic ways, has expanded our understanding of these possibilities, including identifying new classes of phases of matter, and new platforms with which to realize these.  
This colloquium will have a remote option via zoom:

Labor Day: University Closed

Federal Holiday

Universe in the Park: Wild River State Park

Universe in the Park is hosted by the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics and area state and local parks.

Representatives of the Institute will present a short (~20 min) outdoor public talk and slide show. Presentations cover a variety of astronomical topics such as: the history of matter, how astronomers "see," and a journey through our solar system. For the 2022 season, talks will be outdoors to ensure they are as safe as possible.

Afterwards, if weather allows, attendees have the opportunity to view the sky through multiple 8-inch reflecting telescopes, operated by the staff and provided by the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics. Additionally, free star maps (e.g., and instructions are provided. Throughout the evening, audience members are encouraged to ask questions and discuss topics ranging from backyard astronomy to the latest scientific discoveries.

Although a vehicle permit is usually required to enter the parks, the events are free to the public. More about Wild River State Park here

School News

Fiona Burnell and Ed Tang

Burnell appointed to Tang Family Professorship

Professor Fiona Burnell has been appointed as the inaugural holder of the Tang Family Professorship. 
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

School of Physics and Astronomy Seminar Calendar