News & Events

Special Seminar: Mikhail Shifman on the history of quantum mechanics

Theoretical breakthroughs made by the "old guard” at the very beginning of the 20th century –– Planck, Bohr and Sommerfeld, and Einstein — were a prelude on the road to the quantum world. The so-called New Quantum Mechanics, the actual revolution, occurred in the mid 1920s to early 1930s, when a consistent quantum mechanical theory was constructed and the development of applications started. The pioneers of the second wave were young, all of them born in the first years of the 20th century, e.g., Heisenberg in 1901, Dirac in 1902, and so on. Their scientific youth and most productive years coincided with the European catastrophe. National socialism in Germany, originally a marginal movement, triumphantly culminated in January of 1933 with Hitler at the helm of Germany, the most powerful country of Europe, and the scientific Mecca of that time. On the other side of the continent, in the USSR, a gigantic social experiment was in full swing, a brutal attempt to engineer a classless society with proclaimed universal equality and prosperity. Behind the iron curtain, innocent people were being murdered by the millions for the sake of a proclaimed radiant future. The young quantum pioneers — many of them either left-leaning or Jewish (or both) had to flee, but where? 
In this talk, I will tell the mostly unknown stories of some of those who were caught between the two evils. Among them are Hans Hellmann, the pioneer of quantum chemistry, Fritz Houtermans, who was the first to suggest the fusion nuclear reaction as the source of star energy, George Gamow, who realized that alpha radioactivity was due to quantum tunneling, George Placzek, Lise Meitner, and others.

Colloquium: Miguel Morales, University of Washington

Abstract: 21 cm Cosmology has the potential to be the future of observational cosmology. By measuring the redshifted radio line of neutral hydrogen, 21 cm Cosmology can map the effects of Dark Energy, reveal the Epoch of Reionization, and even constrain the Dark Sector by observing small scale primordial fluctuations during the Dark Ages. Realizing this potential, however, necessitates solving the exquisite experimental precision and data analysis challenges needed to isolate the faint cosmological signal. I will talk about the potential of 21 cm Cosmology, describe the experimental challenges, and discuss the current state of the art with the deepest 21 cm Cosmology limits from the Epoch of Reionization.


Virtual Dean's Lunch and Learn feat. the School of Physics and Astronomy

Join Dean Kaveh and department head Paul Crowell for college updates and a closer look at some of the innovations taking place in the School of Physics and Astronomy.


"The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment—Small Particles, Big Detectors!" presented by Andrew Furmanski, Assistant Professor

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) will study the phenomenon of neutrino oscillations to an unprecedented level of detail. Key to the goals of DUNE are determining whether neutrinos and antineutrinos oscillate in the same way. If they don't, this can be part of explaining why the universe is made entirely out of matter, not a mix of matter and antimatter. This process requires sending a beam of neutrinos 800 miles and constructing a 70,000 ton particle detector a mile underground. Professor Furmanski will explain why this experiment has to be so large, why it takes so long to build, and what we hope to learn from it.

"Searching for New Physics at the Large Hadron Collider" presented by Nadja Strobbe, Assistant Professor

Particle physicists have developed a comprehensive understanding of how the universe works, but this understanding is still incomplete. The Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at the Large Hadron Collider was built to uncover more of Nature's secrets. We have so far discovered one missing piece, the Higgs boson, but the search continues. Professor Strobbe will discuss how we can use this experiment to search for new particles and how future upgrades will enable us to dig even deeper.

Alumni from all academic majors are welcome.

Taekjip Ha, Johns Hopkins University

DNA is an iconic molecule that forms a double helical structure, providing the basis for genetic inheritance, and its physical properties have been studied for decades. In this talk, I will present evidence that sequence dependent physical properties of DNA such as flexibility and self-association may be important for biological functions. In addition, I will present a new application of DNA where mechanical modulations of cell behavior can be studied at the single molecule level using rupturable DNA tethers.

Women in Physics and Astronomy talk: Laura H. Greene

Laura H. Greene

The National MagLab and Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

President of the American Physical Society, 2017

Superconductors are fascinating quantum materials with applications that include the lossless transmission of electrical power, levitating trains, making huge magnetic fields, and detecting the tiniest magnetic fields. Conventional superconductors were discovered in 1911 but the theoretical explanation did not come until 1957. High temperature superconductors, discovered in 1986, are unconventional and we still don't have complete theories for them; and there are dozens of other types of unconventional superconductors.  After a short overview of the National MagLab, I will define superconductivity and show some bizarre behaviors of those and other quantum materials, including some of my own research. It is amazing what we do know and how much we still have to learn! 

Colloquium: Kazunari Shibata, Kyoto University

Abstract:  The development of astronomical observations of various objects in 20th century has revealed that the universe is full of explosions (flares or bursts) and plasma outflows such as high-speed jets.  Why is our universe filled with such extraordinary activity? 

"When I started astrophysical research in 1977, I was fascinated with a puzzle why the nuclei of distant galaxies produce relativistic jets, collimated supersonic outflows. Soon after I learned observations of astrophysical jets, I learned solar observations, which show the importance of magnetic field in the production of flares and jets, though detailed physics is still not understood well at that time. I hypothesized that the jets may be accelerated by magnetic force both on the Sun and galaxies: in the case of the galaxies, magnetic field may be twisted by the rotation of accretion disk plasma, whereas on the Sun magnetic field can be twisted in the solar convection zone. During the untwisting process of a twisted magnetic flux tube, the jet may be accelerated. Then I started magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) numerical simulations of both solar and astrophysical jets. Fortunately, I succeeded in reproducing astrophysical jets from magnetized accretion disks using time dependent MHD simulations for the first time (1985, 1986).  I was also lucky since I became a member of space solar observation missions Yohkoh (1991-2000) and Hinode (2007-present), and discovered X-ray jets in the corona (1992), as well as chromospheric anemone jets (2007).  Both phenomena were successfully explained by the magnetic reconnection model. From observations of flares and jets on the Sun, I realized the importance of plasmoid ejections in magnetic reconnection (1995), and proposed the unified model of flares and jets on the basis of the plasmoid-induced reconnection and fractal reconnection (2001)."

"More recently, as an extension of solar flare studies, I was fortunate enough to discover superflares on solar type stars with young colleague (2012), which maybe important for the existence or survivability of human beings and life on the Earth and exoplanets."


In conclusion, through these studies, I learned the reason why our universe is filled with extraordinary activity is that magnetized plasmas are so active and dynamic.

Colloquium: Noah Kurinsky, Fermilab

The discovery of the particle nature of dark matter is one of the most pressing questions in modern physics. Evidence for such a dark matter particle is abundant from galactic dynamics and structure formation in the early universe, not little doubt remains that this evidence points to exciting new physics. Particle dark matter candidates exist in the huge mass window across almost 30 orders of magnitude, from planck-scale wave-like DM to TeV-scale ‘WIMPZillas’. Over the last 20 years, searches for dark matter above the proton mass have advanced significantly across direct and indirect searches, but sub-GeV dark matter has until recently been comparatively unprobed. In this talk, I will discuss the state of the Sub-GeV direct detection field, and recent progress applying quantum measurement techniques to lowering mass thresholds for new searches with event thresholds at the eV-scale. I will then discuss the outlook for the field in the next 5-10 years, in the context of synergy with ongoing research in materials science and quantum information science. The goal over the next decade is to run background-free dark matter searches at gram-year exposures with meV-scale thresholds, an exciting challenge that requires a broad range of expertise, and comes with enormous scientific discovery potential.

Universe @ Home

Presenters: TBD

Welcome to the galactic menagerie! In our 2021 debut for Universe @ Home, we're talking about the weird ones - galaxies that are strange, deformed, out of place, or could even be missing their dark matter! Afterwards, ask questions about these cosmic curiosities before learning how you can help astronomers classify real galaxies through Galaxy Zoo.

Colloquium: Steve Fetter, University of Maryland on Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War

Abstract: The Cold War ended 30 years, but nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war are still with us. Nine countries together deploy about 10,000 nuclear weapons, most with a destructive potential an order of magnitude greater than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The United States and Russia, which together account for 90 percent of global stockpiles, each maintain about 1000 nuclear weapons on constant alert, ready to be launched in a few minutes. Arms control agreements that have constrained US and Russian arsenals and provided stability are on the brink of collapse, and both countries are poised to field a new generation of nuclear weapons. Physicists played a vital role at the beginning of the nuclear age and throughout the Cold War in engaging policymakers about nuclear dangers and advocating for policies to reduce them. Physicists should again take a leading role in educating the public and policymakers.

Bio: Steve Fetter is a professor of public policy and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Maryland.  He served for two years in the Department of Defense  during the Clinton Administration, and five years in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Obama Administration.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control and has served on committees to assess the effects of nuclear earth-penetrating warheads, internationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle, conventional prompt global strike, geoengineering, ballistic missile defense, and nuclear forensics. He received his PhD from UC Berkeley and his bachelor’s degree from MIT in physics.  

American Association of the History of Medicine Webinars

AAHM Panel 12 Cultured Knowledge: Biohistorical Approaches to Microbial Culture Collections
University of Minnesota, Friday, January 22, 2021; 1:30-3:00 pm CST
Hosts: Dominique Tobbell and Jennifer Gunn
Jacalyn Duffin, Queen’s University
Culture Collections: The First International Conference
Frédéric Vagneron, University of Strasbourg
The Lost World of Paul Hauduroy: Fortune and misfortunes of the Lausanne collection of microbial types (1944-1970)
Charles Kollmer, California Institute of Technology
Living Reagents: Culture Collections, Microbial Taxonomy, and Parasite Bioassays
Discussant: Claas Kirchhelle, University College Dublin
**Owing to this panel having a discussant, each presenter and the discussant will have 15 minutes, rather than 20 minutes.
AAHM Panel 13 The Medical Management of Bodies: Intersex, Inmates, and Aids to Hearing
University of Minnesota, Friday, January 22, 2021; 3:30-5:00 CST
Hosts: Dominique Tobbell and Jennifer Gunn

Mirjam Janett, University Zurich
Children, their families and the management of “Intersex” Bodies in Swiss pediatric medicine (1945-1970)
Jessica Adler, Florida International University
Diagnosing and Discrediting Inmates: Power and Resistance at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in the 1940s
Sarah Rose, University of Texas at Arlington
“A shattering impact”: Hearing Aids, Insurance, and the Public Health Crisis That Wasn’t, 1962-2017


School News

Above is an illustration of an intermediate polar system, a type of two-star system that the research team thinks V1674 Hercules belongs to. A flow of gas from the large companion star impacts an accretion disk before flowing along magnetic field lines onto the white dwarf

Woodward research takes a look at the fastest nova on record

A research report, co-authored by Professor Charles Woodward of the School of Physics and Astronomy describes the unusual quirks of V1674 Hercules, the fastest nova ever on record.
Rajdeep Chatterjee

Chatterjee receives Young Researcher Prize

Rajdeep Mohan Chatterjee received the 2022 Young Researcher Prize from the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland.
Ramanakumar Sankar

School leads citizen science effort to study Jupiter's atmosphere

Ramanakumar Sankar, a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Physics and Astronomy is leading the latest Zooniverse project, Jovian Vortex Hunter.
group of theoretical physicists standing together in front of the mississippi river on a sunny day

New grant will expand FTPI programs

The William I Fine Theoretical Physics Institute (FTPI) has received a Simons Grant of over half a million dollars to help bolster the Institute's mission of being one of the regional centers
Jenna Freedburg

Freedberg Receives Student Leadership Award

Jenna Freedberg, graduate student in the School of Physics and Astronomy, received a 2022 President's Student Leadership and Service Award.
Scholarship and Awards

2022 Undergraduate Scholarship Recipients

There are 31 undergraduate recipients for 14 separate scholarships.
fellowships and awards

2022 Graduate Awards and Fellowships

There are 11 graduate award and fellowship recipients in the School for 2021.
Man sitting at a table outside with his hands folded in front of him

Hanany Receives Collegiate Service Award

Professor Shaul Hanany of the School of Physics and Astronomy has received the 2022 College of Science and Engineering George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Service.
Smiling woman with dark hair and glasses

Hameed receives NSSA Prize

Sajna Hameed (PhD 2021), now a postdoc at the MPI, Stuttgart, Germany, was recently selected as a recipient of the biennial Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA) Prize for Outstanding Student
Claudia Scarlata

Scarlata named Distinguished McKnight Professor

Claudia Scarlata was named as a 2022 Distinguished McKnight Professor. She was recognized for her significant contributions to the study of the sources responsible for the last major transformation

School of Physics and Astronomy Seminar Calendar