News & Events

No Colloquium: Thanksgiving Holiday

Happy Thanksgiving! See you next week.

Colloquium: Dr. Kathy Levin, University of Chicago

Abstract: This talk will introduce the world of cold atom experiments. This world is engaged in many of the same pursuits as more conventional laboratories which focus on problems in cosmology, chemistry, and condensed matter. There are 2 particularly strong advantages which ultracold gases possess: firstly, at the low temperatures involved, the dynamical evolution is slow enough to be followed in real time. This provides otherwise inaccessible information about very fine details of non-equilibrium physics in a closed system. Secondly one can tune the inter-particle interactions making it possible to have the strongest possible (‘‘resonant") interaction strength. For Fermi systems this provides a prototype for a realizable high Tc superconductors/superfluids. For Bose systems a new form of "superchemistry" can emerge. In this talk we highlight what we can learn from these cold atom studies and how they complement the understanding gleaned from more conventional experiments.

Colloquium: Dr. Frederick Lamb (University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign)

The Growing Danger of Nuclear Weapons:
What Physicists Can Do


Today’s nuclear arsenals pose enormous risks for all humanity. Many agreements that reduced the threat of nuclear weapons have been abandoned and we now face a new, multi-country nuclear arms race that could have devastating consequences. Enormous resources are being expended by the United States, Russia, China, and North Korea to deploy new nuclear weapons and nuclear-armed long-range missiles. New countries are considering acquiring nuclear weapons. The war in Ukraine and other factors have increased the threat they might be used. In past times of danger, scientists and especially physicists have played a critical role in helping citizens and decision makers understand and reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons, and they can do so again. I will describe a project initiated by the American Physical Society to inform, engage, and mobilize physical scientists and engineers to act now to reduce the current nuclear threat.

Zoom Option Available Here

Kaufmanis Lecture: Sheperd Doeleman , Founding Director, Event Horizon Telescope

Abstract: Black holes are cosmic objects so small and dense, that nothing, not even light can escape their gravitational pull. Until recently, no one had ever seen what a black hole actually looked like. Einstein's theories predict that a distant observer should see a ring of light encircling the black hole, which forms when radiation emitted by infalling hot gas is lensed by the extreme gravity near the event horizon. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is a global array of radio dishes, linked together by a network of atomic clocks to form an Earth-sized virtual telescope that can resolve the nearest supermassive black holes where this ring feature may be measured. On April 10th, 2019, the EHT project reported success: we have imaged a black hole, and have seen the predicted strong gravitational lensing that confirms the theory of General Relativity at the boundary of a black hole. In 2022, our team again saw this phenomenon towards the supermassive  black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.  This talk will cover how this was accomplished, the impact, and what the future holds for the study of black holes.
About the Speaker: Sheperd Doeleman (Principal Investigator, next-generation EHT, Founding Director, Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), Harvard University Senior Research Fellow, Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian)

About the Lecture : More about the series here. 

The Lecture is free and open to the public but registration is requested. Register here

Colloquium: Dr. Thomas Humanic (Ohio State University)


Abstract: Tetraquark particles, i.e. particles composed of four quarks, with masses less than 1 GeV/c2 have been predicted for over 40 years. Candidate particles with the predicted masses and charge states have been identified, but to this date it is still controversial as to whether or not these candidate particles, listed in the Review of Particle Physics as two-quark mesons, can be interpreted as tetraquark states. Low-lying mesons that are considered as candidate tetraquarks are the f0(500), K∗0(700), f0(980) and a0(980). These particles are normally studied experimentally in low-energy pp collisions which produce higher-mass particles for which these are the decay products. The method used to produce and study these exotic particles for the present work is two-particle femtoscopy in pp and Pb-Pb collisions at the LHC with the ALICE experiment. Femtoscopy with identical particle-pairs is a method that is usually used to measure the geometry in high-energy particle interactions. By detecting non-identical pairs of ordinary mesons, femtoscopy picks out the strong final-state interaction (FSI) between the mesons in the pair.

Colloquium: Dr. Matthias Hohenberger (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Abstract: At approximately 1 am on December 5th, 2022, a fusion experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved, for the first time, a target gain exceeding 1. By imploding a small capsule containing deuterium-tritium fuel with 2.05 MJ of laser light, the resulting fusion reactions released a total energy of 3.15 MJ of nuclear fusion yield, thus exceeding the initial input energy. This was the first time for a laboratory experiment to meet the 1997 definition by the National Academy of Sciences of fusion ignition, an accomplishment six decades in the making. It is the result of focused work by a multi-lab team and required significant advances in high-energy-density physics, as well as laser, target, and diagnostics capabilities. This talk will discuss this momentous result, the steps that went into achieving it, and the implications of this achievement for Inertial Fusion Energy.

Colloquium: David Black, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Pepin Memorial Lecture

Professor Pepin, a longtime member of the faculty of the School of the Physics and Astronomy, passed away on January 6, 2023 I will be speaking to honor and recognize the many contributions that Professor Robert Pepin made to our lives: as students, fellow staff members, and members of society, while leading a life of research devoted to studying the evolution of our solar system. As his first graduate student, I have been given the honor of offering some insight into those contributions. A measure of his impact on his students is the Robert O. Pepin Fellowship that was established by his former students in collaboration with the University. That program now provides summer support for two PhD students every year.

Professor Pepin’s academic career took him from Harvard University for his undergraduate work, to the University of California Berkeley for his doctorate, with a three-year break at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and then to the University of Minnesota to take over leadership of the noble gas research laboratory. While on sabbatical from the University, he served as Director of the Lunar Science Institute in Houston on from 1974 until 1977. Professor Pepin’s research spanned all of the noble gases, which he used as a probe the geology of our solar system. He worked with samples from bodies ranging from the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon, to Mars, meteorites, and comets. He was one of lead investigators in the Apollo sample return program, both as a researcher and advisor to NASA. His work with nitrogen isotopes led to the discovery that some meteorites found on Earth came from Mars. He was also involved in spacecraft missions that were exposed to solar and cosmic radiation with a focus on the noble gas content and the story they told about the history of the Sun.

Although I ended up as a theorist in planetary science and astrophysics, Bob was always available to provide personal and professional guidance. Home visits with him and his wife Lillian by students were a key part of our evolution as scientists and people. He will be missed.

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.

School News

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
Fiona Burnell

Burnell elected APS Fellow

Associate Professor Fiona Burnell of the School of Physics and Astronomy has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. 
Michael Wilking

Moving Target: New Faculty member does neutrino research with a twist

Professor Michael Wilking is a new faculty member in high energy physics. Wilking’s research is focused on neutrinos and he is a member of several international neutrino collaborations, including
Professor Lindsay Glesener presenting a lecture

Three faculty positions open at the School

The School of Physics and Astronomy invites applications for three tenure track or tenured faculty positions in Experimental Particle Physics, Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics, and Experimental
On the left a snapshot of a lion taken at night, on the  right a head and shoulders picture of Sarah Huebner

Huebner receives Innovation Award

Dr. Sarah Huebner of the School of Physics and Astronomy has received the Innovation Impact Case Award for her project “Citizen Science and Artificial Intelligence Combined to Conserve Earth’s
Ben Margalit

Catching lightning in a bottle: new faculty member studies the physics of transient events

Ben Margalit is a new faculty member in the School and a theoretical astrophysicist who studies the fundamental physics of star explosions, collisions and other examples of intergalactic violence
Raymond Co, Zhen Liu and Kun-Feng Lyu

Liu group helps expand the search for new particle

A team led by Assistant Professor Zhen Liu of the School of Physics and Astronomy has discovered a new way to search for axions, hypothetical particles that could help solve some of nature’s most
Computer chip in Professor Pribiag's lab

Pribiag group creates new superconducting diode that could improve performance of quantum computers and artificial intelligence

Professor Vlad Pribiag of the School of Physics and Astronomy led a team that developed a more energy-efficient, tunable superconducting diode—a promising component for future electronic devices—that
Supernova telescope image

Kelly leads first-of-its-kind measurement of the Universe’s expansion rate

Assistant Professor Patrick Kelly of the School of Physics and Astronomy led a team which used a first-of-its-kind technique to measure the expansion rate of the Universe, providing insight that
Fellowship and awards title

2023 Graduate Awards and Fellowships

There are 14 graduate award and fellowship recipients in the School for 2021.

School of Physics and Astronomy Seminar Calendar