SPA Newsletter

School of Physics & Astronomy Newsletter
April 12, 2021

 

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Letter from the Head

Dear Friends of the School of Physics and Astronomy,

This newsletter is coming to you as we are looking forward to a return to campus this coming fall, but our efforts in education and research are alive and well in these challenging times. There have been many adaptations undertaken due the pandemic, and among others, you can read here about the construction of detector modules for the Mu2e experiment.  This effort involves over 30 undergraduates, working in socially-distanced shifts.  We are lucky that Assistant Professor Zhen Liu, introduced below, has joined us at the start of the year, and you can also read about the first year of graduate school in the pandemic for Meg Foster, one of our recent alumnae.  Our program benefits from a very high level of engagement among our undergraduates, and I am happy to note that our Society of Physics Students (SPS) won a Best Chapter award from the national office.  Another response to the pandemic, described in the article on our Careers program, has been initiated by students doing virtual internships to get a glimpse of life outside academia.   

A man in a white shirt wearing glasses

I hope that you are all safe and well and that you enjoy this news from the School.  

-Paul Crowell

School News

Mu2e an (almost) impossible experiment

Diagram showing the layout of the Mu2e detector

Physicists at the University of Minnesota are building  an experiment that they readily admit is almost impossible. The Mu2e collaboration is a detector that will study a very rare process in particle physics, which Professor Ken Heller says is “like finding a single special grain of sand in a pile of sand covering the East Bank campus 2600 feet high.”

New Careers Program brings new opportunities for students

Professor Shaul Hanany has led a new effort to address the large gap in career opportunities in academia and the number of physics and astronomy graduates in the U.S.

Zhen Liu: Hidden Sector Physics

High energy theory featuring energy frontier, small scale frontier and small scale frontier (quantum sensing)

Zhen Liu is a new high energy theorist at the School. His research focuses on “hidden sector physics” an area of theoretical physics aimed at answering fundamental questions in particle physics.

Local SPS group named Outstanding Chapter; launches new website

Students playing Cards Against Humanity at a game night
Students playing Cards Against Humanity at Game Night hosted by SPS

The local chapter of the Society of Physics Students has been named an Outstanding Chapter by the national organization.

Alumni News

Meg Foster, who graduated Spring 2019, has had an interesting first year of Graduate School due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read about how she overcame these unexpected challenges in the full article.