Month: September 2022

NSF award to Profs. Jain and Sochnikov

Professors Jain and Sochnikov received NSF research grant entitled “New Quantum Elastocaloric Demagnetization Refrigeration for the Millikelvin Range”. A major focus of their research will be the cooling of quantum chips. For this purpose, their teams will study ‘spin liquids’, which can be harnessed to achieve millikelvin temperatures without magnetic fields. At such low temperatures, quantum phase transitions drive cryocooling. This research uses novel techniques to induce and tune these types of phase transitions. In the future, this research will transform our ability to build energy-efficient, large-scale quantum computers.

Prof. Jain is organizing International Workshop on Oxide Electronics

Associate Professor of Physics Menka Jain and the Institute of Materials Science is co-organizing a workshop-28th International Workshop on Oxide Electronics (IWOE) in Maine next month. The IWOE series has become an important venue to discuss recent advances and emerging trends in this developing field. The aim of the workshop is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for researchers – theorists as well as experimentalists – on understanding the fundamental electronic and structural properties and also on the design, synthesis, processing, characterization, and applications of (epitaxial) functional oxide materials. Results of critical scientific importance as well as studies revealing the technological potential of functional oxide thin films to create devices with enhanced performance will be showcased. The other committee members are:

Dr. Jain designed the logo of the workshop as well.

The full abstract book of the talks and posters can be found at

Prof. Nora Berrah received the Honorary Doctoral Degree

Prof. Nora Berrah received the Honorary Doctoral Degree from the University of Turku in Finland. The ceremonial conferment was on October 8, 2021. This honor comes with the University of Turku Doctoral Certificate as well as a “Hat and a Sword”, the latter symbolizing the “Doctors’ Rank but also Sharpness of Thought and Role in Defending Science”. A picture of the hat and sword is shown.

50th anniversary of annual physics department Mt. Monadnock hike

This coming October we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the first hike up Mt. Monadnock by the Physics Department. We plan to hike Saturday, October 8th. Because the park recommends reservations, we will make reservations for a large group. Alumni are welcome and should contact Tom Blum or Alex Kovner as soon as possible to secure a parking spot. We’re also collecting pictures from past hikes for a slide show during the colloquium on Friday, October 7th. We hope to see you come October!

Department head greeting







Dear Friends of UConn Physics,

Probably the biggest event in the physics world this past year was the successful launch and early data taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It’s not just pretty pictures – the far infrared capabilities allow for the measurement of the most redshifted, thus most distant and earliest, galaxies in the universe and the infrared spectroscopy capabilities allow for the detection of specific gasses, like water, about distant exoplanets. Our astronomy group at UConn is fully involved with four professors (Profs. Trump, Battersby, Angles-Alcazar, and Faesi) participating in 15 separate first-year observation programs. Jonathan Trump has already written his first JWST paper on the chemical enrichment of the earliest universe. Jon has found that the production of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium proceeded more quickly than had been thought. For Jon’s paper, see A list of UConn-JWST-related links is available in a separate article in this newsletter.

Several of our faculty earned accolades. Tom Blum received the UConn Alumni Faculty Excellence Award in Research and Creativity. This is a career award, with a major element Tom’s contribution of new techniques for calculating the magnetic moment of the muon – the well-known g-2 result where the combination of experiment and calculation has now, for the first time, shown the inadequacy of the standard model. Cara Battersby received the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. This is one of the most important awards available to new-career scientists. Cara won for her proposal to study turbulence in the center of our galaxy coupled with a project to create astronomy-related lesson plans for use in under-resourced high schools. Both of these awards, along with several other impressive accomplishments, are described in the articles in this newsletter.

Another major theme of the year is turnover and renewal. This year saw the retirement of Professor Lanny Brooks from the Hartford campus, Professor Juha Javaneinen, and Professor Philip Mannheim. We hosted colloquia on the career accomplishments of Philip, Juha, and 2020 retiree Phil Gould. From Philip’s colloquium, beyond the notable highlights of his own career, we learned of the ultimately unsuccessful attempts to develop a mathematical career for his Liverpool high school classmate – one Paul McCartney. Also leaving us this year were Financial Assistant Anna Huang and Lab Technician Zac Transport. While we miss all of them, we have had tremendous renewal as well. We have nine new staff/faculty hires in the department. These are:

  • Professor Lea Ferreira dos Santos – a theorist specializing in quantum chaos and many body systems.
  • Assistant Professor Pavel Volkov – a theorist specializing in engineerable quantum materials.
  • Assistant Professor in Residence Sylvanie Wallington has joined our Stamford campus.
  • Assistant Professor in Residence Asli Tandogan Kunkel has joined our Hartford campus.
  • Aislinn Daniels has joined as a Laboratory Technician.
  • Kaitlin Gorman has joined the main office as a Financial Assistant.
  • Robert Shamirian has also joined the main office as a Financial Assistant.
  • In addition, anyone calling into the department office may speak with Victoria Rosado has been working in our main office since May to cover for Carrie Cichocki while out on maternity leave.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone that we are having our first in-person public event since the pandemic hit. On September 23rd we will host Professor Donna Strickland, Nobel Laureate 2018, for the Katzenstein Distinguished Lecture. Prof. Strickland was scheduled to give this talk in March 2020 but was the first event that we canceled due to the pandemic. It seems fitting that this long-delayed lecture will now serve as a reopening. I urge you all to come to Storrs for the event, hear a fascinating talk, reconnect with your old professors, and let us know what you are up to now.

Best wishes to all,

Barry Wells
Physics Department Head