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