Reports on awards, grants, and other forms of recognition received by members of the Physics Department.

Nora Berrah Named 2018 AAAS Fellow

Physics professor Nora Berrah has been named a 2018 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Prof. Berrah has been recognized for her distinguished contributions to the field of molecular dynamics, particularly for pioneering non-linear science using x-ray lasers and spectroscopy using synchrotron light sources.

Prof. Berrah

View full story on CLAS website.

UConn Physics major wins national recognition for research

Connor Occhialini – Finalist 2018 LeRoy Apker Undergraduate Achievements Award

by Jason Hancock

One of our star undergraduates, Connor Occhialini, has won national recognition as a finalist in the 2018 LeRoy Apker Undergraduate Achievements Award competition for his research in the UConn Physics department. The honor and distinction is awarded not only for the excellent research achievements of the student, but also for the department that provides the supportive environment and opportunities for students to excel in research. Connor is in fact the second Apker finalist in three years’ time (Michael Cantara was a 2016 Apker finalist). Connor graduated with a BS in Physics from UConn in May 2018 and stayed on as a researcher during summer 2018. During his time here, he developed theoretical models, helped build a pump-probe laser system, and carried out advanced analysis of X-ray scattering data which revealed a new context for an unusual phenomenon – negative thermal expansion. With these outstanding achievements, the department presented Connor’s nomination to the 2018 LeRoy Apker award committee of the American Physical Society. Connor was selected to be one of only four Apker finalists from all PhD-granting institutions in the US. With this prestigious honor, the department receives a plaque and a $1000 award to support undergraduate research. Connor is now a PhD student in the Physics Department at MIT.

Physics undergrad is the recipient of 2018 Mark Miller research award

Physics major Brenna Robertson has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Mark Miller Undergraduate Research Award. Brenna’s proposal, which focuses on modeling supermassive black hole spin using spectral emission diagrams, was selected from among a strong pool of applicants. Brenna Robertson is working with Prof. Jonathan Trump.

The Mark Miller Award is a stipend to allow a student to remain in Storrs over the Summer session to work on a research project with a faculty member of the Physics Department. It was created through a donation made by Mark E. Miller, a UConn physics major alum.

NASA awards to two physics undergraduate students

Undergraduate Physics Majors, Sam Cutler and Anthony (Josh) Machado, recently received awards from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.

Awards recipients Sam Cutler (right) and Josh Machado

Sam was awarded an Undergraduate Research Fellowship to perform research at UConn this summer working with Prof. Kate Whitaker. The title of his research project is “Examining High Redshift Rotation Curve Outside the Local Universe”.

Josh was awarded the Undergraduate Scholarship by the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, and will be performing astrophysics research this summer at UConn working with Prof. Cara Battersby.

Annual Research Poster Day

The Physics Department Graduate Student Association, in collaboration with the faculty, organized the Annual Research Poster Day which was held this year on March 23, 2018.

Erin Curry presenting her poster “Intermetallic-Superalloy Radiative Heat Transfer in Additive Manufacturing”

About 15 students presented their research in a poster presentation. Awards were presented to graduate students Erin Curry and Martin Disla, and an undergraduate student Sadhana Suresh.

Martin Disla and Prof. Whitaker
Sadhana Suresh and Prof. Niloy Dutta

Prof. Blum has been selected a “Fermilab Distinguished Scholar”

Professor Tom Blum has been selected a “Fermilab Distinguished Scholar”.

Fermilab Distinguished Scholars are rotating multi-year appointments for U.S. theorists in either the Fermilab Theoretical Physics Department or the Theoretical Astrophysics Group.

The Fermilab Distinguished Scholars program aims to:

  • Strengthen connections between the Fermilab Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics groups and the wider U.S. particle-theory community.
  • Broaden the Fermilab theoretical-physics research program through collaborations between the Fermilab Distinguished Scholars and Fermilab theory staff, postdocs, and students.
  • Strengthen connections between the U.S. particle-theory community and the Fermilab experimental program.
  • Increase the frequency and quality of interactions between U.S. particle theorists and Fermilab experimentalists.
  • Increase resident theoretical expertise in targeted physics areas to support the Fermilab experimental program.

For more information see Fermilab Distinguished Scholars Program

Prof. Cormier’s NSF award: Seismic Signatures of Inner Core Solidification


Professor Vernon F. Cormier from the Department of Physics,  University of Connecticut has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the transition from liquid to solid in the Earth’s core using seismic wave measurements. Cormier’s project will determine the structure of the Earth’s inner core in relation to the processes that affect its cooling, solidification and connection with the flowing liquid metals of the outer core.

For more information see the article in “UConn Today”

Prof. C. Trallero awarded multiple research grants

Anna Zarra Aldrich, Office of the Vice President for Research
(Photo: Trallero Lab/Kansas State Photo)

University of Connecticut physics professor Carlos Trallero has been granted $1.06 million from the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to study recollision physics at the nanoscale to help develop ultrafast electronics.

This research will enhance the knowledge base of electron recollision dynamics at the nanoscale, which can be used to develop ultrafast light-driven electronics. These applications may be made possible by cultivating an improved understanding of the interactions and knowledge of the time scales of light-induced electronic motion including collective plasmonic excitations.

Trallero and co-PIs from Kansas State University will study the response of individual gas-phase nanoparticles to intense femtosecond (10-15 seconds) laser fields using high-harmonics spectroscopy, momentum-resolved photoelectron imaging and corresponding theoretical modeling.

Earlier research on photoelectron emission from dielectric and metal nanoparticles has demonstrated that nanoparticles may be a promising system for exploiting the effects of laser-induced electron recollision due to the interplay between the laser field and the near-field of the particle.

By extending these studies to longer wavelengths (400 to 9000 nanometers) and complementing them with high-harmonic generation from nanoparticles and nanoparticle aggregates, Trallero and his team will help build a better knowledge base of electron recollision dynamics at the nanoscale.

“We predict that through this study, we will identify behaviors on the nanoscale that will differ significantly from those that have been studied at the atomic level,” said Trallero.

The UConn-led team will work on the possibilities of controlling the nanoparticle response, especially plasmonic excitations, by applying synthesized two-color fields. They will also explore harmonic generation from tailor-made nanoparticles as a potential source of intense, short-pulsed XUV light.

By generating harmonics from fractal aggregates and supper-lattices of nanoparticles, Trallero will gather information on the transition from localized molecule-like to de-localized solid-like electron-field interactions. The team also plans to study plasmonic excitations in laser pump, X-ray probe experiments using time-resolved soft X-ray scattering.

In collaboration with ultrafast physics faculty, Professors George Gibson and Nora Berrah, Trallero has started planning and building an “Ultrafast Center,” with ties to industry for research that includes an interdisciplinary group of faculty from the department of physics, the Institute of Materials Science,  and the Schools of Engineering and Pharmacy. These faculty are specialized in optics, atomic and molecular physics, condensed matter, material science and engineering.

Carlos Trallero, who received his PhD in physics from Stony Brook University in 2007, joined UConn in 2017. His research focuses on attosecond science, strong field molecular spectroscopy, cohere control, higher-order harmonic generation, non-Gaussian optics, strong field science at long wavelengths and ultrafast optics.

This research is funding under DOD project number FA9550-17-1-0369.