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

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.

Two UConn professors recognized as Fellows of the American Physical Society

The American Physical Society (APS) has named two UConn Physics faculty as APS Fellows. APS Fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one’s professional peers and is an honor bestowed by election. The criterion for election is exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise; e.g., outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education.

In 2017, Susanne Yelin and Alex Kovner are named Fellows of the American Physical Society.

APS Fellow Susanne Yelin: For pioneering theoretical work with quantum coherences, such as near-resonant nonlinear quantum optics, for work with hybrid systems, such as molecular and solid state materials, and for work with many-body and cooperative systems and super-radiance.
APS Fellow Alex Kovner: “ For ground-breaking contributions to the physics of strong interactions in high energy hadronic and nuclear collisions, including high parton densities and gluon saturation.”

UConn PhD student Daniel Horning receives Dept. of Energy fellowship

Daniel Hoying
Daniel Hoying on April 13, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

As a theoretical physicist studying the fundamental elements of matter, UConn graduate student Daniel Hoying creates calculations so large and complex they require supercomputers to perform them.

So Hoying is obviously excited that he will soon have regular access to one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, N.Y. The system is outfitted with Intel’s powerful new Knights Landing Xeon Phi chip. The chip’s 8 billion transistors and other cutting-edge technologies can carry the heavy processing loads that scientists like Hoying need to do their work.

“This represents an enormous opportunity for me,” says Hoying, who is headed to Brookhaven as a recipient of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Award. “The level of precision offered by these processors allows us to make calculations that we would never have conceived of a few years ago. The on-site expertise can’t be discounted either. There are a lot of people there who know a lot of things I don’t know. It’s very exciting to have an opportunity to learn from them.”

Starting in July, Hoying will spend 12 consecutive months conducting part of his dissertation research at Brookhaven. Only 53 graduate students around the country received SCGSR awards this year. Other winners included students from Yale, Princeton, MIT, Duke, Cornell, CalTech, and Michigan State.

“The SCGSR program prepares graduate students for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science’s mission,” says Steve Binkley, acting director of DOE’s Office of Science. “We are proud of the accomplishments these outstanding students already have made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come.”

Hoying’s research focuses on the Standard Model of particle physics. The Standard Model explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact and are governed by fundamental forces such as gravity and electromagnetism. It is the most fundamental theory of nature.

Hoying specifically studies the strong force in the Standard Model, otherwise known as Quantum Chromodynamics or QCD. The strong force binds fundamental particles of matter together to form larger particles. For example, the strong force helps quarks and gluons combine to make protons and neutrons, which in turn combine to make atoms, which in turn combine to make molecules and so on.

He is currently looking at the decaying cycle of particles known as kaons, which decay into two other particles called pions. These extremely small particles, first discovered in cosmic rays, only exist for fractions of a second and have been identified in experiments run in large particle accelerators. They are an essential part of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Previous calculations have shown that theory and experiments involving the decay of kaons have differed by small amounts. Hoying’s research aims to reduce those uncertainties, to help scientists learn more about what these particles are and how they behave.

Besides increasing understanding and advancing basic science, ultimately the information gathered through Hoying’s research could have a variety of applications in advanced computing and various energy fields.

“Dan is a talented young physicist who works hard,” says Professor Thomas Blum, Hoying’s advisor in the Department of Physics. “I’m fortunate to have him working for me.”

This article by Colin Poitras (UConn Communications) appeared in UConn Today on April 17, 2016.