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Reports on recent events within the larger scientific world, with a member of the department explaining the science and commenting on its significance.

Prof. McCarron received a grant from Air Force Office of Scientific Research

Daniel McCarron, a physics professor, received a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for his work analyzing the quantum mechanical behavior of a simple hydrocarbon molecule: CH, or methylidyne. A highly reactive gas, methylidyne is abundant in the interstellar medium, and its simple composition promises to allow researchers to study the role of quantum mechanics within organic chemistry.

In order to expose the quantum nature of these molecules, Prof. McCarron has devised a way to cool them down to a millionth of a degree above absolute zero using laser light. At such a low temperature, “quantum effects are amplified and can reveal themselves in the lab,” he says. “You don’t really get that in a beaker at room temperature – things just happen too quickly and too chaotically.”

The AFOSR is funding the purchase of a high-powered laser to assist in slowing down beams of CH radicals from about 100 meters per second to several centimeters per second. This laser-cooling and trapping technology will allow amplifying and better study of the quantum behavior of this organic molecule, with an eye toward furthering scientific knowledge about the role of quantum mechanics in chemical reactions in general—a field where successful research has been scarce.

For more information: Four UConn Researchers Take DoD University Research Equipment Awards

UConn Physics hosts Quantum Matter Conference, Dec 19-22

Quantum matter and materials have grown to be active areas of modern condensed matter. The fascinating properties of quantum materials might lead to technological applications such as spintronics, quantum technologies, and quantum sensors. The combination of new materials discoveries and the development of new probes of quantum matter has helped shape these topics into an exciting area. Recent dynamic and pumped probe experiments reveal a strong promise of Dynamic Quantum Matter as a new research direction. We strive to measure, understand and predict transient correlations and coherences in quantum materials upon different driving conditions. Therefore, we introduce it as a new topic at this year’s quantum matter conference. We seek to have an active discussion on hidden, entangled, and dynamic orders that emerge in quantum matter and the potential applications beyond it.

The main focus for this upcoming conference will be on the modeling and experimental observations of Quantum Matter. Overall, the goal of this workshop is to bring together researchers to discuss and highlight emerging topics and develop ideas for future research.

The workshop is sponsored by the University of Connecticut, the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the University of North Florida.

Venue: Innovation Partnership Building, UConn Tech Park

Confirmed Speakers:

Charles Ahn – Yale University
Pamir Alpay – UConn
Boris Altshuler – Columbia University
Daniel Arovas – University of California San Diego
Alexander Balatsky – University of Connecticut and NORDITA – Organizer
Victor Batista – Yale University
Kenneth Burch – Boston College
Paola Cappellaro – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rodrigo Cortiñas – Yale University
Ilya Drozdov – Brookhaven National Laboratory
Benjo Fraser – Stockholm University
Andrew Geraci – Northwestern University
Sinéad Griffin – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Jason Haraldsen – the University of North Florida – Organizer
Menka Jain – University of Connecticut – Organizer
Yonathan Kahn – University of Illinois
Robert Konik – Brookhaven National Laboratory
Walter Krawec – University of Connecticut
Leonid Levitov – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniel McCarron – University of Connecticut
Anatoli Polkovnikov – Boston University
Lea Santos – University of Connecticut – Organizer
James Sauls – Louisiana State University – Organizer
Daniel Sheehy – Louisiana State University
Ilya Sochnikov – University of Connecticut
Boris Spivak – University of Washington
Boris Svistunov – University of Massachusetts Amherst
William Terrano – Arizona State University
Carlos Trallero – University of Connecticut
Chandra Varma – University of California Riverside
Ilya Vekhter – Louisiana State University
Pavel Volkov – Rutgers University
Justin H. Wilson – Louisiana State University
Qin Yang – University of Connecticut

For more information: https://quantum.initiative.uconn.edu/qm-ds-2022/, https://materialstheory.domains.unf.edu/qmds-conference/

CT Space Grant Award for Andrea Mejia

Second-year graduate student Andrea Mejia received in Fall 2022 the CT Space Grant Award for her Graduate Research on “Constraining Black Hole Binaries and Mergers” where she studies, by means of numerical simulations, how Active Galactic Nuclei form and eventually merge stellar mass black hole binaries, see https://ctspacegrant.org/funding-programs/faculty/past-recipients. In addition, Andrea successfully secured in May 2023 an ACCESS Explore Grant. These grants are designed specifically for graduate students in need of advanced computing and data resources for research purposes. Andrea’s grant provides 716,800 cpu-hours on high-performance computing systems to be used by May 2024. Originating from Andrea’s undergraduate research at her prior institution, Hunter College, this well-funded research will help to interpret data on gravitational waves from black hole mergers observed by LIGO and VIRGO. For her graduate studies at UConn, however, Andrea plans to pursue a different career path and switch from mergers of stellar mass black holes in theoretical astrophysics to collisions of subatomic particles in theoretical particle and nuclear physics.

Prof. Jonathan Trump Interviews about the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope released its first science observations on July 12 with much fanfare and excitement across the globe. UConn Physics Professor Jonathan Trump is part of the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science collaboration that was awarded some of the first observations on the transformative new space telescope.

Prof. Trump was interviewed by several local media outlets, including NPR CT, WILI AM, and the Waterbury Republican-American, about the new James Webb Space Telescope observations and his research goals for the telescope. UConn Today also featured a story about the early JWST observations and scientific findings produced by Prof. Trump’s research collaboration.

Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Donna Strickland , Katzenstein Distinguished Lecturer

The University of Connecticut, Department of Physics, is proud to announce that on September 23, 2022, Professor Donna Strickland of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo will be presenting the 2020 Distinguished Katzenstein Lecture. Prof. D. Strickland Prof. Strickland is one of the recipients of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for developing chirped pulse amplification with Gérard Mourou, her PhD supervisor. They published this Nobel-winning research in 1985 when Strickland was a PhD student at the University of Rochester in New York State. Together they paved the way for the most intense laser pulses ever created. The research has several applications today in industry and medicine, including the cutting of a patient’s cornea in laser eye surgery and the machining of small glass parts for use in cell phones.

Prof. Strickland earned a Bachelor in Engineering from McMaster University and a PhD in optics from the University of Rochester. She was a research associate at the National Research Council Canada, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a member of technical staff at Princeton University. In 1997, she joined the University of Waterloo, where her ultrafast laser group develops high-intensity laser systems for nonlinear optics investigations. She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, the Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award, and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She received the Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award and the Eastman Medal from the University of Rochester.

Prof. Strickland served as the president of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2013 and is a fellow of OSA, the Royal Society of Canada, and SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). She is an honorary fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Physics. She received the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement, is in the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame, and holds numerous honorary doctorates.

Prof. Cara Battersby Awarded an NSF CAREER grant

Cara Battersby CAREER AwardProfessor Cara Battersby has been awarded an NSF CAREER grant! “The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Prof. Battersby’s CAREER Award is entitled “CAREER: Shining STARs Amidst the Turbulence” and is an ambitious project to complete the first-ever systematic study of turbulence in an extreme environment, the center of our galaxy. Turbulence is poorly understood yet plays a pivotal role in the setting the Initial Mass Function (IMF), which underpins all of modern astrophysics. The results from this research will be brought into under-resourced high school classrooms through lesson plans jointly developed by K-12 teachers and undergraduate students from traditionally under-represented groups. Battersby aims to recruit and retain students from under-represented groups in STEM through a new mentorship program UConn-STARs.

Plates that Helped Map the Universe, Now at UConn

UConn is now home to tools that have played an instrumental role in mapping the universe — 10 large aluminum plates used as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Measuring 32 inches across, one-eighth of an inch thick, and with thousands of tiny holes drilled in them, these plates may not be the type of instruments most people would initially picture; however, they have helped answer important questions about the universe.

Jonathan Trump, associate professor of physics, helped design the final round of plate observations for SDSS, which observed over three million objects in the sky, including stars, galaxies, and supermassive black holes from a telescope in New Mexico.

For more information, see the full UConn Today story here. This story was also featured in May edition of Connecticut Magazine (page 32).

Two Physicists are in Project Daedalus that Focuses on Materials for Aerospace in New $4.7 Million Contract

UConn’s collaboration with the Department of Defense Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is launching a new project. It is titled Multiscale Modeling and Characterization of Metamaterials, Functional Ceramics and Photonics. This is a $4.7 M contract with $1M for Physics. The project’s goal is to explore and advance the understanding of electronic, photonic, magnetic, and multiferroic materials, with future applications in the aerospace industry. Two experimental condensed matter physicists Dr. Menka Jain and Dr. Ilya Sochnikov will contribute to the understanding of magnetic and multiferroic materials. The project supports 4 graduate Research Assistants in the Physics Department and is a unique life-transformative and career-building opportunity for them.

For more information, see UConn Today article

Research of UConn Professor Daniel Angles-Alcazar featured in UConn Today

The article The Largest Suite of Cosmic Simulations for AI Training Is Now Free to Download; Already Spurring Discoveries describe research of a team of astrophysicists that includes UConn Professor of Physics Daniel Anglés-Alcázar.

“Machine learning is revolutionizing many areas of science, but it requires a huge amount of data to exploit,” says Anglés-Alcázar. “The CAMELS (which stands for Cosmology and Astrophysics with MachinE Learning Simulations) public data release, with thousands of simulated universes covering a broad range of plausible physics, will provide the galaxy formation and cosmology communities with a unique opportunity to explore the potential of new machine-learning algorithms to solve a variety of problems.”