Synopsis or brief article reporting on research or teaching highlights taking place within the department.

Physics Faculty Work to Improve Accessibility and Destigmatize Disability Across CLAS

About 20% of UConn students are supported by the Center for Students with Disabilities. The true percentage of students who need help is even higher. With so many students who require diverse ways of learning, how can faculty make sure their teaching is adequate, effective and inclusive for all students? In order to address this situation, CLAS has supported the Accessibility Fellowship Program during the 2022-2023 academic year with the goal to study disability and improve the accessibility situation at UConn and generally in higher education. Indeed, research shows that these students can perform at the highest standards in the classroom and in research, if they are given appropriate conditions to do so. One of the fellows in this program was our Dr. Erin Scanlon, Assistant Professor in-Residence at the Avery Point regional campus. The Center for Students with Disabilities makes a difference by addressing aspects related to, e.g., submitting assignments or taking tests. This is important but not enough. Instructors can make an even bigger difference at a much earlier stage, before submitting homework or taking tests, namely while the students learn in the classroom. Small changes in the classroom teaching can significantly improve the performance of the students. Which small changes can faculty implement? A lot is known about this thanks to the research of Dr. Scanlon and other scholars in Physics Education Research (PER) who study the learning needs of students with special needs. For more information on this important topic see the UConn Today news article

The Mirion Technologies Inc. – UConn Physics Partnership

Mirion representatives meeting with UConn physics grad students
Fig. 1: Dr. James Zickefoos (black shirt) and Dr. Patrick McLeroy of the Mirion Technologies Inc. posing in front of Zimmerman’s setup for his senior Honor Thesis at the LNS at Avery Point, and discussing with LNS graduate students Sarah R. Stern and Deran K. Schweitzer possibilities for employment at Mirion Technologies, Inc.

Mirion Technologies, Inc. (https://www.mirion.com) formerly Canberra Inc., located in Meriden, CT, a worldwide leading company for manufacturing of electronics and nuclear detectors, established a partnership with our Physics department. In this partnership between our Physics department and a local industry, our students are encouraged to apply to spend a summer internship in the “real world” setting of a local industry of Connecticut. Indeed, our first senior undergrad student Mr. Nicolas Zimmerman (UConn-BSc ‘23) was hired by Mirion Technologies Inc. as a non destructive analyses (NDA) specialist. We look forward to future students who will follow the trail blazed by Nicolas to contribute to the development of local high-tech industry and the very economy of our state.


On February 6, 2023, Dr. James Zickefoos and Dr. Patrick McLeroy of the Mirion Technologies Inc., visited the Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS) at Avery Point, that is directed by Professor Moshe Gai (https://astro.uconn.edu). In Fig. 1 we show them posing in front of Zimmerman’s setup for his senior Honor Thesis. They discussed with our graduate students Sarah R. Stern and Deran K. Schweitzer possibilities for employment at Mirion Technologies, Inc. It is interesting to note that Dr. Zickefoos was the graduate student of the late Professor Jeffrey Schweitzer who was hired in 1997 by Professor Moshe Gai as a Research Professor doing research at Gai’s LNS lab; further solidifying the strong bond between our department and Mirion Technologies.


Research of Professor Trallero’s group featured in Advances in Engineering

A recent publication by Geoffrey Harrison, Tobias Saule, Brandin Davis, and Carlos Trallero from the Department of Physics, University of Connecticut is featured in Advances in Engineering. The publication presents a novel method for mitigating the bit-depth limit by increasing the phase precision of the Spatial Light Modulators (SLMs). The technique is based on adding irrational linear slopes in addition to the desired phase to increase the device’s effective bit-depth through an effect similar to volume averaging. The research is published in Applied Optics.

Spatial light modulators (SLMs) are devices that can modulate properties of light waves, such as phase, amplitude and polarization. SLMs are extensively used in numerous applications, including data storage, material processing and optical microscopy. With the widespread application of SLMs, the need to address the bit-depth and spatial resolution problems common to most SLMs is urgent.

The publication by Prof. Trallero’s group presented a technique for overcoming the bit-depth limitations of SLMs and verified it experimentally. The authors expressed confidence that the presented method could be used to gain multiple orders of magnitude with more precision beyond what was measured and obtained in their study.

About Advances in Engineering: Advances in Engineering ensures that the results of excellent scientific research are rapidly disseminated throughout the world, in a fashion that conveys their significance for advancing scientific knowledge and developing innovative technologies. Content is mainly targeted to an educated audience of engineering and physics students, scientists, and professors. Engineering fields covered are Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Nanotechnology Engineering as well as General Engineering (aerospace Engineering, communication Engineering, computer Engineering, Agricultural Engineering, and Industrial Engineering).

UConn STARs Visit Hartford High School

The UConn STARs visited Hartford High School on May 8th and 11th, 2023. We visited junior engineering students in the classroom of Mrs. Melissa Adams and the high school football team lead by Coach Jackson. We taught them all about quantum mechanics, solar telescopes, gravity, and of course electricity and they taught us as well. We had a blast with these bright young scientists in the making!

The UConn STARs program is for undergraduate students in physics, aimed to recruit and retain students from historically excluded groups in physics (including gender identity, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, first generation status, documented status, disability status, as well as additional categories). We hold regular meetings throughout the academic year to build community, offer academic and advising submit, as well as professional development opportunities. Each Spring, we visit a local classroom in an under-served community to inspire the next generation of STARs.

UConn Physics showing strong at the 2023 APS March Meeting

This year, international conferences have begun to come back into their pre-pandemic form. For the American Physical Society’s annual March Meeting, it was bigger than ever with over 12,000 participants in the world’s largest meeting ever devoted to physics. UConn showed strong as graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research scientists, and faculty researchers attended the meeting in Las Vegas March 5-10 and showcased their newest results. The team rolled in deep and gave diverse presentations to an international audience on many topics in condensed matter physics, ranging from high-fidelity electronic structure calculations and material modeling, synthesis and characterization of new materials with competing states, advances in industrial science related to advanced manufacturing, synchrotron-based investigations of correlated materials, nanoscale magnetic imaging studies, the development of new cryogenic instrumentation, twistronic effects, vortices in topological materials and circuit-based quantum information science. See you next year!

From left to right: Jacob Pfund, Bochao Xu, Joshua Bedard, Ilya Sochnikov, Gayanath Fernando, Jacob Franklin, Jason Hancock, Donal Sheets, Kaitlin Lyszak
Not pictured: Krishna Joshi, Guang Chen (MSE), Jorge Chavez, Priya Sharma, Alexander Balatsky, Pavel Volkov.

The Milky Way Laboratory Contributes to Art Exhibit at the University of Hartford

Prof. Cara Battersby’s researcMilky Way Lab at UHart Art Exhibith group, the Milky Way Laboratory, was invited to collaborate with Genevieve de Leon, the 2022-23 Koopman Distinguished Chair in the Painting Department at the University of Hartford, for an exhibition focused on the intersection between the Maya calendrical cycles and scientific studies of the cosmos.

From the Milky Way Laboratory, H Perry Hatchfield, Jennifer Wallace, Dani Lipman, and Samantha Brunker contributed scientific figures that are displayed as part of the exhibition.  These figures demonstrate the ongoing research focused on understanding the universe around us through the use of data and scientific analysis.  These figures balance well with Genevieve de Leon’s original, large-scale paintings of constellations in the Maya Zodiac which were created in a methodical, focused way similar to how large-sky surveys are observed.  Genevieve has studied Maya timekeeping extensively, and, through this exhibit, focuses on the intersection of various systems of knowledge.

Additionally, the exhibition includes multimedia work made by indigenous artists in the Native Youth Arts Collective and students at the Hartford Art School which focus on personal connections with the night sky.

Milky Way Lab at UHart Art Exhibit - Orion

Milky Way Lab at UHart Art Exhibit - GalleryMW Lab UHart Art Exhibit - group2

The exhibit, “To Order the Days/Para Ordenar Los Días”, is located in the Donald and Linda Silpe Gallery at the University of Hartford, and will be available from February 23, 2023, to March 25, 2023.

More information can be found at:


Post written by Dr. Samantha Brunker

Prof. Jonathan Trump interviewed by The Conversation about JWST Discoveries

The Conversation interviewed Prof. Jonathan Trump about his recent work with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), with an article and podcast interview available at this link. The interview includes discussion of Prof. Trump’s recent journal paper that used spectroscopic observations from JWST to understand the chemical enrichment of galaxies in the early Universe.

Super BigBite Spectrometer Era Begins in Hall A at Jefferson Lab

The first two experiments using the newly constructed collection of apparatus known as the Super BigBite Spectrometer were completed from Oct. 2021-Feb. 2022 in Jefferson Lab’s Experimental Hall A. Data were collected that will determine the neutron’s magnetic form factor (GMN) in a previously unexplored regime of momentum transfer Q2 up to 13.6 (GeV/c)2 with unprecedented precision. Form factor measurements at these energies are sensitive to the structure of the neutron at the sub-femtometer scale, and can resolve features of the neutron’s charge and current distributions at length scales approximately 20 times smaller than the size of a proton. These two completed experiments were the first in a family of precision studies of proton and neutron form factors at high momentum transfer using the SBS apparatus that will occupy the floor of Hall A through 2024. Professor Andrew Puckett’s group plays a leading role in the SBS collaboration (and the group is looking for several new graduate students to work on this exciting and high-impact program!).

Precision high momentum-transfer nucleon form factor measurements are extremely technically challenging, requiring several major innovations in detector technology and high-performance data acquisition and analysis. The GMN set of experiments achieved the first large-scale deployment and operation of Gas Electron Multiplier (GEMs) detectors in the high-luminosity, high-radiation, high-background-rate environment in Hall A. The GEMs were used in this set of experiments for tracking high-energy electrons through the BigBite Spectrometer, which was designed for detecting, tracking, and identifying scattered electrons with large angular and momentum acceptance at high luminosity. Given the large channel count and the high occupancy of the BigBite GEMs (approximately 42,000 readout strips with up to 30-40% of these firing in every triggered event), the SBS GMN run produced 2 petabytes of raw data (or typically about 1 GB/s during beam-on conditions). This is roughly 5 times as much raw data produced in four months of beam time in Hall A as the previous 25 years of Hall A running combined. Charged particle tracking in this extreme high-background environment is also extremely challenging, and UConn developed the software infrastructure and algorithms to do so with high performance and efficiency. The UConn group was one of the most actively involved in the preparation and execution of the experiment, developed the Monte Carlo simulation, event reconstruction and data analysis software, and is now leading the analysis of the collected data using Jefferson Lab’s scientific computing facilities. Two UConn Ph.D. students, Provakar Datta and Sebastian Seeds, will write their doctoral dissertations on the analysis of the SBS GMN dataset.

Projected Q2 coverage and precision of actually collected SBS GMN data
Fig. 1: Projected Q^2 points and expected precision of the data for the neutron’s magnetic form factor obtained from the SBS GMN run during Oct.-Feb., 2021-2022

Figure 1 shows the collected Q^2 points for the extraction of GMN and the projected accuracy based on the data obtained, compared to existing data, selected theoretical models, and the projected Q2 coverage and precision of a measurement in Hall B with similar physics goals, but with larger systematic uncertainties from qualitatively different sources. The measurement of neutron form factors in the SBS-GMN experiment is based on the so-called “Ratio Method”, in which quasi-elastic electron-neutron and electron-proton scattering are measured simultaneously in scattering on a deuterium target (a deuterium nucleus is a weakly bound state of a single proton and a single neutron). By simultaneously detecting electron-neutron and electron-proton coincidence events in elastic kinematics, the ratio of electron-neutron and electron-proton scattering cross sections is determined with very small uncertainties. Combined with the existing knowledge of the electron-proton scattering cross section, the free neutron cross section can be extracted rather precisely.

To carry out this measurement, the SBS Collaboration constructed a large-acceptance Hadron Calorimeter (HCAL) consisting of large modules of many alternating layers of iron and plastic scintillator, which detects both protons and neutrons in the momentum range of these measurements with very high (and nearly identical) efficiencies, leading to much smaller systematic uncertainties compared to previous measurements of this type. Scattered electrons are detected in the BigBite spectrometer, and the scattering angles and momentum of the electron, as well as the location of the interaction vertex, are reconstructed from the precisely measured tracks of ionization they leave in the BigBite GEMs. Under the assumption of elastic scattering on quasi-free protons or neutrons, the scattered neutron or proton must carry all the energy and momentum transferred from the electron in the hard collision, allowing us to predict the location where the protons or neutrons should be detected in HCAL. To identify whether the scattering occurred on a proton or neutron, the scattered protons are given a small vertical deflection by the SBS dipole magnet so that they are well separated from the scattered neutrons by the time they are detected in HCAL.

Figure 2: Difference between the vertical coordinate of the particle detected by the SBS hadron calorimeter and its predicted position from the measured electron kinematics in BigBite, assuming (quasi-) elastic scattering.

Figure 2 shows a comparison between real data from the SBS-GMN experiment obtained at Q2 = 3 GeV2 and the Monte Carlo simulation of the experiment, which includes the full details of the detector geometry and response, and the physics of quasi-elastic scattering of electrons by bound protons and neutrons in the liquid deuterium target, showing the clear separation between protons and neutrons based on magnetic deflection of the protons before they are detected by the SBS Hadron Calorimeter (HCAL), and the low level of background (at this Q2) from processes other than quasi-elastic scattering, demonstrating a very good understanding of the detector at such an early stage of the analysis.


The example event distributions shown below were obtained at an incident electron beam energy of 6 GeV and Q2 = 4.5 GeV2:

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Figure 2 (above) shows the invariant mass distributions for reconstructed electrons in BigBite, from the hydrogen (left) and deuterium (right) targets, before and after applying cuts on the angle between the reconstructed momentum transfer direction and the reconstructed scattering angle of the nucleon (proton or neutron) detected in the SBS hadron calorimeter (HCAL). The hydrogen distribution shows a clear peak at the proton mass corresponding to elastic scattering, and the angular correlation cut removes most of the inelastic background, while keeping most of the events in the elastic proton peak. The deuterium distribution is “smeared” by the Fermi momentum of the bound nucleons in deuterium, and the distributions of events passing the angular correlation cut under the hypothesis that the detected nucleon is a proton (red) or neutron (blue) illustrate the relatively clean selection of quasi-elastic scattering and rejection of most inelastic events using the SBS dipole magnet and hadron calorimeter.

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Figure 3 (above) illustrates the method for nucleon charge identification using the SBS dipole magnet and the SBS hadron calorimeter. The plot shows the difference in vertical position between the detected nucleon at HCAL and the expected position predicted from the reconstructed electron kinematics assuming elastic (or quasi-elastic) scattering. The distributions are shown for hydrogen and deuterium targets for three different SBS magnetic field settings (magnet off, 70% of maximum field, 100% of maximum field). The hydrogen distributions show a single peak corresponding to elastic electron-proton scattering, that moves as the SBS magnetic deflection is varied. The deuterium distribution with field off shows a single nucleon (proton plus neutron) peak, smeared by Fermi motion. The deuterium distributions with SBS field on show a clear separation into proton (deflected) and neutron (undeflected) peaks, with protons undergoing the same average deflection as seen with the hydrogen target.

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.