Posts related to the research mission of the Physics Department

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).

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.”

Prof. J. Trump interview about the launch of the James Webb telescope

UConn Physics Professor Jonathan Trump is part of a group of scientists who will be the first to conduct research using the James Webb space telescope. The local Fox News TV station conducted an interview with Prof. Trump.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched on December 25, 2021. The telescope is named after James E. Webb who was the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968 and played an integral role in the Apollo program. JWST is intended to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship mission in astrophysics. It is designed to provide improved infrared resolution and sensitivity over Hubble, viewing objects up to 100 times fainter, and will enable a broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology.

U.S. Senators introduce a resolution to recognize the Arecibo Observatory Telescope

The massive dish at Arecibo Observatory as seen in spring 2019. (Image credit: Arecibo Observatory/University of Central Florida)

On Friday December 3rd, a group of U.S. Senators, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced a bipartisan a resolution to recognize the significant scientific, educational, and economic contributions made by the Arecibo Observatory telescope.

“The telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory was a scientific marvel, extensively expanding our understanding of the universe,” said Blumenthal. “Its collapse left a significant educational void for our country and the scientific community across the world. I’m proud to recognize its important contributions alongside my colleagues and express our strong support for further studies for how best to replace—and build upon—this telescope’s capabilities at the world-class Arecibo Observatory.”

Read more here, including a link to the full resolution. The research of several UConn physicists has greatly benefited from the Arecibo telescope over the years.

Prof. Chiara Mingarelli awarded NSF grant

Chiara Mingarelli, Assistant Professor of Physics at UConn, is the lead researcher on a $650,000 Collaborative Research Grant from the National Science Foundation, half of which is earmarked for UConn, to conduct an experiment to prove the existence of supermassive black hole binaries. This grant will combine, for the first time, traditional astronomy with gravitational wave astronomy.

“This project is really setting up a whole new way to think about low-frequency gravitational-wave and extragalactic astronomy,” Mingarelli says. “With our new method, not only can we make predictions about the amplitude of the gravitational wave background, but we can also make predictions of where the likeliest and closest supermassive black hole systems are.”

For more information about Prof. Mingarelli research, see the recent article in UConn Today.

A Physics Ph.D. Student’s Step-By-Step Journey to Storrs and Distant Galaxies

UConn Physics graduate student Mohammed (Mo) Akhshik works on data gathered using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and has led to exciting discoveries, some while he served as the science Principle Investigator of the REQUIEM HST program from which he is co-author on two publications, one in Nature and one in Nature Astronomy. Akhshik is also a recipient of a national fellowship as a NASA FINESST Future Investigator.

Akhshik gleans new information about very distant galaxies using a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Due to the forces of gravity, light from distant galaxies is focused to appear brighter, and the images appear in different parts of the sky at different times, explains Akhshik. The researchers were also able to detect new details of distant galaxies through observations from different telescopes, which Akhshik says is almost like layering different filters on the same image.

For more details, see the article in UConn Today.

Professor Daniel Anglés-Alcázar research featured in ‘UConn Today’ and CBC radio interview

At the center of galaxies, like our own Milky Way, lie massive black holes surrounded by spinning gas. Some shine brightly, with a continuous supply of fuel, while others go dormant for millions of years, only to reawaken with a serendipitous influx of gas. It remains largely a mystery how gas flows across the universe to feed these massive black holes. UConn Assistant Professor of Physics Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, lead author on a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, addresses some of the questions surrounding these massive and enigmatic features of the universe by using new, high-powered simulations.

For more details, please check the article in UConn Today, and Prof. Anglés-Alcázar’s recent radio interview by Canadian Broadcast Corporation.

Physics alumnus Prof. Douglas Goodman and Professor Emeritus Winthrop Smith Featured in Online Peer Review Journal

Prof. Emeritus Winthrop Smith and former student Prof. Douglas Goodman (Quinnipiac University) Edit Special Issue of Open Access Journal Atoms, on Low Energy Interactions between Ions and Ultracold Atoms

 The Special Issue of the online journal Atoms is a collection of current peer-reviewed articles by experts in the field of ultracold collisions and reactions involving ions and atoms co-trapped by electromagnetic fields in a common volume (a hybrid ion-neutral trap). Prof. Goodman, a recent UConn Ph.D. student of Prof. Smith (2015) who worked with hybrid traps for his dissertation, is now on the faculty of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT.

Prof. Smith’s research, on which he supervised four doctoral dissertations over the last few years, centers around the study of low-energy ion-neutral collisions. At long range, universal types of charge-induced polarization effects produce very large elastic, inelastic, reactive, and charge-transfer cross-sections leading to a high interaction probability between ions and neutral atoms at low temperature. The Special Issue articles highlight recent experimental and simulation work in this field and discuss the outlook for future developments.

Two of the manuscripts in this Special Issue explore recent advances in hybrid trap technology. The paper by Prof. Karpa explains the use of bichromatic optical dipole traps, which can be used instead of the previously developed hybrid rf ion trap and magneto-optic trap. This remarkable new technique avoids the use of rf fields and associated micromotion heating limitations and allows access to the long-sought quantum-dominated regime of interaction.

Karpa, L. Interactions of Ions and Ultracold Neutral Atom Ensembles inComposite Optical Dipole Traps: Developments and Perspectives. Atoms2021, 9(3), 39; The manuscript included by Prof. Denschlag’s team, early practitioners of hybrid-trap ion-neutral studies, introduces a novel type of low-energy reaction. Denschlag’s group discusses the interaction between an atomic ion and an atom with a valence electron in a highly excited Rydberg state that reacts to yield a long-range atom-ion Rydberg molecule, with binding lengths up to the micrometer scale.Deiß, M.; Haze, S.; Hecker Denschlag, J. Long-Range Atom–Ion RydbergMolecule: A Novel Molecular Binding Mechanism. Atoms 2021, 9(2), 34;

The remaining two manuscripts in this Special Issue address important phenomenology of rf Paul traps as they are used in ion-neutral interaction experiments. The paper by Prof. Blumel analyzes the properties of ion clouds loaded from a magneto-optical trap in a hybrid ion-neutral system. He develops theoretical predictions for optimal loading conditions for hybrid-trap experiments, which are supported by numerical simulations. Additionally, he predicts the existence of a new type of ion heating mechanism caused by the increase in Coulomb energy associated with each newly loaded ion within the existing ion-cloud volume.

Blümel, R. Loading a Paul Trap: Densities, Capacities, and Scaling inthe Saturation Regime. Atoms 2021, 9(1), 11;

Last, the manuscript by Prof. Rangwala’s group, numerically and analytically explores the benefits of using linear multipole rf traps for studying low-energy ion-neutral collisions, as opposed to the conventional quadrupole ion-trap configuration. Using new analyses of the heating effects, Rangwala’s group shows that the higher-order multipolar trap configurations reduce unwanted heating in the ion-neutral system. In doing so, they develop a methodology for comparing and optimizing hybrid trap designs.

Niranjan, M.; Prakash, A.; Rangwala, S. Analysis of Multipolar Linear

Paul Traps for Ion–Atom Ultracold Collision Experiments. Atoms 2021,

9(3), 38;

New Faculty Hire-Dr. Anh-Thu Le

The Physics Department welcomes our newest faculty member, Dr. Anh-Thu Le, although he prefers to be called simply AT. AT worked for many years at the well-known James R. Macdonald Laboratory, rising to the rank of Research Professor. He worked alongside a world-known theorist, Dr. Chii-Dong Lin. Dr. Le went on to become an Assistant Professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology before coming to UConn. Dr. Le is well-versed in current theoretical methods for exploring the interaction of ultrafast lasers with atoms and molecules. He has a strong overlap with the ultrafast AMO experimental programs at UConn and has collaborated with high-profile experimental groups.

Dr. Le has a thoroughly international and diverse background, having grown up in the Vietnamese countryside. His research career has taken him from Vietnam to the Republic of Belarus, Germany, Canada, and ultimately the US. This has left him with a lasting commitment to serving diverse populations, both in the classroom and in his research.