Boston University Physics News
Assistant professor Pankaj Mehta has received a Simons Foundation Investigator Award for the Mathematical Modeling of Living Systems. The program is meant to help scientists engaged in mathematical model-based research in the life sciences launch their careers. Mehta plans to use the award to continue his research at the interface of physics and biology. He is particularly interested in better understanding how the large-scale, emergent behaviors observed within the single cells and cellular populations arise from the interaction of many individual molecular elements, and how these interactions allow cells to perform complex computations in response to environmental cues.
Professor Anders Sandvik was awarded a Simons Fellowship to support his 2014-2015 sabbatical leave. He will spend his time in China and Taiwan collaborating on computational quantum many-body physics with researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, and National Taiwan University in Taipei. More information about the Simons Fellows Program can be found on their website.
Second-year graduate student Tom Iadecola has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) fellowship. The NSF GRFP fellowship provides three years of support to "outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines." In addition, second-year graduate students Jason Christopher and Chester Curme were recognized with honorable mentions
Tom's research, advised by Professors Chamon, Campbell, and Pi, focuses on the realization and control of novel phenomena in solid-state condensed matter systems through the application of external driving. His recent work has focused on theoretical proposals for turning graphene, which is a gapless two-dimensional material, into a semiconductor whose gap can be controlled externally by varying the driving parameters. A tunable semiconductor of this kind could have applications in the development of next-generation electronic devices.
The Office of the Provost and the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching (CEIT) have awarded the first ever Gerald and Deanne Gitner Family Innovation in Teaching with Technology Award to Andrew Duffy, Manher Jariwala, Bennett Goldberg and Pankaj Mehta of the Department of Physics. The Gitner Award recognizes the faculty member or team that best exemplifies innovation in teaching by use, development, or adaptation of technology that results in positive learning outcomes for undergraduate students and that is recognized or adopted by faculty colleagues within or outside Boston University. The Physics team’s innovation, Transforming Physics Teaching and Learning through Technology, employed a set of interwoven, evidence-based technologies that enhance student learning in the large introductory physics courses, creating an environment in which students learn physics supported by the technology, the space, their classmates, and the instructors, graduate students, and undergraduates who make up the instructional team. The fabric of technologies draws students into the material, into peer- and near-peer discussions, into hands-on discovery, and into high-engagement classrooms. We are enormously impressed by the caliber and depth of the Physics team’s innovation and with its potential as a model for other educators.
Graduate student Jason Christopher has been selected to receive a 2014 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship. The NDSEG Fellowship is sponsored and funded by the Department of Defense (DoD). NDSEG selections are made by the Air Force Research Laboratory/Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFRL/AFOSR), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Army Research Office (ARO). The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) administers the NDSEG Fellowship.
Jason's research is focused on developing experimental and theoretic techniques to investigate nanoscale friction and strain engineering and use them to explore the effect of strain on 2D crystal properties and emergence of exotic strain-generated phenomena. Strain is an effective means of tuning mechanical, electrical and optical properties of 2D crystals like graphene, MoS2 and hBN. Strain can create novel phenomena such as pseudo magnetic fields and exciton confinement.
Bogdan Dobrescu earned his Ph.D. in 1997, with a thesis titled "Towards a Natural Theory of Electroweak Interactions". Bogdan is now a Scientist in the Theoretical Physics Department at Fermilab, specializing in Beyond the Standard Model physics. His citation: For original and influential extensions of the Standard Model involving extra dimensions and new gauge dynamics, and for leadership in bridging the gap between new theoretical ideas and experimental tests.
Charles Ferguson earned his Ph.D. in 1997, supervised by Bill Klein. His thesis research was on understanding the statistical distribution and physical nature of the initiation process of earthquakes . Since then, Charles has worked in the field of nuclear non-proliferation, for which he was elected to Fellowship. Charles is currently the President of the Federation of American Scientists. His citation: For applying technical knowledge to public policy on nuclear issues, including nuclear energy, nonproliferation, nuclear and radiological terrorism, and nuclear safety and security; and for communicating that knowledge to society.
Mark Messier earned his Ph.D. in 1999, writing his thesis topic on the discovery of neutrino oscillations by the Super-Kamiokande experiment. Mark's thesis advisor was Jim Stone. Mark is now a professor at Indiana University. He is co-spokesperson of the NOvA experiment, a long-baseline neutrino oscillation experiment using a beam of neutrinos from Fermilab to northern Minnesota. His citation: For study of neutrino mass and mixing from discovery with atmospheric neutrinos by Super-Kamiokande, confirmation and precision measurements using MINOS, and leadership of the NOvA long-baseline experiment to further refine the fundamental nature of neutrino oscillation.
Physics department Lecturer Andrew Duffy has been selected as one of seven runners from the BU community to run in memory of graduate student Lu Lingzi, one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. For more, see the story in BU today. There are links at the bottom of the article by which you may donate to a scholarship fund in honor of Lu Lingzi. in the Comment, you can enter Andrew's name and the Parents Leadership Council will match, dollar for dollar, your contribution to the Scholarship Fund. Best of luck in the race Andrew!
Graduating senior Emma Rosenfeld has been named one of 50 Finalists (from a pool of 800 applicants) for the 2014 Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Up to 15 prospective graduate students in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics will be selected for Fellowships in late March. Best wishes for success to Emma!
The Learning Assistant Alliance will be hosting a regional faculty workshop at Boston University on March 21-22, 2014. The Learning Assistant (LA) model is a mechanism for undergraduate STEM course transformation, K-12 math and science teacher recruitment and preparation, and institutional change. More than 45 universities are running LA programs based on the University of Colorado-Boulder model, and increased demands for faculty workshops aimed at starting, growing, and sustaining LA programs have led to a partnership with the National Science Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and PhysTEC to offer five regional LA workshops in Spring 2014. The other workshops will take place at Florida International University (Feb 9-11), University of Maryland College Park (Feb 22-24), Texas State University San Marcos (Apr 4-5), and Chicago State University (Apr 18-19).
Registration will open in early January, and the $25 registration fee will include all workshop meals and materials. Visit the Learning Assistant Alliance website for more information and updates as they are available.
Graduating seniors Emma Rosenfeld and Daniel Shaffer have been elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa by the Epsilon of Massachusetts Chapter at Boston University. Election to the Society recognizes a demonstrated high level of scholarship and academic achievement in the Liberal Arts. Congratulations Emma and Daniel!
Physics alumnus Nicolas Di Fiori (PhD 2013) and colleagues were recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology for their discovery of a technique to control the speed at which biomolecules such as DNA pass through nanopores. Nanopores are nanometer-scale apertures in very thin ceramics through which molecules can be translocated one at a time and have the potential to unlock low-cost and ultra-fast DNA sequencing technologies. Di Fiori demonstrated that focusing a visible laser beam on a nanopore creates an electro-osmotic flow in the opposite direction of incoming biomolecules. The rushing water acts as a brake, slowing down the passage of the molecules through the pore, allowing a higher-resolution read of DNA nucleotides. He also showed that this technique could be used to identify small proteins that could not previously be detected in their native state, and that the flow reliably unblocks clogged nanopores, significantly extending their lifetime. The full article is available online here.