Boston University Physics News Archive: 2015

BU physicists receives National Science Foundation award to develop and pilot an online AP Physics course.
December 09, 2015:

BU physicists, Mark Greenman and Andrew Duffy have received a DRK12 NSF grant, Project Accelerate (1720914), to develop and pilot an online AP Physics course targeting economically disadvantaged and underserved high school students. Results thus far suggest that students in Project Accelerate have comparable outcomes on the AP Physics 1 exam as do equivalent student who take a classroom based course. The course, housed on the edX platform and accredited by the College Board, features a hybrid pedagogical model combining a highly interactive instructional tool, an extensive virtual laboratory space and a hands-on laboratory component. To learn more about Project Accelerate, click on the link to the project’s WEB site:

Super-K and T2K awarded Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
November 09, 2015:

More than 1000 physicists from five experiments were awarded a share of the $3M Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Boston University neutrino physicists contributed to two of the five experiments: Super-Kamiokande and K2K/T2K (K2K and T2K are actually two experiments but were combined). The prize was revealed at a televised award ceremony on November 8, with Super-Kamiokande and K2K/T2K leaders Takaaki Kajita, Yoichiro Suzuki, and Ko Nishikawa representing the collaborations and receiving the awards. The citation: For the fundamental discovery and exploration of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics.

From 1996 to 2015, the BU Neutrino group has had 19 authors on Super-K and T2K papers, and graduated 7 Ph.D.s (with two more in progress). Support for the research has come from the Department of Energy, Office of Science.

Past and present members of the Boston University Neutrino Group listed as prize winners are:

Flor de Maria Blaszczyk, Shantanu Desai, Fanny Dufour, Matt Earl, Alec Habig, Ed Kearns, Soo Bong Kim, Serge Likhoded, Mike Litos, Mark Messier, Colin Okada (SNO/KamLAND), Jen Raaf, Kate Scholberg, Jim Stone, Larry Sulak, Chris Walter, and Wei Wang.

2005 Neutrino Group Photo

2005 Group Photo. Top: Wei Wang, Aaron Herfurth; center: Larry Sulak, Mike Litos, Jen Raaf, Fanny Dufour, Jim Stone; bottom: Ed Kearns



BU Physics is 17th in latest US News & World Reports
October 28, 2015:

The Boston University Physics Department has continued to solidify its standing as measured by various rankings, most recently by the US News and World Reports ranking of Global Universities. We rank 30th in the world, 17th in the US, and 10th among private universities, behind only Harvard, MIT, Chicago, Caltech, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Yale and Cornell. Overall, Boston University is ranked number 32 in the world by this survey.


Plamen Ivanov wins $1 Million Keck Foundation award to develop new field of Network Physiology
October 19, 2015:

Plamen Ch. Ivanov, a research professor in the Boston University Physics Department, has been awarded a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to develop a theoretical framework and establish quantitatively how organ systems coordinate their functions and integrate as a network.

Ivanov is leading a team of research scientists, including Ronny Bartsch, Chunhua Bian, Aylin Cimenser, Xiaolin Huang, Aijing Lin, Kang Liu, Qianli Ma, and Gustavo Zampier. The team members have diverse backgrounds, from statistical and computational physics to neuroscience and physiology, applied mathematics, and biomedical engineering.

Ivanov’s group collaborates with intensive care clinicians at Massachusetts General Hospital, directed by Ednan Bajwa; sleep physiologists and epidemiologists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, led by Susan Redline; and scientists from the biomedical engineering division at Partners HealthCare, led by Julian Goldman.

The investigators plan to develop the first analytical tools to explore quantitatively the way in which organ systems dynamically interact as a network to produce distinct physiological states, both healthy and pathological. This system integrative approach will lay the foundation for an emerging field—network physiology—which will focus on understanding physiological functions and conditions as emergent, global behaviors coming out of dynamic interactions among diverse systems with transient characteristics.

The team’s approach represents a major departure from the conventional model of physiological research, in which linkages are traced vertically from the molecular level to the organ level. Instead, Ivanov and his team will investigate the horizontal integration across organ systems through their output signals. Their work will lead to a novel platform capable of simultaneously recording organ output signals and directly relating them to physiological states and disease conditions. The team plans to develop the first atlas of dynamic interactions of organ systems.

This transformative research program could have considerable impact, as it may determine for the first time fundamental mechanisms that govern organ network interactions and their evolution across physiological states. The program may also lead to next-generation ICU monitoring devices and more comprehensive assessments of drug effects based on novel information derived from networks of organ interactions. In addition, the investigators will build a database of network maps as a reference for normal and dysfunctional physiological conditions.

This program is a significant step in Boston University’s larger, multidisciplinary initiative to strengthen ties between the natural, computational, biological, and medical sciences.

The W. M. Keck Foundation funds research that is distinctive and novel, with the potential to create new paradigms, technologies, and discoveries that will save lives, provide innovative solutions, and add to our understanding of the world.

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company.  The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical, science and engineering research.  The Foundation also maintains an undergraduate education program that promotes distinctive learning and research experiences for students in the sciences and in the liberal arts, and a Southern California Grant Program thatprovides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth from low-income families, special needs populations and safety-net services. 

This article was originally published on BU Research.

Neutrino Nobel has BU connections
October 06, 2015:

Congratulations to Prof. Takaaki Kajita from the University of Tokyo and Art McDonald from Queens University for the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of neutrino oscillations. Several professors, postdocs, and graduate students from the Boston University Neutrino Group shared in the work on the Super-Kamiokande experiment that earned Kajita the prize. Pictured below is the neutrino research group circa 1997, one year into the experiment. From left: Prof. Larry Sulak, Dr. Kate Scholberg, Dr. Ed Kearns, Dr. Chris Walter,  graduate student Matt Earl, Dr. Alec Habig,  graduate student (on the MACRO experiment) Chris Orth, graduate student Mark Messier, and Prof. Jim Stone. Mark Messier's PhD thesis contributed to the work that led to this years Nobel Prize. Ed Kearns co-lead the Super-Kamiokande atmospheric neutrino research group with Kajita, and coauthored a Scientific American article with Prof. Kajita and Super-K spokesperson Y. Totsuka. Prof. Stone is co-spokeperson of the U.S. Super-K collaboration and Prof. Sulak was one of the pioneers of the first generation experiment of this type, known as IMB.

BU Neutrino Research Group 

Here is a photo of some of the BU Neutrino Group years later, at a dinner in Boston with Prof. Kajita. Clockwise from left: Dan Gastler, Ed Kearns, Takaaki Kajita, Wei Wang, Mike Litos, Jen Raaf, and Fanny Dufour.

BU group with Takaaki Kajita

The research activities of the BU Neutrino Group have been supported by grants from the Department of Energy, Office of Science.


Manher Jariwala receives 2015 Neu Family Award for Excellence in Teaching
May 06, 2015:

Lecturer Manher Jariwala is the recipient of the 2015 Neu Family Award for Excellence in Teaching. The prize is awarded annually to faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences who exemplify deep and broad commitment, skill, effectiveness, impact, and leadership in teaching. In addition to being an outstanding classroom teacher in our introductory physics courses, Manher is a founder of the Learning Assistant program at BU, has mentored the new student-led PRISM peer mentoring program for freshmen physics majors, is a key participant in the University’s pedagogical innovation RULE program, and is an important contributor to the CIRTL initiative to train graduate students to be better teachers. Read more about the award here.

Erich Burton honored with 2015 Perkins Award
April 10, 2015:

Lab Manager Erich Burton has been named one of three winners of the 2015 John S. Perkins Award for Distinguished Service. The award is presented by the Faculty Council to BU staff members who serve the university with great distinction. Erich has been with the Physics Department for nearly 25 years, and is responsible for developing and maintaining the department's numerous undergraduate teaching labs. Read more about this year's Perkins award winners on BU Today.

David Campbell named Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar
April 08, 2015:

Professor David Campbell has been selected as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for the 2015-2016 academic year. From the Phi Beta Kappa website:"Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students."

Read more about the Visiting Scholars program.

Local students get a lesson in high energy physics
April 06, 2015:

Nearly 100 local high school juniors and seniors descended on the Physics Department in March for Connections@BU, a 4-day event that immersed students in the mysteries and origins of the universe. Students received a primer in particle physics and were introduced to the cutting-edge experiments being performed at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The students also got an insider's view of the LHC thanks to Assistant Professor Tulika Bose, who serves as trigger coordinator for the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment there. Bose, who helped organize the event, hopes to set up additional sessions later this year.

Read more about the event in the CAS Newsletter.

Clint Richardson awarded 2014 CMS Fundamental Physics Scholarship
February 20, 2015:

Graduate student Clint Richardson has been chosen as a 2014 CMS Fundamental Physics Scholar. The scholarship is awarded annually to an outstanding young CMS researcher and provides research support opportunities as well as financial support to facilitate a one-year residency at CERN. Fundamental Physics Scholars are chosen from a global pool of applicants based on their talent and their potential to make an impact on the scientific community. Clint’s research is currently focused on the CMS High-Level Trigger and on searches for exotic top quark partners and new heavy gauge bosons.

Pankaj Mehta uses statistical physics to study machine learning
January 30, 2015:

How do computers learn to identify images or speech? Recent work by Assistant Professor Pankaj Mehta and collaborator David Schwab (Northwestern University) suggests that the answer lies in a statistical technique known as "renormalization". Their work shows that this technique, which allows physicists to extract relevant features from a particular system, is the same process used by artifical neural networks to categorize data. Read the full story in Quanta Magazine.

Schmaltz theorizes on New England Patriot's Deflate-gate
January 21, 2015:

Boston University theoretical particle physicist Martin Schmaltz provides a theory of inflation, not the one that took place in the early universe, but one that may have taken place to send the New England Patriots to the Superbowl. Read his interview with on the physics of deflate-gate.

 Martin Schmaltz in science.jpg