Tag Archive for physics

Starr, Mukerji Explore Ways to Better Engage Students, Faculty in the Sciences

Professors Francis Starr and Ishita Mukerji recently participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at Princeton University.

Professors Francis Starr and Ishita Mukerji recently participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at Princeton University.

For their efforts enhancing undergraduate science education and supporting teaching innovations, two Wesleyan faculty members were named National Academies Education Fellows in the Sciences for 2015-2016.

Francis Starr, professor of physics and director of the College of Integrative Sciences, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received the fellowships while participating in the 2015 National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education, held June 14-19 at Princeton University.

The Summer Institute, a five-day program of discussions, demonstrations and workshops, brought college and university faculty together to develop teaching skills. Co-sponsored by the National Academies and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Starr, Mukerji and 44 other participants were taught ways to transform the undergraduate classroom and engage students and fellow faculty in the sciences. Current research, active learning, assessment and diversity were woven into the program, creating a forum to share ideas and develop innovative instructional materials to be implemented at each participant’s home institution.

Pictured at far right, wearing a striped shirt, Francis Starr worked with more than 40 other faculty from around New England at the Summer Institute. 

Pictured at far right, wearing a striped shirt, Francis Starr worked with more than 40 other faculty from around New England at the Summer Institute. (Photo by Jill Feldman/Princeton University)

“Wesleyan’s commitment to teaching innovation puts us at the forefront of improving undergraduate education that is essential to prepare future scientists and scientifically literate citizens,” Starr said.

During the institute, Starr and Mukerji developed a “teachable tidbit” with four other institute participants. These tidbits can be implemented in a course during the academic year. In addition, Starr and Mukerji are planning to speak about their experiences to fellow faculty at an NSM luncheon. They’re also working on creating an Academic (Technology) Roundtable meeting with one of the co-directors of the institute.

“Francis and I were both interested in learning these new teaching methods and we’re excited to share them with others on campus,” Mukerji said.

Morgan Models the Evolution of Plasma as a Visiting Professor in Tokyo

morgan

Tom Morgan is a visiting professor in Tokyo, Japan.

Tom Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics, is spending the month of June as a visiting professor at Seikei University in Tokyo, Japan. He is collaborating with Professor Tomoyuki Murakami on modeling the evolution of plasma (an assembly of ions and electrons) created by injecting energy into water, “a substance with many interesting properties and applications,” Morgan explained.

The work focuses on water in both the vapor phase and as a liquid.

Morgan also is collaborating on this experimental work with Professor of Physics Lutz Huwel at Wesleyan. Huwel uses a pulse of laser light to provide the energy input to the water.

“The goal of the research is to understand the mechanisms responsible for the transport and evolution of the energy as time passes,” Morgan explained.

An additional focus is on how the laser light radiation energy that is deposited near the surface of water is dissipated into kinetic energy of ejected ballistic water droplets that have been observed in the lab to rise high above the water.

“There are many potential applications of underwater plasmas to the environmental, biotechnical and medical fields,” Morgan said.

The visit to Seikei University is partially funded by presidential initiative funds supplied by the Director of Global Initiatives. The funds support international faculty collaborations.

Morgan met Murakami several years ago through a common collaborator in Belfast, N. Ireland. The scientists share overlapping research interests and have published one paper together.

“Physics is a very global collaborative discipline,” Morgan said.

Learn more about Morgan’s research online here.

7 Faculty Promoted, 1 Awarded Tenure

In its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance. He joins seven other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

In addition, seven faculty members were promoted to Full Professor: Mary Alice Haddad, professor of government; Scott Higgins, professor of film studies; Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics; Edward Moran, professor of astronomy; Dana Royer, professor of earth and environmental sciences; Mary-Jane Rubenstein, professor of religion; and Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology.

Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below.

Associate Professor Krishnan teaches studio- and lecture-based dance courses on Mobilizing Dance: Cinema, the Body, and Culture in South Asia; Modern Dance 3; and Bharata Natyam.  His academic and choreographic interests include queering the dancing body, critical readings of Indian dance and the history of courtesan dance traditions in South India. He is a scholar and master of historical Bharatanatyam and also an internationally acclaimed choreographer of contemporary dance from global perspectives.

Professor Haddad teaches courses about comparative, East Asian, and environmental politics. She has authored two books, Building Democracy in Japan and Politics and Volunteering in Japan: A Global Perspective, and co-edited a third, NIMBY is Beautiful: Local Activism and Environmental Innovation in Germany and Beyond. She is currently working on a book about effective advocacy and East Asian environmental politics.

Professor Higgins teaches courses in film history, theory, and genre, and is a 2011 recipient of Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching.  His research interests include moving-image aesthetics, feature and serial storytelling, and cinema’s technological history. He is author of Harnessing the Rainbow: Technicolor Aesthetics in the 1930s and Matinee Melodrama: Playing with Formula in the Sound Serial (forthcoming), and editor of Arnheim for Film and Media Studies.

Professor Kottos offers courses on Quantum Mechanics; Condensed Matter Physics; and Advanced Topics in Theoretical Physics. He has published more than 100 papers on the understanding of wave propagation in complex media, which have received more than 3,000 citations. His current research focuses on the development of non-Hermitian Optics. This year, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research has recognized his theoretical proposal on optical limiters as a high priority strategic goal of the agency.

Professor Moran teaches introductory courses such as Descriptive Astronomy and The Dark Side of the Universe, in addition to courses on observational and extragalactic astronomy.  His research focuses on extragalactic X-ray sources and the X-ray background, and his expertise in spectroscopic instrumentation combined with an insightful conceptual appreciation of galaxy formation have positioned him as a leader in observational black hole research.

Professor Royer offers courses on Environmental Studies; Geobiology; and Soils.  His research explores how plants can be used to reconstruct ancient environments, and the (paleo-) physiological underpinnings behind these plant-environment relationships.  His recent work on the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and climate over geologic time has had significant impact on the field of paleoclimatology.

Professor Rubenstein teaches courses in philosophy of religion; pre- and postmodern theologies; and the intersections of religion, sex, gender, and science.  Her research interests include continental philosophy, theology, gender and sexuality studies, and the history and philosophy of cosmology.  She is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe, and Worlds without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse.

Professor Ulysse offers courses on Crafting Ethnography; Haiti: Between Anthropology and Journalism; Key Issues in Black Feminism; and Theory 2: Beyond Me, Me, Me: Reflexive Anthropology. Her research examines black diasporic conditions. Her recent work combines scholarship, performance, and exposition to ponder the fate of Haiti in the modern world and how it is narrated in different outlets and genres.  She is the author of Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, A Haitian Anthropologist and Self-Making in Jamaica, and Why Haiti Needs New Narratives.

Graduate Student Factor Studies Planet Formation Around a Young Star

Sam Factor, a graduate student in astronomy, at the Submillimeter Array, located on Mauna Kea in Hawai'i in March 2015.

Sam Factor, a graduate student in astronomy, at the Submillimeter Array, located on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i in March 2015.

#THISISWHY
In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Sam Factor ’14, a graduate student in astronomy.

Q: Sam, congratulations on completing your master’s thesis in astronomy! We understand you took your first astronomy class in the fall of your senior year at Wesleyan. What was your undergraduate major and how did your late-developing interest in astronomy come about?

A: Thank you very much! As an undergrad, I majored in physics and computer science. During the fall of my senior year I took Introductory Astronomy (ASTR 155). I signed up for the course mainly because I wanted an interesting and relatively easy course to fill out my schedule. I had been interested in astronomy since I was very young, but had never taken a formal class. I absolutely loved the class and decided to apply to the BA/MA program.

Q: How and when did you decide to stay on at Wesleyan to pursue a master’s degree in astronomy?

A: I actually decided to apply to the BA/MA program only a few weeks before the application was due!

3 Students Receive Goldwater Honorable Mentions

#THISISWHY

Wesleyan students Selin Kutlu ’16, Jacob “Jack” Lashner ’16 and Aaron Young ’16 have been chosen for honorable mention by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program for the 2015-2016 academic year. The award is presented annually to U.S. sophomores and juniors for excellence in mathematics, science and engineering. This year’s recipients were selected from a field of more than 1,200 students nominated by faculty from more than 420 colleges and universities nationwide. Less than half the students nominated each year are selected as a scholar or for honorable mention.

Kutlu

Selin Kutlu ’16

Kutlu, a molecular biology and biochemistry and neuroscience and behavior double major, is interested in understanding not only biological mechanisms at the cellular and molecular level, but also how these mechanisms can alter human health and behavior. Working with Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, Kutlu combines her interest in both biochemistry and neuroscience through research on DNA mismatch repair, a process that corrects errors made during DNA replication. “These errors can cause mutations that can have deleterious effects on an organism’s health, including carcinogenesis and neurological disorders such as Huntington’s disease,” said Kutlu. Her career goal is to obtain an MA and PhD in molecular biology in order to teach at the university level and conduct biomedical research.

Petit Foundation Awards Grant to Green Street

Green Street

Green Street Director Sara MacSorley accepts a $12,500 grant from Dr. William Petit.

Wesleyan’s Green Street Teaching and Learning Center has received a $12,500 grant from the Petit Family Foundation to support the center’s Girls in Science Summer Camp. Green Street Director Sara MacSorley accepted the gift from Dr. William Petit.

The Green Street Girls in Science Summer Camp will take place August 3 – 7 and will be open to girls entering grades 4, 5, and 6. Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, and Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics, will participate in the five-day program, covering topics from biochemistry to physics and culminating in a science showcase to share projects with family and friends. The camp will be held at Green Street, but students will also spend time in teaching labs on Wesleyan’s campus.

Othon, Taylor Students Published in Physical Chemistry Letters

Christina Othon and Erika Taylor, along with physics graduate student Nimesh Shukla, Lee Chen ’15, Inha Cho ’15 and Erin Cohn ’15, are the co-authors of a paper titled “Sucralose Destabilization of Protein Structure” published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, March 2015. Othon is assistant professor of physics and was PI on the paper. Taylor is assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies.

Sucralose is a commonly employed artificial sweetener that behaves very differently than its natural disaccharide counterpart, sucrose, in terms of its interaction with biomolecules. This research suggests that people may need to think about the impact of sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda) on their proteins.

Watch Othon explain associated research in this video. She speaks around the 34 minute mark.

Wesleyan Physics Lab, U.S. Air Force Partner on Groundbreaking Research

Graduate student Eleana Makri and Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics, work on reflective optical limiter research Feb. 3. (Photo by Hannah Norman '16)

Graduate student Eleana Makri and Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics, work on reflective optical limiter research Feb. 3. (Photo by Hannah Norman ’16)

#THISISWHY

Graduate student Eleana Makri and Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics, work on reflective optical limiter research Feb. 3. (Photo by Hannah Norman '16)

Makri and Kottos review their power limiter research.

For many years, pilots in the Air Force, scientists conducting research with high-powered lasers, and others have struggled to protect their eyes and sensitive equipment from being damaged by intense laser pulses. In many cases, this was achieved by intense power filters, which offered protection, but self-destructed. Now they have a solution, which provides protection without damaging the filters themselves, thanks to a research collaboration between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and a team of researchers in Wesleyan’s Physics Department.

The research, led by Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics, is included in the just-released U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research 2014 Technical Strategic Plan. The document is published on the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) webpage.

Previous attempts at a solution focused on creating gradually darkening sunglasses to protect the wearer’s eyes when s/he steps into bright sunlight, but return quickly to their normal state when indoors. However, no version could darken quickly enough to protect the wearer from short laser pulses.

As described in the Technical Strategic Plan,

Huwel, Morgan Investigate Dynamics of Laser-Induced Sparks in Helium

Lutz Huwel, professor of physics, and Thomas Morgan, the Foss Professor of Physics, are the co-authors of an article titled “Investigating the dynamics of laser induced sparks in atmospheric helium using Rayleigh and Thomson scattering,” published in the Journal of Applied Physics, Volume 117 in January 2015.

The paper describes the use of two laser systems to prepare and study a helium plasma, and draws on an extensive international collaboration. The electron density and temperature of the plasma are measure as a function of time and space with high precision. The work has important impact in the area of laser induced breakdown spectroscopy and to the spectral line shape scientific community.

Makri’s Power Limiter Research Noted in Scientific Reports Article

Makri used a power limiter consisting of a nonlinear lossy layer embedded in two mirror layers. This setup provides a resonant transmission of a low intensity light and nearly total reflectivity of a high-intensity light.

Makri used a power limiter consisting of a nonlinear lossy layer embedded in two mirror layers. This setup provides a resonant transmission of a low intensity light and nearly total reflectivity of a high-intensity light.

A study co-authored by Graduate Research Assistant Eleana Makri and two other Wesleyan researchers is a topic of a Oct. 20 article published in Scientific Reports.

Due to the ultrahigh-speed and ultrawide-band brought by adopting photons as information carriers, photonic integration has been a long-term pursuit for researchers, which can break the performance bottleneck incurred in modern semiconductor-based electronic integrated circuits. The article states that “recently, Makri theoretically proposed the concept of reflective power limiter based on nonlinear localized modes, where a nonlinear layer was sandwiched by two reflective mirrors, thus increased the device complexity.”

The report is based on Makri’s study, titled “Non-Linear Localized Modes Give Rise to a Reflective Optical Limiter” published in March 2014. The paper is co-authored by Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics; Hamidreza Ramezani Ph.D. ’13 (now a postdoc at U.C. Berkeley) and Ilya Vitebskiy (Sensors Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Ohio).

The same study was also highlighted in Washington, D.C. at the spring review meeting of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) as one of the main research achievements in electromagnetics of 2014 that can potentially benefit the U.S. Air Force. Read more about this study in this past News @ Wesleyan article.

Read the full Scientific Report article, titled “Chip-integrated optical power limiter based on an all-passive micro-ring resonator,” online here.

Kottos, Basiri Author Paper Published in Physical Review

Data by Tsampikos Kottos and Ali Basiri.

Tsampikos Kottos and Ali Basiri, a Ph.D. student in physics, are co-authors of a paper titled “Light localization induced by a random imaginary refractive index,” published in Physical Review A 90, on Oct. 13, 2014. Kottos is the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics.

In the paper, the authors show the emergence of light localization in arrays of coupled optical waveguides with randomness.

 

 

 

Hanakata ’14 Finalist for American Physical Society’s Apker Award

Paul Hanakata '14

Paul Hanakata ’14

Paul Hanakata ’14 was named a finalist for the American Physical Society’s prestigious Leroy Apker Award, the highest prize offered in the United States for an undergraduate thesis in physics. He will compete to win the award this month.

The Apker Award was created to recognize outstanding achievements in physics by undergraduate students, and thereby provide encouragement to young physicists who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment.

At Wesleyan, Hanakata received high honors for his Wesleyan thesis titled, “Cooperative Dynamics in Supported Polymer Films,” under his advisor, Francis Starr, professor of physics and director of the College of Integrative Sciences.

In recognition of his exceptional research accomplishments,