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- Physics Grad Kate Miller Featured in Physics in Your Future APS Brochure
- Gravitational waves: U-M physicists involved in second detection
- The Hunt for Dark Matter Continues: PandaX Reaches World’s Best Sensitivity
- Stars Burning Strangely Make Life in the Multiverse More Likely
- Physics Professor Gordon Kane Awarded 2017 APS J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics
- U-M Astrophysicist Katherine Freese Explains the Search for the Universe’s ‘Dark Stars’
- New Dwarf Planet Solar System’s 2nd Most Distant
- Physicist David Gerdes and Team Find New Dwarf Planet In Our Solar System
- Professor Keith Riles – Member of LIGO Team
- Researchers Invent New Material that can Switch Between Being Hard and Soft
- The 2017 Physics Commencement Live Event
- Physics Professors Receive MURI Grant
- Alec Josaitis Recently Awarded International Institute and Rackham Graduate School Individual Research Fellowship
- Dr. Priyashree Roy Earns 2016 Jefferson Science Associates (JSA) Thesis Prize
- LIGO Detects Gravitational Waves for Third Time
- U-M Physics Alum Alex Nitz Helps Detect Colliding Black Holes in Space
- Professor Henriette Elvang Selected for a College of Literature, Science, and Arts John Dewey Award
- Professor Gordon Kane Quoted in "Yearning for New Physics at CERN, in a Post-Higgs Way"
- Professor Rachel Goldman and Team Develop Technique which Could Boost Efficiency of LED Lighting by 50 Percent and May Pave the Way for Invisibility Cloaking Devices
- Dark Energy Survey reveals most accurate measurement of dark matter structure in the universe
- Professor David Gerdes Featured in USA Today Solar Eclipse Article
- U-M Physics Research Fellow Bachana Lomsadze and Professor Steven Cundiff Develop Novel Spectroscopy Technique that Could Revolutionize Chemical Detection
- Kip S. Thorne, Winner of 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, Has U-M Physics Connections
- LIGO and Virgo Make First Detection of Gravitational Waves Produced By Colliding Neutron Stars
- Leinweber Foundation Gives $8M for Physics Center in U-M Department of Physics
- Four U-M Physics Faculty Named Fellows
- Michigan Fireball Meteor Registers As Quake: Astrophysicist David Gerdes Quoted
- Professor Fred Adams Quoted in Science News Article
- A Modern Rutherford Experiment: Scientists Use Known Energy Neutrinos to Study Nucleus
- It's Givin' Me Excitations: U-M Study Uncovers First Steps of Photosynthesis
- UM Astrophysicist David Gerdes and Team in the Hunt for Planet 9
- U-M Physics Professor Franco Nori Makes 2017 Highly Cited Researchers List
- U-M Society of Physics Students Talk STEM and More
- The 2018 Physics Commencement Live Event
- Professor Timothy McKay Reveals His Science Journey in Recent Podcast
- Physics Students Tali Khain and Noah McNeal Awarded Goldwater Scholarships
- Homer A. Neal 1942-2018
- The Higgs Boson Reveals Its Love for the Top Quark
- Physics Rev E Celebrates 'Milestone Articles' of Physics Faculty
- Physics Graduate Benjamin Isaacoff Awarded Optical Society of America's Guenther Congressional Fellowship
- Professor Katherine Freese and Team's Hunt for Dark Matter Turns to Ancient Minerals
- Professor Benjamin Safdi Awarded DOE’s Early Career Award
- Professor Christine Aidala Serves on National Academy Committee Endorsing Science Case for Electron-Ion Collider
- U-M Physicist Lu Li Cracks Code on Material that Works as Both Conductor, Insulator
- U-M Physicist Wins Nobel Prize
- New Physics Faculty Member Dominika Zgid
- Astrophysicist Katherine Freese Quoted in Astronomy Magazine
- Physicist Jennifer Ogilvie and Team Are Shedding New Light on Photosynthesis
- Professors Hui Deng and Mack Kira Named 2019 Fellows of the Optical Society
- Four Physics Faculty Named 2018 Fellows of the American Physical Society
- Four Physics Faculty Awarded American Physical Society Honors
- Gas-Detecting Laser Device Gets an Upgrade
- U-M Physicists Roberto Merlin, Meredith Henstridge and Team Develop Small Device that Bends Light to Generate New Radiation
- Physics Alum Larry Curtiss and Faculty Advisors Devised Contraption That Lead to Fiber Optics
- Michigan Physics Welcomes LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellow Camille Avestruz
- Support Michigan Physics on Giving Blueday!
- Physicist Timothy Chupp Named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- U-M Physics Senior Noah McNeal Awarded Marshall Scholarship
- Astrophysicist Katherine Freese and Colleague’s Latest Theory About Dark Stars Made Astronomy Magazine's Cover Story
- First Postdoctoral and Graduate Student Fellows Named by Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics
- Physics Graduate Student Awarded 2018-2019 Rackham International Student Fellowship
- Professor David Gerdes Named Next Physics Department Chair
- Three U-M Physicists Make Highly Cited Researchers 2018 List
- State of Michigan Governor Declares February 28, 2019: Chirped Pulse Amplification Day
- Physicist Dragan Huterer Receives Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award
- Physicist Sharon Glotzer Elected to National Academy of Engineering
- Professor Rachel Goldman Elected Vice Chair of Division of Materials Physics
- Physicist Liuyan Zhao Awarded NSF CAREER Award
- Physicist Henriette Elvang Awarded Thurnau Professorship
- Physics Senior Sophie Barterian Earns Prestigious Luce Scholarship
- Electric Dipole Moments and the Search for the Origin of Matter
- Three Physics Graduate Students Named Recipients of 2019-2020 Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship
- Professor Christine Aidala receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Italy
- Professor August Evrard's Problem Roulette Tool Recently Awarded Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize
- Five U-M Physics Faculty Recently Promoted
- Professor Steven Cundiff Discusses Quantum Information Science at the White House
- Professor Stephen Forrest named Henry Russel Lecturer for 2020
- Physicist Roy Clarke and International Team Devise Way to Show How Common Elements Can Make a More Energy-Secure Future
- Professor Jens-Christian Meiners Receives Grant to Tackle the Bends
- Graduate Student Summer Fellows Named by Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics
- Professor Christine Aidala Wins Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
- U-M Physics Professor Wins Fundamental Physics Innovation Award
- 2019 U-M Physics Graduate Wins American Physical Society LeRoy Apker Award
- Pushing boundaries: Nobel prize winner on science literacy and lasers
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- Team at U-M Sheds Light on New Electromagnetic Ordering
- LUX-ZEPLIN Dark Matter Detector Moved Nearly a Mile Underground
- Support Michigan Physics on Giving Blueday
- Six U-M Physics Students Awarded Competitive National Fellowships
- Professor Liuyan Zhao Wins Prestigious Air Force Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) Award
- Two Graduate Students Awarded Prestigious Department of Energy Fellowships
- Electron-Ion Collider, a New Nuclear Physics Facility, to Be Built at Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Physicist David Gerdes Quoted in Michigan News Article Regarding How COVID-19 Disrupts Research Projects
- Physicist Ben Safdi and Research Team Provide Another Twist in the Dark Matter Story
- U-M Physics Faculty Member Named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Professor Xiaoming Mao Awarded $7.5M Grant to Bring Metamaterial to Life
- Now Complete, Telescope Instrument is Poised to Begin Its Search for Answers About Dark Energy
- Celebrating Our Undergraduate Awardees
- Celebrating Our Graduate Awardees
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- Professors Bjoern Penning and Marcelle Soares-Santos Highlighted in Physics Today Article
- U-M Physics Awarded $7.1 Million on Project to Upgrade the ATLAS Experiment
- When Dancers and Aliens Overlap
- Physicist David Lubensky and Team Determine Stress Fibers Help Cells Keep Their Shape—and May Also Regulate Size, During Development
- "Physics: A Resounding Legacy" - A Tribute to Patron Norman E. Barnett
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- U-M Physics Professors Byron Roe and Joshua Spitz Part of Collaboration to Search for New Physics
- Physics Grad Student Christopher Dessert Part of Team Researching X-Rays from Neutron Stars Which Could Lead to Discovery of New Particle
- Assistant Professor Liuyan Zhao Awarded a Prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship
- Assistant Professor Marcelle Soares-Santos Named 2021 Cottrell Scholar
- U-M Physicists Part of Study that Finds Unexpected Antimatter Asymmetry in the Proton
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- Celebrating our 2021 Graduate Awardees!
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- Please Donate Today (March 17) to the Undergraduate Support Fund for Giving Blueday!
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- Physics and Astronomy Senior Anna Simpson One of Five Students to Win Prestigious 2022 Goldwater Scholarship!
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- U-M Renames Randall Laboratory Addition After Pioneering Physicist Homer A. Neal
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Five U-M Physics faculty have been promoted starting in the fall of 2019 - two to Associate Professor with Tenure and three to Professor. Typically, Assistant Professors are newly hired faculty in tenure-track positions. After approximately six years, faculty performance is reviewed for promotion to Associate Professor, often with tenure. To receive tenure, faculty members must demonstrate scholarly contributions such as journal publications, as well as service to their department through teaching, mentoring, or leadership roles. After continued demonstration of scholarly contributions, faculty can be promoted to Professor, sometimes called “Full Professor.”
This year, Professor Xiaoming Mao and Professor Tom Schwarz have been promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure. Professor Lu Li, Professor David Lubensky, and Professor Vanessa Sih have been promoted to Professor.
Professor Xiaoming Mao’s research is in theoretical soft matter physics. This branch of physics is relatively new and encompasses studies of gels, colloids, liquid crystals, and more. One of Professor Mao’s research interests is on the rigidity, or stiffness, of matter. Rigidity in physics is what separates a liquid from a solid, and it arises from interactions between the particles making up the material as well as from the geometry of how the particles pack together. In materials like gels, the division between liquid and solid is murky, so the classification of transitions between different phases becomes important. Professor Mao has studied phase transitions in colloidal gels, in which tiny solid or liquid particles are dispersed in the gel. The particles can form different structures depending on their properties and their concentration in the gel. Professor Mao’s research aims at understanding and controlling the emergence of rigidity of these gels as they are compressed and squeezed in various ways.
Another of Professor Mao’s research directions is in topological metamaterials. Topology has to do with properties of an object that do not change when the object is smoothly deformed, as if it were made of Play-Doh. A well-known example of a topological property is the number of holes an object has - one for a donut and zero for a ball. However, to shape a ball into a donut, it must undergo a “topological phase transition,” in this case tearing the Play-Doh to make the hole. In real materials, topology leads to unusual, “topologically protected,” physical properties that show up on the surfaces or edges. Professor Mao has extended her studies of rigidity to this type of material to understand how topology plays a role in the phase transition between solid and liquid. She predicted a metamaterial, or a material that does not occur in nature, where the rigidity of the surface can be changed from soft to hard based on the material’s topological properties. Professor Mao is collaborating with experimental groups to perform tests on these materials and design devices based on the exotic surface properties.
Outside of research, Professor Mao has taught upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses. An important aspect of her teaching method is project-based learning, which engages students more fully with the material than traditional lecture-based coursework. Projects help students explore topics that are interesting to them and allow them to apply course material, improving their understanding. Professor Mao employs project-based learning through final presentations, which also gives students speaking experience. In addition, Professor Mao plans to develop a new course on soft matter physics for graduate students and upper-level undergraduates.
Professor Tom Schwarz is a member of the ATLAS collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). His research focuses on studies of the Higgs boson and searches for exotic particles. The Higgs boson is one of the particles of the Standard Model, the theory describing fundamental particles and their interactions. Standard Model particles all have different masses, from the photon, with zero mass, to the top quark, which is comparable in weight to a tungsten atom. In the 1960s, researchers predicted an additional particle which would influence how heavy the other fundamental particles are. This additional particle is the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson was first measured in 2012, and it was the final particle of the Standard Model to be detected. After the initial measurement, other properties and interactions involving the Higgs boson have been studied at the LHC.
Professor Schwarz studies interactions between the Higgs boson and the top quark, which is especially interesting due to the large mass of the top quark. In addition, he worked on the most sensitive probe of interactions that produce two Higgs bosons together. Not only does this experiment study properties of the Higgs boson, it can help search for new interactions beyond the Standard Model. Professor Schwarz also works on searches for vector-like quarks, a predicted heavy type of particle that is not part of the Standard Model. In addition to measurements, Professor Schwarz is leading the U.S. effort in a hardware upgrade for the muon spectrometer, or outer shell, of the ATLAS detector. At U-M, he and his collaborators work on design and testing of new pieces for the muon spectrometer.
In addition to research, Professor Schwarz has been involved in service and teaching. He organizes a semester abroad program for U-M physics students at CERN along with Professor Emeritus Jean Krisch. He also serves on the United States ATLAS committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. At U-M, Professor Schwarz has taught a number of upper-level undergraduate courses, helping to implement computational work in some to provide programming experience to students.
Professor Lu Li is an experimental condensed matter physicist focusing on studies of novel electric, magnetic, and thermal properties of materials. To perform some of his measurements, Professor Li has developed a technique called quartz magnetometry, which employs a quartz crystal to measure electronic and magnetic properties of a material in a magnetic field. Quartz crystals are commonly used in devices like digital watches, clocks, and phones. They rely on a property called piezoelectricity, which describes the relationship between electric and mechanical responses of a material. This occurs when a voltage is applied to the quartz crystal, causing a distortion in the shape. When the voltage is removed, the crystal returns to its original shape. These electrical-mechanical effects are utilized to create a cyclic response occurring at a specific frequency, and this allows the crystal to be used, for example, to keep accurate time.
From a scientific perspective, specific frequencies of quartz crystals can be used to probe properties of materials in magnetic fields. One effect they can be used to measure is quantum oscillations, where quantum mechanical principles cause a “wavy” variation of a material property such as resistance. Measuring these waves can help researchers understand characteristics of a material, like how many electrons are present or how easily the electrons can move. Quantum oscillations can only be observed at very low temperatures and very high magnetic fields, and quartz is useful for this because its frequency response doesn’t change much under these extreme conditions. Professor Li has measured quantum oscillations in materials including bismuth, samarium hexaboride, and ytterbium dodecaboride to investigate some of their surprising properties.
Besides research, Professor Li enjoys teaching undergraduate courses. This semester, he is teaching a physics course geared toward future elementary school teachers. In addition, he coaches young students at Angell Elementary School for their competition in the Washtenaw Elementary Science Olympiad.
Professor David Lubensky is a theoretical biophysicist. He studies animal development and circadian rhythms using computational tools and physical principles. A central area in studies of animal development, or, the process by which an egg grows into an adult organism, is how newly born cells “know” to specialize into certain types of tissue. Each type of tissue is made up of cells of a different shape and arrangement. The cell shapes can be modeled as polygons, and physics principles in self-assembly, or how polygons arrange to make a certain structure, can be used to investigate their ordering. Professor Lubensky is especially interested in applying these techniques to epithelial cells, which make up tissues like skin and blood vessels. One specific system he has studied is the zebrafish retina, in which the cells have a very regular organizational pattern.
Another area of research for Professor Lubensky is in circadian clocks, like the internal clock that governs an animal’s sleep-wake cycle. Clocks respond to daily variations in light or temperature, but they can continue to function even when there is no environmental variation. From a physics perspective, circadian clocks can be modeled as oscillators that repeat every 24 hours. Professor Lubensky has investigated how these oscillators are created using proteins that undergo cyclic reactions. Specifically, he has studied the S. elongatus bacterium, which is relatively straightforward to study as only three proteins are needed to reproduce the bacterium’s circadian clock.
Outside of research, Professor Lubensky has taught a variety of courses, including introductory physics courses and statistical mechanics for undergraduates. He has worked to update the statistical mechanics course by introducing active learning methods as an alternative to traditional lecture-based learning. Also, he has served as a mentor for graduate student instructors who lead discussion sections in upper-level undergraduate courses. In addition to teaching, Professor Lubensky is an organizer of the Ann Arbor APS Local Links networking group, which aims to connect academic and industry workers to facilitate professional relationships.
Professor Vanessa Sih’s research is in experimental condensed matter physics, studying semiconductors using optical techniques. Semiconductors are materials that have electrical properties that are in between those of metals and insulators, and our understanding of how to control the motion of electrons in semiconductor devices has led to the development and miniaturization of computers. The electrons and nuclei in the semiconductor, like all particles, have a quantity called "spin" associated with them, which one can visualize like a spinning top. Like the spinning top, spin has a direction based on its axis and direction of rotation. The degree to which the spins of many particles in a material are aligned with each other is called “spin polarization.”
Professor Sih studies spin polarization in semiconductors by using a pulse of laser light to first create a spin polarization and a second pulse of laser light to measure the extent to which the spins remain aligned together. From these measurements, she can determine how long the alignment remains present in the semiconductor, as well as probe tiny magnetic fields. These measurements aid in understanding what affects electron spins, which is important for potential future advances in computing. Modern computing relies on controlling the motion of electrons through semiconductors, but processes could be sped up if spin polarizations could be used to carry data in what is called “spintronic” computing.
In addition to research, Professor Sih serves as the Associate Chair for the graduate program in physics. In this role, she works on graduate student admissions and recruitment, among other responsibilities. She has also organized a new Life in Graduate School seminar series, which aims to give advice to graduate students on topics including funding, attending conferences, and publishing journal papers.