Vishveshwara Receives 2012 Simons Fellowship in Theoretical Physics

Celia Elliott
2/13/2012

Associate Professor of Physics Smitha Vishveshwara will receive an inaugural Simons Foundation Fellowship in Theoretical Physics for the 2012/13 academic year.  The Simons Foundation is a private organization whose primary mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the physical sciences. 

The 27 scholars chosen in this first-ever nationwide competition were selected by rigorous peer review on the basis of their proposed research plan. A condensed matter theorist, Vishveshwara will use the fellowship to study topological aspects and quantum dynamics of strongly correlated systems. She has previously made pioneering contributions to our understanding of the quantum-mechanical behavior of both solid-state materials and cold atomic gases.

 

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Imagine planting a single seed and, with great precision, being able to predict the exact height of the tree that grows from it. Now imagine traveling to the future and snapping photographic proof that you were right.

If you think of the seed as the early universe, and the tree as the universe the way it looks now, you have an idea of what the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration has just done. In a presentation today at the American Physical Society Division of Particles and Fields meeting at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, DES scientists will unveil the most accurate measurement ever made of the present large-scale structure of the universe.

These measurements of the amount and “clumpiness” (or distribution) of dark matter in the present-day cosmos were made with a precision that, for the first time, rivals that of inferences from the early universe by the European Space Agency’s orbiting Planck observatory. The new DES result (the tree, in the above metaphor) is close to “forecasts” made from the Planck measurements of the distant past (the seed), allowing scientists to understand more about the ways the universe has evolved over 14 billion years.

“This result is beyond exciting,” said Scott Dodelson of Fermilab, one of the lead scientists on this result. “For the first time, we’re able to see the current structure of the universe with the same clarity that we can see its infancy, and we can follow the threads from one to the other, confirming many predictions along the way.”

It took two years on a supercomputer to simulate 1.2 microseconds in the life of the HIV capsid, a protein cage that shuttles the HIV virus to the nucleus of a human cell. The 64-million-atom simulation offers new insights into how the virus senses its environment and completes its infective cycle.

The findings are reported in the journal Nature Communications.