Nadya Mason Selected for 2018-19 Defense Science Study Group

Caitlin Shea McCoy for Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory

Nadya Mason poses with some of her graduate students in her laboratory in the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Lab. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Nadya Mason poses with some of her graduate students in her laboratory in the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Lab. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Physics Professor Nadya Mason has been selected for the 2018-19 Defense Science Study Group (DSSG). The DSSG is a program of education and study that introduces outstanding science and engineering professors to United States’ security challenges and encourages the scholars to apply their talents to these issues.

“It’s a great honor to have been selected for the 2018 DSSG class,” Mason shares. “I’m excited about the unique opportunity to learn more about our nation’s security issues and the technical challenges that face us… and the geek in me also looks forward to seeing some cool airplanes, ships and submarines!”

Started in 1986, this program is directed by the non-profit Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) and sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). According to the DSSG site, this program is an investment in the future. Although there are almost 200 alumni, this is a highly selective program, with only 18 people selected from across the country every two years.

“This is a rather significant honor,” Professor and Director of the Materials Research Lab Paul Braun comments. “We are very happy for Professor Mason and excited to see what she is able to do with this group.”

Each group meets approximately 20 days per year for those two years. During these sessions, members focus on defense policy, related research and development, and the systems, missions, and operations of the armed forces and the intelligence community.

“Illinois has had excellent representation among DSSG classes from the beginning, so it’s an additional pleasure to be continuing the Illinois tradition,” Mason adds.


Recent News

Assistant Professors Jessie Shelton and Benjamin Hooberman of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been selected for 2017 DOE Early Career Awards. They are among 65 early-career scientists nationwide to receive the five-year awards through the Department of Energy Office of Science’s Early Career Research Program, now in its second year. According to the DOE, this year’s awardees were selected from a pool of about 1,150 applicants, working in research areas identified by the DOE as high priorities for the nation.

  • Outreach

The most intriguing and relevant science happens at the highest levels of scientific pursuit-at major research universities and laboratories, far above and beyond typical high-school science curriculum. But this summer, 12 rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors-eight from Centennial and four from Central High Schools, both in Champaign-had the rare opportunity to partake in cutting-edge scientific research at a leading research institution.

The six-week summer-research Young Scholars Program (YSP) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was initiated by members of the Nuclear Physics Laboratory (NPL) group, who soon joined forces with other faculty members in the Department of Physics and with faculty members of the POETS Engineering Research Center.

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.