Michelle Kelley wins “Outstanding Poster Presentation” at Undergraduate Women in Physics conference

Siv Schwink
1/30/2014 12:00 AM

Physics Illinois senior Michelle Kelley won an award for “Outstanding Poster Presentation” at the 2014 Midwest Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at the University of Chicago. Kelley created the poster while participating in the 2013 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program last summer at the Department of Physics at the University of Washington in Seattle, funded by the National Science Foundation. 

Kelley’s winning poster, entitled “Quantized superfluid vortex ring dynamics in the unitary Fermi gas,” is based on the work she carried out under the guidance of UW physicists Michael McNeil Forbes and Aurel Bulgac. The team’s research is published in the article “Quantized Superfluid Vortex Rings in the Unitary Fermi Gas” January 17, 2014 in Physical Review Letters, v. 112, issue 2, 025301 (2014).

Kelley comments, “I had an illuminating time in Seattle. I worked with theoretical and numerical models and ran simulations to try to explore the seemingly weird results of experiments conducted this past spring at the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms.” 

Kelley, an Illinois native who grew up in the Chicago suburbs in Schaumburg and graduated from Hoffman Estates High School, is planning an academic career in physics, either as a professor or research physicist. After she graduates from Physics Illinois at the end of this semester, she will enroll in an advanced degree program, though she is still weighing her options for graduate school.

Kelley is currently a finalist in the running for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which would support her seeking a master of philosophy degree in scientific computing, before going on to pursue a doctoral degree in physics. 

As a future academician, Kelley aspires to be a good communicator of science, not only to students with a strong interest, but also to young people who haven’t yet learned how much fun science is.

“I’m really interested in educational outreach opportunities for high school or younger students, to get them interested in physics and science,” she shares.

It’s a subject she herself is especially passionate about: “I’m a lover of all academic subjects. I love math and physics, but I also love philosophy. Of course, you can’t major in everything, and I think physics is the closest thing to doing that—and for me, physics is the most rigorous and fulfilling.

“When I’m talking to my non-science friends, I like to tell them that my planned career path is just to learn about the universe for as long as I can.”


Recent News

  • In the News
  • Condensed Matter Physics

The other half of the Nobel prize, awarded for “topological phase transitions,” also unites topology and physics, but “topology enters in a somewhat different way,” says Eduardo Fradkin, a physicist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

Relevant here is the fact that topological properties often cannot be determined locally. An ant sitting on a pastry can’t tell by looking around whether the perch is a bun, bagel, or pretzel.

  • Research

Do sterile neutrinos—hypothetical particles that do not interact with matter except through gravity—really exist? If so, this would solve some of today’s major mysteries in particle physics and cosmology. For two decades, researchers around the globe have sought evidence that would prove or disprove the reality of sterile neutrinos, with inconclusive outcomes.

Now, a new result has all but ruled out the possible existence of a light sterile neutrino in a regime suggested by an earlier experiment. Researchers from two major international collaborations—the Main Injector Neutrinos Oscillation Search (MINOS) at Fermi National Laboratory and the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment in the south of China—joined forces, each contributing years of data that, taken together, paint a nearly complete picture. The joint result published in Physical Review Letters has significantly shrunk the hiding space for a light sterile neutrino.

  • Accolades

University of Illinois Professor of Physics and Astronomy Stuart Shapiro has been selected for the 2017 Hans A. Bethe Prize of the American Physical Society (APS). The Bethe Prize is conferred annually to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to theory, experiment, or observation in astrophysics, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, or closely related fields.

The citation reads, “For seminal and sustained contributions to understanding physical processes in compact object astrophysics, and advancing numerical relativity.”

  • Accolades

Celia Elliott, Physics Illinois’ director of external affairs and special projects, has received the 2016 SPaRC Career Achievement Award, for her significant and sustained contributions throughout her career to the field of research administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The award was presented by the campus’s Sponsored Programs and Research Compliance group on Friday, September 16, 2016, during the SPaRC Retreat at the I-Hotel in Urbana.
Elliott is widely recognized among the department’s faculty as the pivotal resource for all things pertaining to successful grant writing and administration.