Three University of Illinois professors have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the longest-standing honorary societies in the nation. Physics professor Taekjip Ha will join psychology professors J. Kathryn Bock and Gary S. Dell and other new members in an induction ceremony in October in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Ha is the Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, a professor in the Beckman Institute and the Cellular Decision Making in Cancer theme leader in the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. He also is co-director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for the Physics of Living Cells at the U. of I.
When astronomers try to simulate colliding giant black holes, they usually rely on simplified approximations to model the swirling disks of matter that surround and fuel these gravitational monsters. Researchers now report that, for the first time, they have simulated the collision of two supermassive black holes using a full-blown treatment of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, allowing a 3D portrayal of these disks of magnetized matter.
Stuart Shapiro of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presented movies of the simulations at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore, Maryland, on 13 April. His team had described elements of the study last November, in Physical Review D.
By combining two highly innovative experimental techniques, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have for the first time simultaneously observed the structure and the correlated function of specific proteins critical in the repair of DNA, providing definitive answers to some highly debated questions, and opening up new avenues of inquiry and exciting new possibilities for biological engineering.
Illinois biological physicists Taekjip Ha and Yann Chemla have combined two cutting-edge laboratory techniques that together directly get at the structure-function relationship in proteins. Ha is well recognized for his innovative single molecule fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy techniques. Professor Yann Chemla is a top expert in optical trapping techniques. Their combined method—simultaneous fluorescence microscopy and optical trapping—yields far more definitive answers to questions relating structure to function than either technique could independently.
Theoretical condensed-matter physicist Vinay Ambegaokar has been selected for the 2015 John Bardeen Prize, in recognition of his theoretical research that substantially advanced our understanding of certain unique and fundamental features of superconductivity. Ambegaokar is Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics Emeritus at Cornell University’s Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics (LASSP) in Ithaca New York.
The award citation reads “for his contributions to the statics, dynamics and kinetics of Josephson junctions and nanowires.”
In his fourth year heading up Leal’s Science Night, Illinois Physics professor Brian DeMarco unashamedly acknowledges that he devotes his time and energy into organizing the event in hopes that it might result in youngsters choosing STEM careers.
“My own mission is to try to recruit as many talented, bright people as we can into this area,” admits DeMarco, “because science research is the most transformational thing we do as human beings…To solve all the challenges we have over the next fifty years, we need as many bright and talented scientists as we can get. So I would like to start solving that problem early.”
Author: Elizabeth Innes, I-STEM Education Initiative
Scientists on the Dark Energy Survey have released the first in a series of dark matter maps of the cosmos. These maps, created with one of the world’s most powerful digital cameras, are the largest contiguous maps created at this level of detail and will improve our understanding of dark matter’s role in the formation of galaxies. Analysis of the clumpiness of the dark matter in the maps will also allow scientists to probe the nature of the mysterious dark energy, believed to be causing the expansion of the universe to speed up.
The new map was released today at the April meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore, Maryland. It was created using data captured by the Dark Energy Camera, a 570-megapixel imaging device that is the primary instrument for the Dark Energy Survey (DES).
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded 2015 Guggenheim fellowships to two University of Illinois faculty members: Wendy K. Tam Cho, professor of political science and of statistics, and Philip W. Phillips, professor of physics. Cho and Phillips are among 175 fellows chosen for "prior achievement and exceptional promise" from a group of more than 3,100 applying scholars, artists and scientists. To provide creative freedom, fellows are awarded unrestricted grants that they can apply to work of their choosing.
Phillips works in theoretical condensed matter physics. He has developed various models of how electrons travel through superconductors containing copper and iron and how electrons interact at temperatures near absolute zero. He is known for devising the random dimer model, a 1-dimensional model that conducts electricity, thereby providing a concrete counterexample to Anderson's localization theorem, and for developing the concept of Mottness, in which strong electron interactions lead to a breakdown on the particle concept in high-temperature superconductors.
Phillips plans to apply his award to understand how collective phenomena emerge from strong electron interactions and precisely how the principle of scale invariance simplifies the normal state of copper-oxide superconductors.
With the Higgs in hand, finding traces of dark matter is the next big hunt in high-energy physics.
The Standard Model of physics is what scientists consider their working picture of how fundamental particles behave and interact. But it “has some holes in it,” says Verena Martinez Outschoorn, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We know that our worldview, our model, our understanding of particles and their interactions is kind of a subset of a bigger picture,” she says. “We have reason to believe there are other particles out there.”
Three outstanding Cottrell Scholars have been named the first recipients of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement’s new TREE Award (Transformational Research and Excellence in Education), intended to recognize and advance truly outstanding research and education.
“We discovered this interesting physics of DNA that its sequence determines the flexibility and thus the stability of the DNA package inside the cell,” said Gutgsell Professor of Physics Taekjip Ha, who is a member of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. “This is actually very elementary DNA physics. Many people thought we should have known this many decades ago, but there are still surprises in the physics of DNA.”