News

  • Alumni News
  • Accolades

Physics Illinois alumnus M. George Craford has been selected for the IEEE Edison Medal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The medal is awarded annually in recognition of a career of meritorious achievement in electrical science, electrical engineering, or the electrical arts. The citation reads, "for a lifetime of pioneering contributions to the development and commercialization of visible LED materials and devices."

Craford is best known for his invention of the first yellow light emitting diode (LED). During his career, he developed and commercialized the technologies yielding the highest-brightness yellow, amber, and red LEDs as well as world-class blue LEDs. 

Toni Pitts, coordinator of recruiting and special programs at Physics Illinois, has received the Leadership in Diversity Award from The Office of Diversity, Equity and Access at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This award recognizes exceptional dedication to and success in promoting diversity and inclusion via research, hiring practices, courses, programs and events.

  • Research

Nature is full of parasites—organisms that flourish and proliferate at the expense of another species. Surprisingly, these same competing roles of parasite and host can be found in the microscopic molecular world of the cell. A new study by two Illinois researchers has demonstrated that dynamic elements within the human genome interact with each other in a way that strongly resembles the patterns seen in populations of predators and prey.

The findings, published in Physical Review Letters by physicists Chi Xue and Nigel Goldenfeld, (DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.117.208101) are an important step toward understanding the complex ways that genomes change over the lifetime of individual organisms, and how they evolve over generations.

  • In Memoriam

Klaus Schulten, professor of physics and Beckman Institute faculty member for nearly 25 years, passed away after an illness in late October, 2016. In this memorial tribute, Schulten discusses his research and his love of exploring how nature works.

Schulten, who led Beckman’s Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group, was a leader in the field of biophysics, conducting seminal work in the area of dynamic computer simulations, illuminating biological processes and structures in ways that weren’t possible before.

Schulten’s goal from his start as an original Beckman researcher was to use mathematics and physics to study the natural world through advanced computation.

Schulten’s group has created simulations that have provided never-before-seen views of such function as the chemical structure of the HIV capsid and the first-ever simulation of an entire life form, the complete satellite tobacco mosaic virus.

  • 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.

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Physics professor Taylor Hughes and mechanical science and engineering professor Gaurav Bahl of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are part of an interdisciplinary team that will study non-reversible sound wave propagation over the next four years, with a range of promising potential applications.

The National Science Foundation has announced a $2-million research award to the team, which includes University of Oregon physics professor Hailin Wang and Duke University electrical and computer engineering professor Steven Cummer. The grant is part of a broader $18-million NSF-funded initiative, the Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program, supporting nine teams—a total of 37 researchers at 17 institutions—to pursue fundamental research in the area of new light and acoustic wave propagation, known as NewLAW.

  • In the Media

Edward Seidel, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, was named interim vice president for research to succeed Lawrence Schook, a biomedical researcher who announced last spring that he would step down after more than five years to return to his research. Seidel will assume office Sept. 1, pending approval from UI trustees.

  • Accolades

Andrea Young, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been awarded the 2016 McMillan Award for outstanding contributions in condensed matter physics. Named in memory of physicist William McMillan of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the award is presented annually for distinguished research performed within five years of receiving a Ph.D.

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Experimenters have approximated the Leggett and Garg test. In 2011, White and colleagues demonstrated the extrastrong correlations in quantum optics, although in an average way and not with a single photon. Now, Joseph Formaggio, a neutrino physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and colleagues provide a demonstration using data from the Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, which fires neutrinos at near-light-speed 735 kilometers to a 5.4-kiloton detector in the Soudan Mine in Minnesota.

  • Accolades
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Emeritus and Research Professor Tai-Chang Chiang of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been elected by the Academia Sinica to its 2016 class of Academicians. He is among 22 scholars across all academic disciplines to receive this high honor this year. Academia Sinica is the national academy of Taiwan. Former Academicians in the mathematics and physics division include Nobel laureates T.D. Lee, C.N. Yang, Sam Ting, and Daniel Tsui.

Over the course of his career, Chiang has made lasting contributions to condensed matter physics, surface science, and synchrotron radiation research, including several truly groundbreaking findings. He has authored about 300 journal articles, and his work has been cited more than 8,500 times.

  • In the Media

To most fans, it’s just a fun spectacle. But to Alan Nathan, home-run hitting is a physics problem. Given the distance between home plate and the outfield wall, what combination of ball speed, bat angle and external factors will send the ball out of the park?

“It's driven by a need to understand,” he said. “It’s the same reason I did experimental nuclear physics for many years.”

  • Our Alumni

Three leaders in radiation oncology, including clinicians and researchers from Duke University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, have been named recipients of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed upon members of the world’s largest radiation oncology society. Benedick A. Fraass, PhD, FASTRO, Christopher G. Willett, MD, FASTRO, and Anthony L. Zietman, MD, FASTRO, will be recognized at an awards ceremony during ASTRO’s 58th Annual Meeting, to be held September 25-28, 2016, in Boston. Fraass is an alumnus of Physics Illinois (MS 1975, PhD 1980) and a former student of Professor Ralph Simmons.