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Illinois Physics Professor Smitha Vishveshwara has been elected to the Executive Committee of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Condensed Matter Physics (DCMP). By special election, Vishveshwara fills the seat of Richard L. Greene of University of Maryland, who stepped down from the position of chair-elect.

The DCMP chair line typically represents a four-year commitment of service, and each newly elected member generally starts as vice chair for the first year, then serves as chair-elect, chair, and past chair. Vishveshwara will serve as chair-elect starting immediately, and will take over as chair in March 2022.

A new textbook from Cambridge University Press entitled Numerical Relativity: Starting from Scratch, coauthored by Bowdoin College Physics Professor Thomas W. Baumgarte and Illinois Physics and Astronomy Professor Stuart L. Shapiro, explicates this esoteric subfield of physics for today’s students and scientists. The textbook makes heavy use of analogies from Newtonian gravity, scalar fields, and electromagnetic fields. In this way, it introduces key concepts of numerical relativity in a context familiar to readers without prior expertise in general relativity. Readers can explore the concepts presented by working through textbook exercises, and can see them first-hand by experimenting with the accompanying Python sample codes.

  • Accolades

Three University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professors have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest professional honors a scientist can receive.

Physics professor Nadya Mason and chemistry professors Ralph Nuzzo and Wilfred van der Donk are among 120 newly elected U.S. members – 59 of whom are women, the most elected in a single year – and 30 international members in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

  • Events
  • Outreach

Now, Vishveshwara and her colleagues at ICASU and Illinois Physics are putting on a virtual arts and sciences festival entitled The Illuminated Universe, featuring the work of scientists and artists. The multidisciplinary event taking place April 23 through 25, is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required.

The presentations will span multiple themes, starting with “Cosmic Flights” on Friday night at 6:00 P.M. The second session’s theme, “When Art and Science Collide,” kicks off Saturday at 11 A.M. Then Saturday afternoon, the theme “Quantum Enchantment” will start at 2:00 P.M. The festival’s final theme, “Art of Life” starts Sunday at 12 P.M. (all times are in Central Daylight Time CDT). Each session will run about one-and-a-half to two hours long.

Research Highlights

  • Quantum metrology

 

Weak-value amplification (WVA) is a commonly used technique in metrology—the study of measurement—that has attracted much recent attention for its promising applications in quantum sensing. First described in 1988 by Aharonov, Albert, and Vaidman, WVA allows scientists to precisely measure extremely small values—or variations in these values—of some quantity of interest, by interfering two quantum states and observing the resulting interference pattern. This technique has a variety of uses, from direct spatial measurements, such as those of velocity or angular displacement, to more exotic ones, such as variations in temperature, chemical concentration, or magnetic field strength.

One great advantage of WVA is that it can be used to minimize many systematic errors that could creep into scientific experiments. Unfortunately, there is a stark trade-off in the quantum experimental setting: amplification of the desired quantity is always offset by a corresponding decrease in the number of detected events. In a quantum optics context, this trade-off manifests as a decrease in detected photon count rate. In a recent paper, physicists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and their colleagues have experimentally overcome this trade-off without sacrificing photon count rate, by modifying conventional WVA to include a novel photon recycling scheme.

  • superconducting computer memory

We report a superconducting kinetic inductance memory (SKIM) element, which can be controlled exclusively by the bias supercurrent, without involving magnetic fields and heating elements. The kinetic inductance is provided by extremely narrow nanowires or nanobridges. The SKIM is a nonvolatile memory. The device is made of two Nb Dayem bridges, and it can operate reliably up to 2.8 K. The achieved error rate is as low as one in 105. The memory element could find applications in superconducting supercomputers.

Donor support for COVID-19 research has had far-reaching benefits

donor stories

Donor support for COVID-19 research has had far-reaching benefits

“We did not have the time to write external grants and could not rely on traditional and slow funding vehicles. Instead we are supported by philanthropic funds that enable us to use necessary supercomputer resources, which would otherwise not be accessible.” notes Swanlund Professor of Physics Nigel Goldenfeld.

Engineering Visionary Scholarships

Sara Shahid

Give to the Engineering Visionary Scholarship. EVS attracts the brightest students, ensures a diverse and talented class, and helps reduce student debt.

“The relief of financial burden this scholarship has lifted from my family‚Äôs shoulders is truly a priceless gift, and the generosity of donors that have made this possible inspires me to want to give others this same gift of relief, security, and most of all educational opportunity, as it has done for me.”

— Sara Shahid, Engineering Physics Class of '22, EVS Scholarship recipient

Learn more

2021 APS Medal & Society Prizes

2021 APS Medal & Society Prizes

Illinois Physics Professor Gordon Baym received the 2021 APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research. Here is a video with interviews of the exceptional scientists who were honored with Medals and Society Prizes this year. Watch Professor Baym's segment starting at 0:11:22.

Watch Professors Vishveshwara and Bright's virtual <em>Quantum Voyages</em> produced at UCSD

Watch Professors Vishveshwara and Bright's virtual Quantum Voyages produced at UCSD

This original creation explores physics through the performing arts. It is one part of a larger scope of physics-and-the-arts collaborations initiated by Illinois Physics Professor Smitha Vishveshwara.

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