News

  • Research
  • Biological Physics
  • Astrophysics

There is remarkable biodiversity in all but the most extreme ecosystems on Earth. When many species are competing for the same finite resource, a theory called competitive exclusion suggests one species will outperform the others and drive them to extinction, limiting biodiversity. But this isn’t what we observe in nature. Theoretical models of population dynamics have not presented a fully satisfactory explanation for what has come to be known as the diversity paradox.

  • Events

As acting president of Ginling College, Minnie Vautrin (Illinois class of 1912) sheltered more than 10,000 Chinese women from rape and deadly violence during the Nanjing Massacre. The Program in Arms Control & Domestic and International Security (ACDIS) at Illinois will host a symposium recalling the history of the Sino-Japanese war and honoring Vautrin. The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II: The Massacre of Nanjing will be held on December 16, 2017, at the Levis Faculty Center, Room 300, 919 West Illinois Street, Urbana.

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Excitonium has a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign… well… excited! Professor of Physics Peter Abbamonte and graduate students Anshul Kogar and Mindy Rak, with input from colleagues at Illinois, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Amsterdam, have proven the existence of this enigmatic new form of matter, which has perplexed scientists since it was first theorized almost 50 years ago.

The team studied non-doped crystals of the oft-analyzed transition metal dichalcogenide titanium diselenide (1T-TiSe2) and reproduced their surprising results five times on different cleaved crystals. University of Amsterdam Professor of Physics Jasper van Wezel provided crucial theoretical interpretation of the experimental results.

  • In the Media
  • Our History

In 1950, the physicist Arnold Nordsieck built himself this analog computer. Nordsieck, then at the University of Illinois, had earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, under Robert Oppenheimer. To make his analog computer for calculating differential equations, the inventive and budget-conscious Nordsieck relied on US $700 worth of military surplus parts, particularly synchros—specialized motors that translate the position of the shaft into an electrical signal, and vice versa.

  • Accolades
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

Assistant Professor Bryce Gadway of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has been selected for the 2017 U.S. Air Force Young Investigator Research Program. Gadway is among 43 early-career scientists and engineers nationwide to receive this three-year award of $450,000. U.S. Air Force Young Investigators are selected based on demonstrated exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research in scientific and engineering areas identified as strategic to the US Air Force mission.

  • In the Media

A company founded by a University of Illinois physics professor has raised more than $1.5 million in venture funding this year, graduated from the UI Research Park's EnterpriseWorks incubator and this week announced it was selected for a project by NASA.

At its new 12,000-square-foot facility on Kenyon Road near Interstate 74 in Champaign, Inprentus manufactures diffraction gratings, an advanced prism of sorts used in laboratories around the world.

The company was founded by Peter Abbamonte in 2012.

  • Outreach

Because physics has its dark mysteries too, we have appropriated Halloween! Watch our Dark Matter Day video on our YouTube channel!

Watch the short video Dark Matter and hear leading-edge scientists explain what we know about one of the greatest mysteries of our time. What could it be? How do we know it’s there? And what ingenious methods are scientists, working in different subdisciplines of physics and astronomy around the globe, using to detect dark matter?

Astrophysicist Jeff Filippini, astronomer Felipe Menanteau, experimental nuclear physicist Liang Yang, theoretical particle physicist Jessie Shelton, and experimental particle physicist Ben Hooberman provide an accessible overview of some of the most exciting scientific research that is ongoing today.

This educational outreach video was produced by the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, under the direction of U of I Public Affairs Video Services.

  • In the Media

More than 90 top American experts in atomic sciences, including a designer of the hydrogen bomb, publicly threw their weight behind the Iran nuclear agreement on Monday, exhorting Congress to preserve the accord in the face of President Trump’s disavowal of it.
In a letter to Senate and House leaders of both parties that emphasized the “momentous responsibilities” Congress bears regarding the agreement, the scientists asserted that the accord was effective in blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.

  • In the Media

An extensive researcher into the physics of baseball and the ball’s movement, Nathan looked at Major League Baseball statistics from this year that tracked the way the ball moves on its way from the pitcher to plate, including its horizontal and vertical movement, release point, velocity and spin axis. He was particularly interested in the ball’s “spin axis,” which affects how much a slider breaks downwards when it reaches the plate more so than any of the other recorded movements that aren’t useful for a slider pitch.

  • Student Initiative

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 20, it was the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in over 80 years. It ravaged the island’s infrastructure—tearing up roadways, destroying power lines, razing homes, and contaminating fresh water sources.

Now, more than a month later, there is still no power, many don’t have access to clean water, and transportation and communication are limited across the island. More than 73,000 of the island’s 3.4 million residents have evacuated and are now in Florida. And mounting evidence reported by news agencies in the U.S. suggests the official death toll of 51 is grossly undercounted.

Luis Miguel de Jesús Astacio closely followed the catastrophic storm and its aftermath in the news. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he had moved to Urbana on August 14 to attend the prestigious PhD program in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Events

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign working in dark matter research have gotten together and planned a celebration of Dark Matter Day (October 31), just a few days early. A free screening of the visually stunning documentary, Seeing the Beginning of Time, will take place at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) on October 24, 2017, at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A session with a panel of experts. This event is open to all, though seating is limited.

Seeing the Beginning of Time is a 50-minute visually stunning journey through deep space and time, co-produced by the NCSA, and Thomas Lucas Productions. The trailer is viewable on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=5P0vfe5dC5A.

  • Accolades
  • Condensed Matter Physics

The American Chemical Society (ACS), through its Division of History of Chemistry, has an award that acknowledges these greatest of strides: the Chemical Breakthrough Awards are presented annually in recognition of “seminal chemistry publications, books, and patents that have been revolutionary in concept, broad in scope, and long-term in impact.” These awards are made to the department where the breakthrough occurred, not to the individual scientists or inventors.

This year, the ACS honored the discovery of “J-coupling” (also known as spin-spin coupling) in liquids, a breakthrough that enabled scientists to use Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to identify atoms that are joined by a chemical bond and so to determine the structure of molecules.

  • Looking back
  • Astrophysics
  • Astrophysics/Cosmology
  • Astronomy
  • Numerical Relativity

The historic October 16 joint announcement by the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Europe-based Virgo detector of the first detection of gravitational waves produced by colliding neutron stars is doubly noteworthy. It’s also the first cosmic event observed in both gravitational waves and light—some 70 ground- and space-based observatories observed the colliding neutron stars. This is arguably the biggest moment to date in “multi-messenger astronomy.”

In a press release issued by LIGO and Virgo collaborations, National Science Foundation Director France A. Córdova comments, “It is tremendously exciting to experience a rare event that transforms our understanding of the workings of the universe. This discovery realizes a long-standing goal many of us have had, that is, to simultaneously observe rare cosmic events using both traditional as well as gravitational-wave observatories. Only through NSF’s four-decade investment in gravitational-wave observatories, coupled with telescopes that observe from radio to gamma-ray wavelengths, are we able to expand our opportunities to detect new cosmic phenomena and piece together a fresh narrative of the physics of stars in their death throes.”

Well before the development of today’s innovative technologies supporting this simultaneous gravitational-wave and optical observation, early research in numerical relativity at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign helped to lay the theoretical foundation for it. In fact, many features of the discovery had been predicted in the early computational simulations of Professor of Physics and Astronomy Stuart Shapiro and his group.

  • Research
  • Astrophysics
  • Astrophysics/Cosmology

A team of scientists using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), the primary observing tool of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), was among the first to observe the fiery aftermath of a recently detected burst of gravitational waves, recording images of the first confirmed explosion from two colliding neutron stars ever seen by astronomers.

Scientists on the DES joined forces with a team of astronomers based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) for this effort, working with observatories around the world to bolster the original data from DECam. Images taken with DECam captured the flaring-up and fading over time of a kilonova – an explosion similar to a supernova, but on a smaller scale – that occurs when collapsed stars (called neutron stars) crash into each other, creating heavy radioactive elements.

Two scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are members of the DES collaboration, Professors Joaquin Vieira of the Departments of Astronomy and of Physics and Felipe Menanteau of the Department