News

  • Diversity

The Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign strongly rejects all hateful acts of antisemitism, racism, and discrimination on campus and elsewhere. As scientists, we recognize that acts of intolerance not only create a climate of intimidation and fear, but also stifle both scientific education and scientific progress. Research consistently suggests that as diversity increases, so do productivity, creativity, and innovation in human endeavors. As a department, we are committed to supporting a diverse and inclusive community at this university. We recognize that it is our responsibility to use our privilege as scientists and academics to create and defend an environment where people of all races, religions, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations are treated with respect and dignity, and where their contributions are welcomed and encouraged.

  • Research

The rich complexity of turbulence—with its wide range of length and time scales—poses a major challenge to the development of predictive models based on fluid dynamics. Now, four leading physicists will co-lead an international effort to develop a statistical theory of turbulence. If successful, a statistical theory of turbulence would have broad applications, including in aeronautics, geophysics and astrophysics, medicine, and in the efficient transport of fluids through pipelines. Funded by the Simons Foundation, the research project titled “Revisiting the Turbulence Problem Using Statistical Mechanics” will bring together an international team from the US, UK, France, Austria, and Israel to apply novel techniques in non-equilibrium statistical physics to the unresolved problem. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Physics Professor Nigel Goldenfeld is a lead PI on the project.

  • Events
  • Quantum Information Science

Top experts in quantum technology from around the globe will gather at the University of Chicago on Oct. 25 to discuss the future of quantum information science and strategies to build a quantum workforce.

The second annual Chicago Quantum Summit, hosted by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, will engage scientific and government leaders and the industries that will drive the applications of emerging quantum information science. Speakers include technology leaders at IBM, Intel, Boeing, Applied Materials, Toshiba Research Europe, the University of Waterloo, and the University of New South Wales, Australia, and the Quantum Economic Development Consortium.

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Condensed Matter Theory

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Princeton University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have spotted the fingerprint of an elusive particle: The axion—first predicted 42 years ago as an elementary particle in extensions of the standard model of particle physics. Based on predictions from Illinois Physics Professor Barry Bradlyn and Princeton Physics Professor Andrei Bernevig's group, the group of Chemical Physics Professor Claudia Felser at Max Planck in Dresden produced the charge density wave Weyl metalloid (TaSe4)2I and investigated the electrical conduction in this material under the influence of electric and magnetic fields. It was found that the electric current in this material below -11 °C is actually carried by axion particles.

  • Alumni News

Illinois Physics alumna Melisa Napoles chose her physics education to stand out from her peers. And then she designed her own track within her undergraduate program, building it on the experiences she most enjoyed along the way. Now she loves her job in the tech industry.

  • Research
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
  • Quantum Information Science

A key resource to advance research in quantum information science would be a source that could efficiently and reliably produce single photons. However, because quantum processes are inherently random, creating a photon source that produces single photons on demand presents a challenge at every step.

Now University of Illinois Physics Professor Paul Kwiat and his former postdoctoral researcher Fumihiro Kaneda (now an assistant professor at Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences at Tohoku University) have built what Kwiat believes is “the world’s most efficient single-photon source.” And they are still improving it. With planned upgrades, the apparatus could generate upwards of 30 photons at unprecedented efficiencies. Sources of that caliber are precisely what’s needed for optical quantum information applications.

  • Accolades

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Assistant Professors Julia "Jessie" Shelton and Peter Adshead have been named W. Dale and Jeanne C. Compton Fellows in Physics. This faculty appointment supports outstanding research and high scholarly productivity of early-career physicists at Illinois Physics. 

Shelton and Adshead are the department’s inaugural class of Compton Fellows. The faculty will retain the title designation for as long as they hold faculty appointments at Illinois Physics. This named appointment comes with a one-time spending allowance to support ongoing research.

  • Outreach
  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
  • Student Groups
  • Student News

Advocating for diversity and equity in STEM, supporting student voice and ownership, fostering supportive learning communities, promoting authentic science practices, and encouraging professional development all fall under the Access Network’s mission. This summer from June 7 to June 9, 2019, members of Illinois Guidance for Physics Students (Illinois GPS) hosted eight other student-formed university-based organizations, which together make up the Access Network—a coalition of student-centered and student-initiated groups that work on broad inclusivity initiatives while supporting local goals.

  • In the Media
  • Alumni News

Dr. Jonathan M. Berkson, a former U.S. Army officer, U.S. Navy civilian and U.S. Coast Guard civilian, recently concluded a 48-year uniformed and civilian career at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters.

Part of the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Waterways and Ocean Policy, the marine science program empowers Coast Guardsmen with information that enables them to succeed in today’s complex operating environment.

From conducting the first oceanographic survey of Alaska to providing the weather data for the D-Day landings, marine science has contributed to the security and prosperity of the United States since the inception of the Coast Guard and its predecessor services.

  • Accolades
  • Postdoctoral Researcher Stories
  • Condensed Matter Experiment

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign physics postdoctoral researcher Matteo Mitrano has received the 2019 Young Investigator Award of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University for his pioneering new techniques to probe high-temperature superconductivity.

The early-career award was presented to Mitrano on September 26 at the 2019 SSRL/LCLS Users’ Meeting in Menlo Park, CA. The awardee is selected by the LCLS Users Executive Committee based on nominations from across the user community. 

Mitrano, who has been a member of Illinois Physics Professor Peter Abbamonte’s research group since March 2016, has developed new and innovative techniques in ultrafast X-ray scattering.

  • Accolades
  • Condensed Matter Theory
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Urbana Style

Physics Professor Smitha Vishveshwara has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) “for pioneering theory of quantum dynamics in nonequilibrium systems and novel phenomena in cold Bose gases.”

Vishveshwara is a theoretical condensed matter physicist with broad research interests in non-equilibrium and strongly correlated systems at all scales, from subatomic to cosmic. A common thread throughout her work is the characterization of emergent phenomena in quantum states of matter—including superconductivity, superfluidity, Mott insulators, topological systems, fractional quantum Hall states, and Majorana wires. In true “Urbana style,” Vishveshwara’s collaborations at Illinois and beyond, often involving close rapport with experimental colleagues, have produced viable experimental stratagems and identified clear signatures that characterize particular states of matter.

  • Research

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have constructed a quantum-mechanical state in which the colors of three photons are entangled with each other. The state is a special combination, called a W state, that retains some entanglement even if one of the three photons is lost, which makes it useful for quantum communication. Such entangled states also enable novel quantum applications and tests of fundamental physics. 

 
The uniqueness of this work is that the researchers used color, or the energy of the photons, as the entangling degree of freedom, while previous work used polarization. The energy of a photon cannot be easily changed, which reduces the possibility of errors when the energy-entangled W state is propagating over a long distance. The state was verified for the first time by measuring information about the two-photon sub-systems. Their findings are published in Physical Review Letters.
  • Research
  • Biological Physics
  • Biophysics

Scientists studying genetic transcription are gaining new insights into a process that is fundamental to all life. Transcription is the first step in gene expression, the process taking place within all living cells by which the DNA sequence of a gene is copied into RNA, which in turn (most generally speaking) serves as the template for assembling protein molecules, the basic building blocks of life.

Much of what scientists have uncovered about transcription over the past five decades is based on bulk investigative techniques employing large numbers of living cells. Today, advanced imaging techniques allow scientists to probe the inner workings of transcription at the scale of individual genes, and a new more detailed picture of this vital process is emerging.

Just this week, two new in vivo single-molecule studies of transcription in E. coli were published by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one by Professor Ido Golding and colleagues, unveiling unexpected and up-to-now hidden drivers of cellular individuality; the other by Professor Sangjin Kim and colleagues, demonstrating for the first time that transcription dynamics are affected by molecular-scale long-distance communication between RNA polymerase (RNAP) molecules while they are “reading” a gene sequence one base at a time and assembling the complementary RNA strand.

  • Education

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is selected as one of eight universities to participate in a new initiative to change the culture surrounding doctoral education and career pathways. Led by the Association of American Universities (AAU), the PhD Education Initiative promotes student-centered doctoral education that will make the full range of career pathways available to PhD graduates visible, valued, and viable. Four academic departments that span STEM and the Humanities/Arts will participate in the Initiative: English, History, Mathematics, and Physics.

  • In the Media

Acting goofy is a popular way to make science appealing to kids. But Nadya Mason, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) physics professor, took a whole different route on a recently released web series. “I and Brian Demarco (another physics professor) came up with the basic concept of a scripted series that focused on the process of science,” she says.

  • Accolades

Physics Professor Nadya Mason has been selected a University Scholar by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The highest honor bestowed on faculty by the university, this award recognizes faculty who have made significant contributions in their fields of research and teaching, in line with the university’s reputation for leading-edge innovation and excellence. Mason is one of five faculty members on the Urbana campus to be named to this honor in this selection round.