News

  • Research
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Theory

A team of experimental physicists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have made the first observation of a specific type of TI that’s induced by disorder. Professor Bryce Gadway and his graduate students Eric Meier and Alex An used atomic quantum simulation, an experimental technique employing finely tuned lasers and ultracold atoms about a billion times colder than room temperature, to mimic the physical properties of one-dimensional electronic wires with precisely tunable disorder. The system starts with trivial topology just outside the regime of a topological insulator; adding disorder nudges the system into the nontrivial topological phase.

  • Accolades
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Professor Nadya Mason has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) “for seminal contributions to the understanding of electronic transport in low dimensional conductors, mesoscopic superconducting systems, and topological quantum materials.”

Mason is an experimental condensed matter physicist who has earned a reputation for her deep-sighted and thorough lines of attack on the most pressing problems in strongly correlated nanoscale physics.

  • Alumni News
  • In the Media
  • Biological Physics

These days, Cissé, a newly minted American citizen, is breaking paradigms instead of electronics. He and colleagues are making movies using super-resolution microscopes to learn how genes are turned on. Researchers have spent decades studying this fundamental question.

Cissé thinks physics can help biologists better understand and predict the process of turning genes on, which involves copying genetic instructions from DNA into RNA. His work describes how and when proteins congregate to instigate this process, which keeps cells functioning properly throughout life.

  • Outreach
  • Quantum Information Science

Two University of Illinois faculty members are at the White House in Washington, D.C., today, attending the Advancing American Leadership in QIS Summit.

Quantum Information Science (QIS) and Technology has emerged over the last decade as one of the hottest topics in physics. Researchers collaborating across physics, engineering, and computer science have shown that quantum mechanics—one of the most successful theories of physics that explains nature from the scale of tiny atoms to massive neutron stars—can be a powerful platform for information processing and technologies that will revolutionize security, communication, and computing.

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Recently, a team of scientists led by Pablo Jarillo-Herrero at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a huge stir in the field of condensed matter physics when they showed that two sheets of graphene twisted at specific angles—dubbed “magic-angle” graphene—display two emergent phases of matter not observed in single sheets of graphene. Graphene is a honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms—it’s essentially a one-atom-thick layer of graphite, the dark, flaky material in pencils. 

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have recently shown that the insulating behavior reported by the MIT team has been misattributed. Professor Philip Phillips, a noted expert in the physics of Mott insulators, says a careful review of the MIT experimental data by his team revealed that the insulating behavior of the “magic-angle” graphene is not Mott insulation, but something even more profounda Wigner crystal.

  • Accolades

Professor and Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs Brian DeMarco has been named a University Scholar by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The 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. DeMarco is among 12 faculty members in the University of Illinois System to be selected for this honor in 2018.

  • Research
  • High Energy Physics

Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced its launch of the Institute for Research and Innovation in Software for High-Energy Physics (IRIS-HEP). The $25 million software-focused institute will tackle the unprecedented torrent of data that will come from the high-luminosity running of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator located at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. The High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) will provide scientists with a unique window into the subatomic world to search for new phenomena and to study the properties of the Higgs boson in great detail. The 2012 discovery at the LHC of the Higgs boson—a particle central to our fundamental theory of nature—led to the Nobel Prize in physics a year later and has provided scientists with a new tool for further discovery.

The HL-LHC will begin operations around 2026, continuing into the 2030s. It will produce more than 1 billion particle collisions every second, from which only a tiny fraction will reveal new science, because the phenomena that physicists want to study have a very low probability per collision of occurring. The HL-LHC’s tenfold increase in luminosity—a measure of the number of particle collisions occurring in a given amount of time—will enable physicists to study familiar processes at an unprecedented level of detail and observe rare new phenomena present in nature.

  • Research
  • Biological Physics

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have produced the most precise picture to date of population dynamics in fluctuating feast-or-famine conditions. Professor Seppe Kuehn, a biological physicist, and his graduate student Jason Merritt found that bacterial population density is a function of both the frequency and the amplitude of nutrient fluctuations. They found that the more frequent the feast cycles and the longer a feast cycle, the more rapid the population recovery from a famine state. This result has important implications for understanding how microbial populations cope with the constant nutrient fluctuations they experience in nature.

  • In the Media
  • High Energy Physics

Six years after discovering the Higgs boson, physicists have observed how the particle decays — a monumental contribution to scientists' understanding of the Standard Model of particle physics and the universe at large, study researchers said.

Excitement swirled in the physics community when, in 2012, physicists discovered the Higgs boson, an elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model that relates to how objects have mass. But this discovery didn't mark the end of Higgs boson exploration. In addition to predicting the existence of Higgs boson particles, the Standard Model posits that 60 percent of the time, a Higgs boson particle will decay into fundamental particles called bottom quarks (b quarks). 

  • Research
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Experiment

Now scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign using an innovative quantum simulation technique have made one of the first observations of a mobility edge in a low-dimensional system. Physics professor Bryce Gadway and graduate student Fangzhao Alex An were able to combine a disordered virtual material—in this case a pair of coupled 1D chains—with artificial magnetic fields to explore this phenomenon.

  • Research
  • Biological Physics

In a new study in cells, University of Illinois researchers have adapted CRISPR gene-editing technology to cause the cell’s internal machinery to skip over a small portion of a gene when transcribing it into a template for protein building. This gives researchers a way not only to eliminate a mutated gene sequence, but to influence how the gene is expressed and regulated.

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter
  • Condensed Matter Theory

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed an algorithm that could provide meaningful answers to condensed matter physicists in their searches for novel and emergent properties in materials. The algorithm, invented by physics professor Bryan Clark and his graduate student Eli Chertkov, inverts the typical mathematical process condensed matter physicists use to search for interesting physics. Their new method starts with the answer—what kinds of physical properties would be interesting to find—and works backward to the question—what class of materials would host such properties.

  • In the Media

Scientists recently announced the discovery of a subatomic particle that made its way to Earth from an event that occurred 3.7 billion light-years away. Sensors buried within Antarctic ice detected the ghostly cosmic particle, called a neutrino, and traced its origin to a rapidly spinning galactic nucleus known as a blazar. Physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with physics professor Liang Yang about the significance of the discovery.

  • In the Media

Paul Kwiat asks his volunteers to sit inside a small, dark room. As their eyes adjust to the lack of light, each volunteer props his or her head on a chin rest—as you would at an optometrist’s—and gazes with one eye at a dim red cross. On either side of the cross is an optical fiber, positioned to pipe a single photon of light at either the left or the right side of a volunteer’s eye.

Even as he verifies the human eye’s ability to detect single photons, Kwiat, an experimental quantum physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and his colleagues are setting their sights higher: to use human vision to probe the very foundations of quantum mechanics, according to a paper they submitted to the preprint server arXiv on June 21.