News

  • Faculty News

Kevin Pitts of the University of Illinois has been named chief research officer at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory beginning March 1. His focus will be on oversight for the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, including advancing scientific excellence across the laboratory through strong communication, collaboration and coordination with the Department of Energy and other partners. He joins the laboratory as it prepares to usher in a new era of science and innovation in particle physics research and discovery. Pitts joins Fermilab after 22 years with the University of Illinois where he was most recently the vice provost for undergraduate education and a professor of physics in the Grainger College of Engineering. He has a long history working on experiments at Fermilab, including participation in the discovery of the top quark in 1995.  Additionally, he has been serving on the Long Baseline Neutrino Committee since 2016.

  • Accolades

Illinois Physics Senior Academic Advisor Merissa Milton has been selected for the University of Illinois 2021 Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising.

Recipients of this award are recognized for their excellence in and innovative approaches to undergraduate advising, and for having had a major impact on undergraduate students and their intellectual development through sustained academic advising relationships. The award, part of the Campus Awards for Excellence in Instruction program, will be presented to Milton at the annual Celebration of Teaching Excellence in May.

  • Accolades

SABR is pleased to announce the 2021 recipients of the Henry Chadwick Award, established to honor the game’s great researchers — historians, statisticians, annalists, and archivists — for their invaluable contributions to making baseball the game that links America’s present with its past.

Alan Nathan (1946 – ) has been a professor of physics at the University of Illinois since 1977, with a specialty in experimental nuclear/particle physics. Now a professor emeritus, Nathan has spent the past quarter-century creating a body of knowledge around the physics of baseball. His extensive research and numerous articles, in particular on the collision between the bat and ball and the flight of the baseball, has dramatically expanded our quantitative understanding and visualization of baseball’s most fundamental interactions. Beyond the physical interactions themselves, Nathan’s research has examined their implications, from how a batter’s swing might be optimized to the insights extractable out of the data explosion from ballpark-installed technologies.

  • Accolades

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the election of University of Illinois Professor of Bioengineering and Bliss Faculty Scholar Sergei Maslov, to its College of Fellows. Maslov holds an affiliate appointment at Illinois Physics and is a member of the Carle R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology on the Urbana campus.
Maslov was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for his contributions to computational biology including microbiome dynamics, microbial and viral ecology, genomics, and studies of complex biological networks.

  • Accolades

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Physics Professor Emeritus and Research Professor Gordon Baym has been presented with the largest research prize of the American Physical Society (APS), the 2021 Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research. This medal recognizes high-level research contributions that advance our knowledge and understanding of the physical universe. The medal comes with a $50,000 monetary award.

  • Accolades

For her research into long-time numerical path integral simulations of quantum dissipative systems, the Physical Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society has named Nancy Makri the recipient of the 2021 Award in Theoretical Chemistry.

Makri, the Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Chair and Professor of Chemistry,?has developed exact methods for long-time numerical path integral simulations of quantum dissipative systems with application to quantum liquids, electron transfer and photosynthesis. She is also a professor in the Department of Physics and at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

  • In the Media

For physicist Nicolas Yunes of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, black holes and other cosmic behemoths continue to amaze. “Just thinking about the dimensions of these objects, how large they are, how heavy they are, how dense they are,” he says, “it’s really breathtaking.”

  • COVID-19
  • Outreach

Given their background in big data analytics, particle physicists like Illinois Physics Professor Mark Neubauer are well-primed to study COVID-19's biology. Neubauer is currently serving on the executive boards of three groups that bring together scientists of diverse backgrounds to confront the pandemic: the Institute for Research and Innovation in Software for High Energy Physics (IRIS-HEP), Open Science Grid, and Science Responds. These groups are coordinating their efforts and contributing valuable computing resources to understand the virus at the biological level.

  • Education

Eric’s physics classroom is a place for investing in the future as much as it is for excelling in the moment. As a veteran teacher who has taught everything from introductory physics to mathematics and college-level courses, he uses his twenty years of experience to help students construct a scaffolding that can support and ground their own valuable experiences. At the heart of Eric’s teaching philosophy is a desire to give students a space where they can take charge of their own learning. He says, “I want to let my students become adults, to do their homework not for my sake but for the sake of learning and the discipline of wanting to better themselves.”

  • In the Media

As early as March, the Muon g-2 experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) will report a new measurement of the magnetism of the muon, a heavier, short-lived cousin of the electron. The effort entails measuring a single frequency with exquisite precision. In tantalizing results dating back to 2001, g-2 found that the muon is slightly more magnetic than theory predicts. If confirmed, the excess would signal, for the first time in decades, the existence of novel massive particles that an atom smasher might be able to produce, says Aida El-Khadra, a theorist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “This would be a very clear sign of new physics, so it would be a huge deal.”

  • Alumni News
  • In the Media
  • Research

Viruses like H.I.V. tend to be on the softer side, smooshing down like a foam ball, whereas the ones that cause influenza are more brittle, prone to cracking like an egg, said Dr. Perilla, a biophysical chemist at the University of Delaware in Newark. Coronaviruses, he suspects, are somewhere in the middle, a sort of tactile Goldilocks in the world of infectious disease.

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Many properties of metals can remarkably be understood in terms of “free” electrons, even though electrons interact with each other through a Coulomb force, which can be both large and long ranged. It turns out that these interactions collectively result in the emergence of “quasiparticles” whose behavior is very similar to that of free, non-interacting electrons. This description forms the basis of the famous Landau Fermi liquid theory. In fact, the notion of finding new non-interacting quasiparticles to describe complicated interacting systems is a key paradigm in condensed matter physics. 

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Theory

Real-world materials are usually messier than the idealized scenarios found in textbooks. Imperfections can add complications and even limit a material’s usefulness. To get around this, scientists routinely strive to remove defects and dirt entirely, pushing materials closer to perfection. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have turned this problem around and shown that for some materials defects could act as a probe for interesting physics, rather than a nuisance. 

The team, led by professors Gaurav Bahl and Taylor Hughes, studied artificial materials, or metamaterials, which they engineered to include defects.

  • In the Media

The smaller black hole would serve as a precise probe of the spacetime around the bigger black hole, revealing whether it warps and twists exactly as the Kerr metric dictates. An affirmative result would cement the case that black holes are what general relativity predicts, Yunes says. “But you have to wait for LISA.”