• Research

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are pleased to announce the new Center for AstroPhysical Surveys (CAPS). The center is a collaborative effort between NCSA, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Department of Astronomy, and the Department of Physics at Illinois that seeks to bring cohesion and advancement to astrophysical survey science efforts across campus. This effort is led by Illinois Astronomy and Physics Professor Joaquin Vieira.

  • Student News

Logan Meredith, a doctoral candidate in Davide Curreli’s research group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is one of five graduate students chosen for a fellowship that places them at U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facilities for extended periods.

The DOE National Nuclear Security Administration Laboratory Residency Graduate Fellowship (DOE NNSA LRGF) focuses on Ph.D. candidates working in selected areas important to national security. Fellows will serve at least two 12-week residencies at one or more of four DOE sites. The program encourages students to pursue their thesis research during their stays and to take on additional extended residencies.

  • Research Funding

The Grainger College of Engineering’s Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST) is a partner institution in two of the five Department of Energy Quantum Information Science Research Centers, announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on August 26. These centers are aligned with the U.S. National Quantum Initiative Act signed into law in 2018, which called for a long-term, large-scale commitment of U.S. scientific and technological resources to quantum science.

The two centers, Q-NEXT and Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center (SQMS) will be each be funded at $115 million over five years, with $15 million in Fiscal Year 2020 dollars and out year funding contingent on Congressional appropriations. These are part of a large-scale Department of Energy federal program to facilitate and foster quantum innovation in the United States. 

  • Accolades

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Physics Professor Emeritus and Research Professor Gordon Baym has been selected to receive the largest research prize of the American Physical Society, 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.

Baym is a theoretical physicist who uses quantum statistical mechanics to understand the laws governing matter under the most extreme conditions in the universe. His body of research spans nuclear physics, astrophysics, condensed matter physics, and the history of physics, and over the course of his career he has made a deep impact in each of these fields.

  • Research Funding

The United States Department of Energy awards $2.2 million to the FAIR Framework for Physics-Inspired Artificial Intelligence in High Energy Physics project, spearheaded by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation (CAII) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The primary focus of this project is to advance our understanding of the relationship between data and artificial intelligence (AI) models by exploring relationships among them through the development of FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) frameworks. Using High Energy Physics (HEP) as the science driver, this project will develop a FAIR framework to advance our understanding of AI, provide new insights to apply AI techniques, and provide an environment where novel approaches to AI can be explored.

This project is an interdisciplinary, multi-department, and multi-institutional effort led by Eliu Huerta, principal investigator, director of the CAII, senior research scientist at NCSA, and faculty in Physics, Astronomy, Computational Science and Engineering and the Illinois Center for Advanced Studies of the Universe at UIUC. Alongside Huerta are co-PIs from Illinois: Zhizhen Zhao, assistant professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Coordinated Science Laboratory; Mark Neubauer, professor of physics, member of Illinois Center for Advanced Studies of the Universe, and faculty affiliate in ECE, NCSA, and the CAII; Volodymyr Kindratenko, co-director of the CAII, senior research scientist at NCSA, and faculty at ECE and Computer Science; Daniel S. Katz, assistant director of Scientific Software and Applications at NCSA, faculty in ECE, CS, and School of Information Sciences. In addition, the team is joined by co-PIs Roger Rusack, professor of physics at the University of Minnesota; Philip Harris, assistant professor of physics at MIT; and Javier Duarte, assistant professor in physics at UC San Diego.

  • Research

This year, 31 research teams have been awarded a combined 5.87 million node hours on the Summit supercomputer, the OLCF’s 200 petaflop IBM AC922 system. The research performed through the ALCC program this year will range from the impact of jets on offshore wind farms to the structure and states of quantum materials to the behavior of plasma within fusion reactors—all computationally intensive scientific applications necessitating the power of a large-scale supercomputer like Summit.

  • In Memoriam

Jim was widely viewed as one of the best teachers in the Physics Department. He was frequently listed in the University’s roster of excellent instructors and won awards for his classroom skills. In 2012, he received the Arnold T. Nordsieck Physics Award for Teaching Excellence for his “patient, insightful, and inspiring physics teaching, one problem at a time, that encourages undergraduate students to take their understanding to a new level.”

  • Research

Now a team of theoretical physicists at the Institute for Condensed Matter Theory (ICMT) in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, led by Illinois Physics Professor Philip Phillips, has for the first time exactly solved a representative model of the cuprate problem, the 1992 Hatsugai-Kohmoto (HK) model of a doped Mott insulator.

  • Alumni News

How do cells use physics to carry out biological processes? Biophysicist Ibrahim Cissé explores this fundamental question in his interdisciplinary laboratory, leveraging super-resolution microscopy to probe the properties of living matter. As a postdoc in 2013, he discovered that RNA polymerase II, a critical protein in gene expression, forms fleeting (“transient”) clusters with similar molecules in order to transcribe DNA into RNA. He joined the Department of Physics in 2014, and was recently granted tenure and a joint appointment in biology. He sat down to discuss how his physics training led him to rewrite the textbook on biology.

  • Quantum Information Science

The Grainger College of Engineering’s Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST) will launch a National Science Foundation Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks (HQAN). The collaborative institute spans three Midwest research powerhouses, all of which are members of the Chicago Quantum Exchange: The University of Illinois, University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin. HQAN also includes partnerships with industry and government labs.

Established with a $25 million, five-year NSF award, the HQAN institute will be one of only three Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes in the country. Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes will bring together multidisciplinary researchers and diverse partners to advance scientific, technological, and workforce development goals.

  • Research

What is the true nature of dark matter? What is dark energy? Why is the expansion of the universe accelerating? Why is there way more matter than antimatter in the universe? And is Einstein’s theory of general relativity correct even under the most extreme conditions in the universe?

These big fundamental questions have yet to be answered.

According to Nicolas Yunes, founding director of the new Illinois Center for Advanced Studies of the Universe (ICASU) housed in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, scientists are making great strides in our understanding of the fundamental nature of our universe by collaborating across scientific disciplines.

“Our scientific understanding of the universe is at a tipping point, thanks to recent observations and to new computational and mathematical models for understanding these observations,” comments Yunes. “The level of complexity, however, is such that a compartmentalized approach to science is useful no longer, and only through collaboration can we shed new light on the nature of the universe.”

  • Outreach

The Physics Education Research (PER) group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has received a $2.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve the quality and accessibility of high school physics courses across the State of Illinois through a new program called the Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools (IPaSS) Partnership Program. The IPaSS program already kicked off its first intensive summer institute in mid-June, welcoming a small cohort of four physics teachers. The number of teachers in the IPaSS program will expand incrementally each year over the four years of grant funding, maxing out at 40 Illinois physics teachers.

The goal of the new program will be to provide high school students across the state with the highest quality high school physics experience, engaging students’ interest in STEM fields and preparing them to succeed at competitive research institutions like the U of I. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math—fields the U.S. government has recognized are a high educational priority for a strong tech-field workforce. The program will not only help align existing high school physics courses with university-level expectations, but will also provide support for under-resourced high schools to offer physics courses for the first time.