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in the Eberly College of Science
nuggetSunday, Dec 20 2009

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Professor Jainendra Jain has been awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. The Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest award given by the Institute to its alumni in recognition of their achievements of exceptional merit.
nuggetThursday, Nov 12 2009

Reka Albert elected as APS Fellow

Professor Albert has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Election to Fellowship in the American Physical Society is limited to no more than one half of one percent of the membership. Her citation recognizes her pioneering work in understanding the organization and dynamics of biological networks.
nuggetMonday, Nov 9 2009

Faculty Search

The Department of Physics at The Pennsylvania State University (University Park campus) invites applications for faculty appointments effective the Fall semester of 2010. Applicants should have a Ph.D. and an outstanding research record. Rank will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. We seek to recruit in the areas of AMO physics, cosmology and gravitational physics, and condensed matter physics. However, exceptional candidates in any of the department`s current areas of research will be considered. These areas are AMO physics, biological physics, condensed matter physics, gravitational physics, particle physics and particle astrophysics.

Candidates at the junior level should submit a pdf file containing a letter of application, a curriculum vitae and a brief description of research plans, and arrange for four letters of recommendation to be submitted to Nominations and applications for senior positions should be submitted to the address above together with a list of at least six references. Applications completed by December 1, 2009 will be assured of consideration. However, applications will be considered until the positions are filled. Job application assistance is available for dual career situations. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.

nuggetSunday, Nov 1 2009

Time-keeping Neurons

Groups of neurons that precisely keep time have been discovered in the primate brain by a team of researchers that includes Dezhe Jin, assistant professor of physics at Penn State University and two neuroscientists from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This research is the first time that precise time-keeping activities have been identified in recordings of neurone activity. The time-keeping neurones are in two interconnected brain regions, the prefrontal cortex and the striatum, both of which are known to play critical roles in learning, movement, and thought control. The timing of individual actions, like speaking, driving a car, or throwing a football, requires very precise control. Although the lives of humans and other primates are extremely dependent on this remarkable capability, surprisingly little has been known about how brain cells keep track of time. This new discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is an important step toward answering this fundamental question. More...
nuggetWednesday, Sep 30 2009

Outstanding alumnus

Dr. Alvaro Umaña -- Senior Research Fellow at the Tropical Agronomic Center for Research and Higher Education (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica -- is being recognized as an Outstanding Alumnus of the Eberly College of Science. He will also present this week's Colloquium ("Biophysical Economics") at 4 pm on Thursday, October 1 in 117 Osmond. Dr. Umaña received his BS in Physics with Honors and an MS in Environmental Pollution Control from Penn State, followed by a Masters in Economics and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering & Science from Stanford University. He is an Advisor to President Oscar Arias on conservation, energy and climate change and holds the title of Chief Negotiator for the Climate Change Convention on behalf of Costa Rica. He was Costa Rica's first Minister of Energy and Environment from 1986-1990 in President Arias' first administration. He was founding member and Chair of the World Bank Inspection Panel, and has also been a member of the Board of UNESCO, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Resources Institute, the Stockholm Environment Institute and a member of the Goldman Environmental Prize Jury since 1990.
nuggetSaturday, Sep 19 2009

DOE's 'Outstanding Junior Investigator Award'

Anna Stasto, assistant professor of physics at Penn State, is the recipient of one of the three Outstanding Junior Investigator (OJI) awards in the field of nuclear physics presented by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this year. These highly competitive awards are intended to recognize scientific achievement in the fields of particle and nuclear physics and to identify and support the development of faculty members during the early years of their careers. The Outstanding Junior Investigator Award will help to support Stasto's research for three years.
nuggetWednesday, Sep 16 2009

Numbers are Not Everything

Professor Milton Cole has written an article for Academe Online discussing the role of numerical measures in the assessment of faculty performance. More...
nuggetFriday, Sep 11 2009

Memorial service for Professor Vedam

Professor Kuppuswamy Vedam, a retired Professor of Physics and accomplished researcher at the MRL for his pioneering work in ellipsometry, passed away last week. There will be a Memorial Service in the Memorial Hall of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the Penn State campus, at 2:30pm on Sunday September 20th, with a reception following.
nuggetTuesday, Sep 1 2009

Can Gravity and Quantum Particles Be Reconciled After All?

Work by Radu Roiban has been featured in both Science and Physics. More...
nuggetWednesday, Aug 26 2009

Irving Langmuir Prize

Will Castleman has garnered the Irving Langmuir Prize for outstanding interdisciplinary research in chemistry and physics.
nuggetTuesday, Aug 25 2009

C60 reconstructs silver

A recent paper in Physical Review Letters that describes an experiment performed by Hsin-I Li in Renee Diehl’s group has been featured on the cover and highlighted in Viewpoint published in Physics 2, 64 (2009). The results of this experiment provide the first unambiguous determination of the complete structure of C60 molecules on a silver surface. As a result of its high symmetry and conjugated bond structure, the electronic properties of C60 are very unusual and there is a large research effort toward integrating it into molecular scale electronic devices. The structure that forms involves a significant reconstruction of the Ag surface in which the C60 molecules create and then occupy vacancies in a periodic array. Related first-principles calculations based on this newly discovered structure reveal that such reconstructions are the rule rather than the exception for C60 monolayers. This paper was also selected for inclusion in the Virtual Journal of Nanoscale Science & Technology and was featured as a Research Highlight in Nature Nanotechnology and in the magazine of the German Physical Society
nuggetMonday, Aug 24 2009

Memorial Service for Peter Eklund

A memorial service celebrating the life of Peter Eklund will be held at St Paul's United Methodist Church, 109 Mcallister Street, at 1 PM on August 29.
nuggetMonday, Aug 17 2009

Louis Rosen, 91

Louis Rosen, a Penn State Ph.D. graduate who worked on the first hydrogen bomb and pioneered the development of pion accelerators, passed away August 15 at the age of 91. More...
nuggetWednesday, Jul 22 2009

Graphane: First in a family of 2D crystals

Graphane, the compound theoretically predicted by Jorge Sofo in 2007 and synthesized by D. Elias et al. in January of 2009, is referred as the first member of a family of 2D crystals in a review by Andre Geim in Science Magazine. (A. K. Geim, “Graphene: Status and Prospects,” Science 324, 1530-1534, 2009). A quote from the article reads: "An alternative to the surface chemistry perspective is to consider graphene as a giant flat molecule (as first suggested by Linus Pauling). Like any other molecule, graphene can partake in chemical reactions. The important difference between the two viewpoints is that in the latter case, adsorbates are implicitly assumed to attach to the carbon scaffold in a stoichiometric manner - that is, periodically rather than randomly. This should result in new 2D crystals with distinct electronic structures and different electrical, optical, and chemical properties. The first known example is graphane, a 2D hydrocarbon with one hydrogen atom attached to every site of the honeycomb lattice (30, 31)." Ref. 30 is a paper by Geim (D. C. Elias et al., Science 323, 610 (2009)) reporting the synthesis of graphane. Graphane was predicted and named in Ref. 31 - J. O. Sofo, A. S. Chaudhari, G. D. Barber, Phys. Rev. B 75, 153401 (2007).
nuggetTuesday, Jun 23 2009

Nature Physics Highlight on Magnetars

Most massive stars end their lifes in a supernova explosion which leaves behind a degenerate neutron star, a few of which, called magnetars, have magnetic fields as high as 1015 Gauss. These are likely to accelerate protons to relativistic velocities, which can interact with the surrounding remnant's cold proton and photon targets to produce TeV neutrinos. The later may be detectable with the IceCube Antarctic Cherenkov telescope. This is discussed in an article by Kohta Murase, Peter Meszaros and Bing Zhang in Phys. ReV. D, 79, 103001 (2009), which was highlighted in Nature Physics More...
nuggetMonday, Jun 8 2009

First-principles design of nanomachines

A recent paper by Jayanth Banavar, Marek Cieplak, Trinh Hoang, and Amos Maritan (PNAS 106, 6900 (2009)) on the first-principles design of nanomachines has been featured in Nature Materials in a piece by Philip Ball. The great simplicity in our understanding of inanimate matter stems from the notion of its phases. For example, liquids have certain common characteristics, such as their ability to flow and their adopting the shape of the container that they are placed in, independent of the chemistry of the constituent molecules. The authors seek to identify a novel phase of matter whose characteristics match those required for the operation of nifty machines. The figure shows two dominant conformations of a chain of spheres between which switching takes place due to thermal fluctuations. As stated by Ball, "In this view, it may be wrong to insist that there is anything 'special' about proteins: they are specific examples of a generic phase of molecules that, poised between the dense, deathly order and unstructured chaos, makes life possible. This adds to the (old) notion that it is in the 'exotic' fluid phases, such as liquid crystals and glasses, that we will find intimations of life-like behaviour."
nuggetWednesday, Jun 3 2009

Gamma-Ray Bursts in Thomson Reuter Science Watch

Thomson Reuter Science Watch has put on their website an analysis of the past ten years work on Gamma-Ray Bursts, the most energetic explosions in our universe, and an interview with Peter Meszaros who is ranked #1 in number of papers and total number of citations in GRB research. Here is a quote from Peter: "Major questions of interest to all humanity, such as how the Universe looks at the earliest times and the largest distances we can probe, can be addressed with resources which require a minuscule fraction of the US budget. International collaborations are invaluable in achieving such goals. Universities, both public and private, coupled to the resources of national labs and agencies, are ideal hothouses for providing the talent and manpower which can lead to momentous scientific results". More...
nuggetFriday, May 29 2009

IceCube featured in This Week in Physics

Professors Doug Cowen and Tyce DeYoung lead a group of postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduates performing research with the IceCube experiment at the South Pole. A recent article published by their collaboration was featured in Physical Review Letters "This Week in Physics" website:

"In the search for dark matter, among the most interesting candidates is the neutralino, a neutral particle, predicted in supersymmetric extensions of the standard model, which interacts only weakly with other matter. Since the neutralino is expected to be stable, it may be possible to find particles that are relics of the early universe.

"Theorists have predicted that the sun’s gravity can trap neutralinos, which could collect in its center and then annihilate each other. The standard-model particles created by these annihilations could subsequently decay, producing high-energy neutrinos that could escape from the sun and be detected on earth. Based on searches for these neutrinos, the IceCube Collaboration has now reported in Physical Review Letters new limits on neutralino annihilations in the sun.

"The IceCube neutrino detector is located between 1.5 and 2.5 km beneath the Antarctic ice, to reduce background events from cosmic rays. When muon neutrinos from the sun interact with the ice, they create relativistic charged particles (muons and showers of hadrons) that produce Cherenkov light, which is picked up by the detector. In an experiment lasting more than three months, no excess of neutrinos from the direction of the sun was detected. The experimentalists have therefore placed stringent limits on neutralino annihilations in the sun—a factor of 6 improvement over some previous limits—and from these, limits on the cross section for neutralino-proton interactions for neutralinos with masses above 250 GeV. These results narrow the possibilities for dark matter." (Stanley Brown, Physical Review Letters, from

nuggetTuesday, May 5 2009

Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium fellowship

Graduate student Tyler Anderson has received a two-year graduate fellowship from the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium. This is in support of his work on the NASA-supported CREAM (Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass) balloon-borne experiment to study very high-energy cosmic rays and measure their elemental abundances. This provides important clues on high-energy astrophysical processes in the Galaxy, such as particle acceleration in supernova remnants. The CREAM high-altitude balloon flights take place annually over Antarctica, where Tyler traveled in support of the 2008/09 flight campaign. Tyler works in the group of Prof. Stephane Coutu.
nuggetFriday, May 1 2009

Carboranethiol Self-assembled Monolayers

Work from the group of Professor Paul Weiss on self-assembled monolayers composed of carboranethiols has been featured in Materials Today. More...
nuggetTuesday, Apr 28 2009

Undergraduate Research Symposium

The Physics Department sends congratulations to Meagan Lang and Karan Jani who recently took top honors in this year Penn State Undergraduate Research Symposium. Meagan's work, described in the poster "Improving Real-Time Gravitational Wave Astronomy" described and described the development and operation of a new LIGO data analysis pipeline that is capable of identifying the detailed waveforms of gravitational waves on a network of detectors. Karan's work, described in the poster "Pointing a Space Based Gravitational Wave Telescope", addressed how the initial orientation of the proposed LISA detector affects its sensitivity to different gravitational waves sources.
nuggetMonday, Apr 20 2009


Professor Tom Mallouk has been elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
nuggetTuesday, Apr 7 2009

Monopoles in the news

Work in Peter Schiffer's group on effective monopole dynamics in spin ice has been featured in the New Scientist:
    ..."Suddenly, there was a community of physicists who became monopole hunters," says Peter Holdsworth of the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, one of the people bitten by the bug. Together with his colleague Ludovic Jaubert, he has produced independent confirmation of the monopole idea. In a paper published last month (Nature Physics, vol 5, p 258), the pair revisit an experiment reported in 2004 by a group led by Peter Schiffer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Schiffer's team had shown that when a magnetic field was applied to spin ice at low temperatures and then removed, the spins were surprisingly slow to revert to their original state (Physical Review B, vol 64, p 064414). Jaubert and Holdsworth calculated that monopoles explain this perfectly: at low temperatures, monopoles do not have enough energy to move freely, and so make the magnetic response of the entire system sluggish by just the amount the experiments had found...
nuggetWednesday, Apr 1 2009


For the occasion of Abhay Ashtekar's 60th birthday, AbhayFest will be hosted at Penn State's University Park campus June 4-6, 2009. The program will provide a broad perspective on research in classical general relativity, diverse approaches to quantum gravity and other related areas. Registration and conference information for AbhayFest can be found at
nuggetTuesday, Mar 31 2009

National Academies Keck Futures Initiative

Steven Schiff is the recipient of a National Academies Keck Futures Initiative grant to study complexity entitled “Model based forecasting of epileptic seizures”
nuggetThursday, Mar 12 2009

Election to the Division of Materials Physics

Professor Peter Schiffer has been elected Vice-Chair of the Division of Materials Physics of the American Physical Society.
nuggetSunday, Mar 1 2009

Moroccan gems

Photos of Moroccan gems by John Passaneau, staff member in the Physics Department, will appear in the March/April issue of Saudi Aramco World Magazine.
nuggetSunday, Feb 22 2009

Sloan Research Fellowship

Anna Stasto, assistant professor of physics, has been awarded the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. These awards seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. The winners in this year are 118 faculty members at 61 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada who are conducting research at the frontiers of physics, chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics and neuroscience. Stasto's research focuses on theory of strong interactions of elementary particles - quantum chromodynamics (QCD), in the limit of high energies. In this regime novel phenomena are expected to occur which are related to the high quark and gluon densities. This regime will be soon explored by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Stasto's research includes resummation of perturbative series, nonlinear effects in parton evolution, theoretical description of collisions of hadrons and leptons, as well as the ultrahigh energy neutrino physics.
nuggetWednesday, Feb 11 2009

ACS Nano wins Best New Journal award

ACS Nano was recognized by Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers as the "Best New Journal" in the science/technology/medicine category. Paul S. Weiss, distinguished professor of chemistry and physics at Pennsylvania State University, is editor-in-chief of the interdisciplinary monthly publication. ACS Nano includes peer-reviewed articles and reviews, as well as perspectives and conversations with leaders in nanoscience and nanotechnology.
nuggetMonday, Feb 9 2009

Protons and neutrons cosy up in nuclei and neutron stars

Mark Strikman is coauthor of an article published in The CERN Courier of Jan 27, 2009 entitled "Protons and neutrons cosy up in nuclei and neutron stars". Douglas Higinbotham, Eli Piasetzky and Mark Strikman investigate recent measurements that have probed the cold, dense nuclear systems of nucleons comparable to those of neutron stars. More...
nuggetSaturday, Jan 31 2009


Graphane, a fully hydrogenated form of graphene, was described in 2007 theory paper by Jorge Sofo and coworkers. A recent paper in Science by Elias et al. claims to have synthesize graphane by reaction of graphene with atomic hydrogen. The paper shows transmission electron microscopy diffraction patterns and Raman spectra in support of their claim. The hydrogenation seems to be reversible.
nuggetWednesday, Jan 28 2009

Plasmon switch

As featured in Nature Materials: Plasmonic systems that can manipulate and guide light at subwavelength scales should prove useful for developing nanoscale photonic integrated circuits. To realise molecular active plasmonics, a reversible shift of localized surface plasmon resonances of nanostructures by changing the interactions between molecular resonances and surface plasmon resonances is required. Tony Jun Huang and colleagues now show that a gold nanodisk array coated with rotaxane molecules and exposed to chemical reductants and oxidants exhibits reversible plasmon-based switching. This molecular plasmonic device can be operated by switching the extinction properties of a bistable rotaxane and the reversible switching correlates with the chemically driven mechanical switching observed for surface-bound rotaxane molecules. This correlation, supported by controlled experiments and a DFT microscopic model, suggest that nanoscale movement with surface-bound molecular machines can be used as the active components of plasmonic devices. More...
nuggetFriday, Jan 23 2009

Aluminum Cluster Anions

Featured in Chemistry World and Chemical and Engineering News: The reactions of metal clusters with small molecules often depend on cluster size. The selectivity of oxygen reactions with aluminum cluster anions can be well described within an electronic shell model; however, not all reactions are subject to the same fundamental constraints. We observed the size selectivity of aluminum cluster anion reactions with water, which can be attributed to the dissociative chemisorption of water at specific surface sites. The reactivity depends on geometric rather than electronic shell structure. Identical arrangements of multiple active sites in Al16, Al17, and Al18 result in the production of H2 from water.
nuggetSunday, Jan 11 2009

Mark's 60th Birthday

The International Workshop on "High Energy Nuclear Physics and QCD" at Florida International University, Miami on February 3-6, 2010 will be dedicated to Mark Strikman, who is celebrating his 60th birthday.
nuggetWednesday, Jan 7 2009

Graduate School Alumni Association Dissertation Award

Xiao Li is a student of Professor David Weiss working on the neutral atom quantum computing experiment. His research involves using laser beams to cool and trap hundreds of single atoms in a 3D optical lattice. The research group has shown that the atoms in this lattice can be individually observed, and eventually individually addressed. This highly scalable system is a promising starting point for a quantum computer.
nuggetThursday, Jan 1 2009

Outstanding Referees

Moses Chan and Jerry Mahan have been named Outstanding Referees by the American Physical Society.
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