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nuggetFriday, Dec 21 2012

Quantum Gravity Extension of the Inflationary Scenario

Thanks to the space missions of the past two decades, we have entered the era of precision cosmology. A `standard' inflationary model of the early universe has emerged, which enjoys remarkable success in explaining the observed features of the cosmic background radiation. Yet the model is incomplete because it retains the Big Bang of general relativity where its underlying physics simply stops. One needs a quantum theory of gravity to go beyond Einstein and capture the true physics near the putative Big Bang. A promising avenue is provided by loop quantum gravity (LQG) where the Big Bang is naturally replaced by a Big Bounce and physics does not stop. This paper uses LQG to further extend our understanding of the very early cosmos. LQG suggests that the observable universe was homogeneous at the bounce except for the unceasing quantum fluctuations that cannot be gotten rid of even in principle. These are shown to evolve into the observed inhomogeneities in the background radiation which in turn serve as seeds for the large scale structure. Thus, the genesis of the cosmic structure is pushed back from the inflationary epoch all the way to the Big Bounce, covering some 11 orders of magnitude in matter density and curvature. In addition, there is a small window in the parameter space where the theory predicts new effects that could be observed in future missions. More... (Image: An artist's image of the Big Bounce of Loop Quantum Cosmology, Luca Pozzi)
nuggetFriday, Nov 30 2012

Nitin Samarth elected Fellow of AAAS

Congratulations to Nitin Samarth on being elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He joins 9 other faculty who have received this honor in the past. More...
nuggetWednesday, Nov 21 2012

Distinguished Professor

Mark Strikman has been appointed Distinguished Professor.
nuggetFriday, Nov 2 2012

Faculty Openings

The Department of Physics at The Pennsylvania State University (University Park campus) anticipates making two or more new faculty appointments that will start in Fall 2013. We seek exceptional candidates in any of the department’s current areas of research, which are AMO physics, astro-particle physics, biological physics, condensed matter physics, gravitational physics, and particle physics. More...
nuggetThursday, Nov 1 2012

Nanoscale, geometrically-asymmetric tunnel junctions for collection and rectification of light

Penn State Altoona is one of the key players in a collaborative research endeavor with the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut, and Scitech Associates Holdings, Inc. of State College, to study the physics of a quantum tunneling device aimed at harnessing the visible portion of the solar spectrum – a feat that has never been accomplished. The National Science Foundation awarded a total of $650K to perform “Electro-optical studies of nanoscale, geometrically-asymmetric tunnel junctions for collection and rectification of light from infrared through visible.” The objective of the research project is to develop a “rectenna” device consisting of a nanosized antenna and an ultra-fast tunnel diode that simultaneously collects and rectifies solar radiation. The Altoona team consists of physics professors Gary Weisel, Brock Weiss, and Darin Zimmerman, and materials science professor, James Chen. The University of Connecticut team is headed by Brian Willis, Professor of Chemical Engineering. The collaboration also employs Penn State Emeritus physics professors Paul Cutler and Nicholas Miskovsky who are the senior personnel of Scitech.
nuggetMonday, Jun 18 2012

Leonard Eun wins RHIC/AGS thesis award

Dr. Leonard Eun has been selected as one of the winners of the 2012 RHIC and AGS Thesis Award for his dissertation entitled `Transverse Single Spin Asymmetries and Cross-Sections for Forward Pi Zero and Eta Mesons at Large Transverse Momentum in 200 GeV Collisions at the STAR Detector.’ The award was made during the RHIC and AGS Annual Users Meeting at Brookhaven National Labs on Thursday, June 14th, presented by Associate Lab Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics, Steven Vigdor. Len was an undergraduate in the Physics Department here at PSU and stayed on as a graduate student, finishing his Ph. D. in 2011 working with Prof. Steve Heppelmann. Len is now a postdoc at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Congrats to Len and Steve on this honor.
nuggetThursday, May 10 2012

Moses Chan testifies at US Senate

Helium is a precious resource vital for science, technology and national security. In his testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Moses Chan discussed the conclusions of a National Academies of Science report that he co-authored in 2010, arguing that the current law’s requirement that the Bureau of Land Management sell-off nearly all the Federal Helium Reserve by 2015 could pose a threat to the availability of this resource for future U.S. scientific, technical, biomedical, and national security users of helium. More... (Image: Screenshot from Senate webcast.)
nuggetTuesday, May 8 2012

Physics majors honored at Spring 2012 graduation - Meet Nobel Laureate Steven Chu

Physics majors Matthew Jaffe and Patrick Breysse represented the Physics and Astronomy Departments respectively at the 2012 Eberly College of Science commencement ceremony as student marshals. Matthew is a triple major (E SC, Physics, and Math), did research at CERN, and with Profs. Jun Zhu and Martin Bojowald. Matt will be playing professional ultimate Frisbee this coming summer before entering the graduate Physics program at UC Berkeley in Fall. Patrick is a double major (Physics and Astronomy/Astrophysics), did research with Prof. Sam Finn, and won a prestigious Astronaut Fellowship while at PSU. Patrick played in the Penn State Blue Band all for years and will attend Johns Hopkins University next Fall. After the ceremony they both met Nobel laureate and Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu.
nuggetTuesday, May 8 2012

Physics graduate student Tyler Engstrom awarded a Penn State Academic Computing Fellowship.

Tyler Engstrom has been awarded a 2012 Academic Computing Fellowship from the PSU Graduate School for the next three years. Tyler's research focuses on phase stability in neutron star and pulsar crusts, in particular the completely ionized layers. The Academic Computing Fellowship was awarded for his proposal to use multigrid methods for nonlinear Thomas-Fermi equations, as well as a genetic algorithm to search for the ground state of multi-component accreted crusts. He is advised by Vin Crespi, and collaborates with Ben Owen and James Brannick (Math).
nuggetTuesday, May 1 2012

Physics graduate student teaching awards for 2012

The 2012 Physics Department Graduate TA awards were presented at the last Physics Colloquium of the year. This year’s winners were (see picture, from left to right) Asher Evans, Tom Flanagan, Ian Gilbert, and Warren Wright. The winner of the 2012 Stan Sheperd Award was George Paily. The Sheperd TA Award is “…given to a senior Physics graduate student who has excelled in teaching and who has contributed to the instructional mission of the Physics Department above and beyond their assigned TA duties.” The award honors Prof. Stan Sheperd whose record of teaching and service to undergraduate students at Penn State was marked by such a commitment to excellence.
nuggetSunday, Apr 22 2012

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory reports a surprising discovery in Nature

The intense conditions needed to generate cosmic rays have focused physicists’ interest on two potential sources: the massive black holes at the centers of active galaxies, and the exploding fireballs observed by astronomers as gamma ray bursts. Doug Cowen, Tyce de Young and Peter Meszaros are part of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory that is using neutrinos, believed to accompany cosmic ray production, to explore these theories. In a paper published April 19 in the journal Nature, the IceCube collaboration describes a search for neutrinos emitted from 300 gamma ray bursts observed, most recently in coincidence with the SWIFT and Fermi satellites, between May 2008 and April 2010. Surprisingly, they found none - a result that contradicts 15 years of predictions and challenges one of the two leading theories for the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays. More... (Image:
nuggetFriday, Apr 13 2012

Former PSU Physics major honored with Alumni Achievement Award

Danielle S. Bassett ’04 is a Sage Junior Research Fellow in the University of California, Santa Barbara’s departments of physics and psychological and brain sciences. Bassett’s research places her at the forefront of the field of network science, where she is currently concentrating on neuroscience and social and information systems to help better understand human behavior. Named a Sage Junior Research Fellow in the fall of 2011 and a noted researcher, Bassett has authored 31 publications and is a sought-after lecturer. While an undergraduate and a Schreyer Honors Scholar at Penn State, Bassett received many accolades, including the Paul Axt Prize in the Schreyer Honors College. Danielle returned to campus to give a seminar on her research in the Physics Department. She was accompanied by her husband, Lee Bassett (also PSU/Physics, class of 2004) who gave a talk on his research related to experimental realizations of quantum computation.
nuggetSunday, Apr 8 2012

Network Dynamics: Reka Albert's cover article in Physics Today

Networks that govern communication, growth, herd behavior, and other key processes in nature and society are becoming increasingly amenable to modeling, forecast, and control. In the April issue of Physics Today, an article by Adilson Motter and Réka Albert reviews the status of this field. More... (Image:
nuggetMonday, Mar 26 2012

Graduate Exhibition Winner

Alejandro Suarez has been awarded first place in the Physical Sciences & Mathematics category of the Twenty-seventh Annual Graduate Exhibition for his poster titled "Computationally Searching for Magnetism in Graphene". In the Graduate Exhibition, open to all graduate students currently enrolled in a degree program at Penn State, participants are judged on the content and display of a research poster as well as oral discussions with judges. This marks the first instance of first place honors being awarded to a student in physics since the Exhibition's inception.
nuggetMonday, Feb 20 2012

Gemelke awarded Sloan Research Fellowship

Nate Gemelke, assistant professor of physics, has been awarded the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. Awarded annually since 1955, these fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders.The winners this year are 126 faculty members at 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. Professor Gemelke joins four other colleagues in our department who have won this honor in the past decade. More...
nuggetWednesday, Feb 1 2012

Alumni Association Dissertation Award, Rustom & Della Roy Award

Physics graduate student Ashley DaSilva has won the Alumni Association Dissertation Award, and graduate student Qingzhen Hao has won the Rustom & Della Roy Award.
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