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Inaugural Plasma Award Announced

The inaugural Ronald C. Davison Award for Plasma Physics (2016) was presented to Gregory Howes of the University of Iowa for research done in conjunction with UMD's Professor William Dorland of Physics and IREAP and Jason TenBarge, an Assistant Research Scientist in IREAP. The Davidson award recognizes the research described by the most notable paper published in AIP's Physics of Plasmas over the last five years. It will be presented annually at the APS Division of Plasma Physics meeting, and carries a cash prize of $5,000 for the first author.

This new prize honors Ron Davidson, a member of the University of Maryland Department of Physics from 1968-78. Prof. Davidson moved from Maryland to MIT and then to Princeton University, where he served as Professor, as Director of the national laboratory for plasma physics research from 1991-96, and as editor of the journal Physics of Plasmas. Davidson himself authored more than 500 papers, many of which were seminal, covering a wide range of plasma physics phenomena. He won the James Clerk Maxwell Prize in Plasma Physics in 2008, and is one of five current and former University of Maryland faculty to be so honored.

Howes, TenBarge and Dorland's paper, entitled "A weakened cascade model for turbulence in astrophysical plasmas", Phys. Plasmas, 18. 102305 (2011), presented the first high-resolution, kinetic simulations of turbulence in the solar wind together with a theoretical framework for interpreting and generalizing the predicted fluctuation spectra to a wide range of physical conditions. This research project represents an "export" of theoretical and computational tools from the international magnetic confinement fusion research program to non-laboratory, natural settings. For magnetic confinement fusion research to pay off, it is essential to control plasma turbulence (among other problems), and the University of Maryland has long been a leading institution in the theory and simulation of plasma turbulence. The collaboration between UMD and the University of Iowa grew out of a national, five-year Department of Energy Fusion Science Center (2006-2011), led by Dorland and Prof. Steven Cowley (FRS), now at the University of Oxford. A central goal of the Fusion Science Center was to identify and nurture broader applications of fusion-inspired theory.

The Chirps Heard Round the World

Two black holes, locked together in close orbit for eons, abruptly ended their dance in spectacular fashion about 1.3 billion years ago. In two-tenths of a second, the pair of objects—about 29 and 36 times the mass of our sun—drew closer together, accelerated and merged to form a single black hole. The cataclysm instantly obliterated three suns' worth of mass and transformed it into gravitational energy, which radiated outward in waves traveling at the speed of light, warping the fabric of space and time along the way.  Read more

Photos from the Gravitational Waves event on November 1, 2016.



During the first weekend of October, the University of Maryland Department of Physics and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) held the inaugural Conference for Undergraduate Underrepresented Minorities in Physics (CU2MiP), bringing students from several universities to this campus for networking, career advice and discussion of research opportunities. In 2014, UMD Department's Director of Education, Donna Hammer and NIST's Katharine Blodgett Gebbie and Angela Hight-Walker organized a very successful Mid-Atlantic Conference of Undergraduate Women in Physics, which inspired their vision to establish CU2MiP.

CU2 student image

Attracting students to science, technology and mathematics (STEM) has emerged as one of the nation's leading educational priorities. Historically, physics has had one of the lowest levels of women and racial and ethnic minorities among all STEM fields. Research by the American Institute of Physics has shown that women and minorities are consistently underrepresented among those receiving physics bachelor's degrees, compared to their portions of college enrollments. And only about four percent of PhDs awarded in this country go to underrepresented minority students, i.e., African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

On Friday, Oct. 7, the CU2MiP opened at NIST with a welcoming address by Nobel Laureate and UMD Distinguished University Professor Bill Phillips. Phillips gave an inspiring and engaging talk on having fun while pursuing a career in physics, but also spoke with sadness of Gebbie, the retired Director of NIST's Physical Measurement Lab who had greatly looked forward to meeting the students of CU2MiP. Dr. Gebbie died August 17 at the age of 84.

After a full afternoon of NIST lab tours, the conference attendees enjoyed dinner and talks by UMD Distinguished University Professor Jordan Goodman, NIST Director Dr. Willie E. May and UMBC Professor of Physics Anthony Johnson. Saturday's activities included a welcome by alumna Delilah Gates, '15, now a graduate student at Harvard,and a talk by mathematician and UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski III, which received a standing ovation. Interactions with representatives from the AIP, APS and OSA, NASA, NSBP, NSHP, and workshops on graduate school, research opportunities and career paths ensued. A poster session preceded dinner, and Regents Professor Jim Gates gave the evening address. The UMD chapter of the Society of Physics Students then sponsored a physics trivia night.

Sunday's agenda included a talk by Dr. Tabbetha Dobbins of Rowan University, a community building session and an address by department Chair Steve Rolston. Several UMD physicists participated in "Exploring Careers in Physics," which highlighted the many ways that the analytical skills, knowledge and technical expertise that accompany physics degrees can be put to use in academia, government and industry. UMD undergraduates Paula Rodriquez and Myles Poole offered closing remarks.

Participant enthusiasm seemed very high, according to Hammer. "We were extremely happy with the energy the students brought, and with the rapport that developed over the weekend," she said. "Our speakers and panelists were all so encouraging and helpful to this next generation of scientists." Hammer stated, "The extremely positive responses we received fromCU2MiP have already have us excitedly working on planning for next year."

A survey of the CU2MiP students returned highly-favorable reviews and comments:

What struck me most were the speakers. They were truly inspiring and motivating.

It was more insightful than I had expected. The guest speakers all shared information that was unknown to me and offered motivation to continue in my physics studies.

I am leaving with new friends, great connections and an overall newfound love and appreciation for physics and the sciences.

Please accept my condolences on the passing of Dr. Gebbie. She is still having a positive influence on science through persons like you who carry on her philosophies through these kids of activities.

I enjoyed meeting so many people who have experienced being a minority STEM student and were willing to share their unique insight into navigating the academic world and beyond.

Honestly I have never had more fun doing anything in my entire life.

More information on CU2MiP can be found here:

New CU2MiP coming up in October 2017.  Details coming soon!

L'Oréal-UNESCO award goes to former JQI student researcher

Karina J. Garcia announcementCredit: Foundation L'Oréal

Karina Jiménez-García, a former visiting graduate student who worked with JQI Fellow Ian Spielman, was one of 30 young women scientists to receive a 2016 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science fellowship. She was selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants and received the award for her ongoing research on the quantum behavior of ultra-cold atoms.

"This is a recognition that I owe to all those that have guided and inspired me and those who have supported me throughout my professional career, especially my family," says Jiménez-García, who is currently a postdoctoral researchers at the Kastler Brossel Laboratory at the Collège de France in Paris. She plans to use the funds from the fellowship to build a handful of physics demonstrations that will appeal to young students and to fund travel to conferences in Mexico, where she hopes to start her own research group in the future.

The award, which launched in 2007, has given fellowships to more than 140 women in France who are either studying toward a Ph.D. in the life or physical sciences or working as postdoctoral researchers. The criteria for selection include a proven academic track record and the ability to inspire the next generation of scientists. For the first time since the fellowship launched, L'Oréal organized a public event, held on October 12, that included lectures and interviews with this year's winners.

While at JQI, Jiménez-García worked on creating synthetic electric and magnetic fields for ultra-cold clouds of atoms. In a series of papers, she and a team of experimental colleagues showed that lasers could coax atoms without an electric charge into behaving like charged particles in magnetic and electric fields. The work is still a fertile area of research for Spielman and could enrich the toolkit for atomic physicists interested in simulating other quantum systems with clouds of atoms.