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Gates Awarded a Wilson H. Elkins Professorship

Sylvester James "Jim" Gates, Jr. was awarded the 2017 Wilson H. Elkins Professorship from the University System of Maryland (USM). The Elkins Professorships support professors and researchers who demonstrate exemplary ability to inspire students and whose professional work and scholarly endeavors make a positive impact at their institutions, across the USM, and beyond.

Gates, known for his work in supersymmetry and supergravity, was chosen for his "seminal research in his Center for Particle and String Theory and engaging students in that research."

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Mohapatra, Ji Named Distinguished University Professors

Professors Rabi Mohapatra and Xiangdong Ji have been named University of Maryland Distinguished University Professors. This designation is the campus’ highest academic honor, reserved for those whose scholarly achievements “have brought distinction to the University of Maryland.”


Rabi Mohapatra is renowned for his seminal contributions to elementary particle physics. Over the last five decades, his ideas have been critical in developing new directions, often inspiring new classes of experiments. He is the author of more than 400 published papers, which have been referenced more than 30,000 times. Professor Mohapatra has also played a leadership role within the particle physics community, mentoring younger scientists, writing important textbooks, and serving on committees that have charted the direction of the field.

He received his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in 1969, under the guidance of Robert Marshak and Susumu Okubo. In his thesis he argued that the very small mass differences among kaon particles required the existence of one or more new particles with masses less than 4 GeV. This prediction was later spectacularly confirmed with the discovery of the charm quark with mass 1.5 GeV in 1974. He was a co-inventor of the Seesaw mechanism for understanding small neutrino masses, which he proposed in 1979.

Prof. Mohapatra had postdoctoral appointments at Stony Brook University and the University of Maryland. He is well-known for being one of the co-proponents of the left-right symmetric theories of weak interactions, proposed as a Maryland post-doc in 1974. He joined the City College of New York as an assistant professor that year, and returned to the University of Maryland as a full professor in 1983. He is an acknowledged leader in neutrino physics.

He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Indian Academy of Sciences, a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Prize and a University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher.


Xiangdong Ji has flourished in both theoretical Quantum Chromodynamics and experimental dark matter research. He received the American Physical Society's 2016 Herman Feshbach Prize in Theoretical Nuclear Physics "For pioneering work in developing tools to characterize the structure of the nucleon within QCD and for showing how its properties can be probed through experiments; this work not only illuminates the nucleon theoretically but also acts as a driver of experimental programs worldwide."

With visiting appointments at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Peking University, he has built and led the PandaX experiment, a 125kg-liquid xenon detector in the China Jinping underground lab, searching for dark matter. A 550 kg detector, PandaX 2, has just produced the world's most sensitive limit on the Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.

Prof. Ji received his Ph.D. in 1987 from Drexel University, and then served as a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology and as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the University of Maryland in 1996. He received the Jefferson Science Associates' 2015 Outstanding Nuclear Physicist Award, the 2014 Alexander von Humboldt Prize and the 2004 Distinguished Overseas Young Scientist Award of the National Science Foundation of China. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

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Nobelist Frank Wilczek to Receive 2016 Prange Prize

Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been named the 2016 recipient of the Richard E. Prange Prize and Lectureship in Condensed Matter Theory and Related Areas. Dr. Wilczek will receive a $10,000 honorarium and deliver a public lecture entitled "Some Intersections of Art and Science” at the University of Maryland, College Park, on September 20, 2016. He will also present a Condensed Matter Theory Center/Joint Quantum Institute seminar entitled “Anyons” on Monday, September 19.

The Prange Prize, established by the UMD Department of Physics and Condensed Matter Theory Center (CMTC), honors the late Professor Richard E. Prange, whose distinguished professorial career at Maryland spanned four decades (1961-2000). The Prange Prize is made possible by a gift from Dr. Prange's wife, Dr. Madeleine Joullié, a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania.

As a Ph.D. student in 1973, Wilczek and his Princeton advisor David Gross discovered asymptotic freedom, which holds that the closer quarks are to each other, the weaker the interaction (color charge) between them; in extreme proximity, quarks behave almost as free particles. This insight helped lead to the Standard Model of particle physics. Wilczek and Gross shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in physics with David Politzer for this breakthrough.  Wilczek has also received the Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, the High Energy and Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society and the Lorentz Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at MIT, a Professor at Stockholm University, the Chief Scientist of the Wilczek Quantum Center of Zhejiang University of Technology, and a Distinguished Origins Professor at Arizona State University.

Wilczek’s Prange Prize lecture will be given in Room 1412 of UMD’s John S. Toll Physics Building at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20, and is open to the public.

At the University of Chicago, Richard Prange received his Ph.D. under Nobelist Yoichiro Nambu and also worked with Murray Gell-Mann and Marvin Goldberger. At the University of Maryland, he edited a highly-respected book on the quantum Hall effect and made important theoretical contributions to the subject. His interests extended into all aspects of theoretical physics, and continued after his retirement. Dr. Prange was a member of the Maryland condensed matter theory group for more than 40 years and was an affiliate of CMTC since its inception in 2002.

"Richard enjoyed a fascinating and fulfilling career at the University of Maryland exploring condensed matter physics, and even after retirement was active in the department," said Dr. Joullié. "He spent the very last afternoon of his life in the lecture hall for a colloquium on graphene, followed by a vigorous discussion. And so I was happy to institute the Prange Prize, to generate its own robust discussions in condensed matter theory."

"The Prange Prize provides a unique opportunity to acknowledge transformative work in condensed matter theory, a field that has proven to be an inexhaustible source of insights and discoveries in both fundamental and applied physics,” said Dr. Sankar Das Sarma, who holds the Richard E. Prange Chair in Physics at UMD and is also a Distinguished University Professor and Director of the CMTC.

Since its initiation in 2009, the Prange Prize has been awarded to Nobelists Philip W. Anderson, Walter Kohn, Daniel Tsui, Andre Geim, David Gross and Klaus von Klitzing.

Parking is available in the Regents Drive Garage, across the street from the Physics lecture hall; an attendant will direct visitors within the garage. A free ShuttleUM bus runs to and from the College Park Metro station at about eight-minute intervals.

Directions to the College Park campus can be found here:

The John S. Toll Physics building:

University of Maryland Physics: Weekly colloquia:

College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences:

Condensed Matter Theory Center:



Shabnam Jabeen Attends 41st INSC

Shabnam Jabeen, Assistant Research Professor, recently attended the 41st International Nathiagali Summer College (INSC), held in Islamabad Pakistan. Jabeen was an invited speaker at INSC, which was founded by Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam in 1976 to promote the physics and scientific research activities in Pakistan.

During the last 37 years, about 670 eminent scientists (including six Nobel Laureates) shared their knowledge and experience with more than 1020 foreign scientists from over 72 developing countries and 7000 scientists from Pakistan.

Below is an image of the INSC 2016 participants with the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain. The group attended a dinner reception at the president house on July 20, 2016.

Group FinalCredit: INSC



Professor Gates Mentors Undergraduates in Annual Summer Research Program

While most students leave College Park for the summer, some opt to stay and take advantage of the many summer programs offered at the University of Maryland. One such program—the Summer Student Theoretical Physics Research Session (SSTPRS)—offers a summerlong experience for students interested in conducting scientific research.

The program traces its beginnings back to 1999, when the idea came to S. James Gates Jr., a Distinguished University Professor and Regents Professor of Physics at UMD known for his pioneering work in supersymmetry and supergravity, areas closely related to string theory.

In the 1990s, Gates often collaborated with Vincent Rodgers, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. In 1999, Rodgers brought along an undergraduate student to assist with their research project. At first, Gates was unsure how much she would be able to contribute, but her level of participation surprised him.

“I had such a great time working with her that I realized it was possible to involve undergraduates in my research. You just have to put in a different type of effort than with graduate students,” said Gates, who directs the SSTPRS program. “It was an eye-opening experience for me. Undergraduates with a deep interest in mathematics and physics are full of contagious energy.”

The goal of the program is not to teach students physics, but rather to allow students to explore areas of theoretical physics and publish refereed journal articles on their research findings. However, as Gates points out, becoming a published author is not guaranteed.

“We engage in real research, so it has all the uncertainty of real research,” said Gates.

To date, undergraduates have co-authored more than 17 publications with Gates. The students also learn to collaborate on a project and think outside of the classroom, according to Gates.

Attendance for the program varies from year to year, primarily because it relies on word-of-mouth to attract students. This year, 14 students are participating in the program, creating a close-knit group. UMD physics and mathematics double major Benedict Mondal, who participated in the program last summer, said the small number of participants encourages tangential conversations with people who happen to walk by.

“The fact that we have so many knowledgeable people coming and going to whom we can ask questions and get answers, or at least guidance on answers, is incredible,” Mondal said.

Many of the research topics being explored by the undergraduates are not usually introduced until the graduate level. One topic the students agree has been the most interesting is Lie groups. Lie groups represent the best-developed theory of continuous symmetry of mathematical objects and structures.

“My favorite part is the fast-paced learning environment,” said UMD physics and mathematics double major Daniel Lay. “There’s always something new that keeps me asking, ‘How does one thing interact with another?’”

The program has gained a wide reach, attracting students from institutions including MIT, Brown University and Stanford University.

“The program provides practice with basic technical tools, so regardless of a particular problem the skill sets you learn are applicable to a broad range of research opportunities,” said Isaac Friend, a mathematics major at the University of Chicago and 2016 program participant.

Gates will begin his 44th year of teaching this fall and hopes to continue teaching until he reaches at least 50 years.

“The idea that I have been able to establish a place where students can play and explore intellectual topics, while also creating a foundation for their futures, is just amazing,” said Gates.