News from the Chair
UMD Goddard Programs Offer Students Out-of-this-world Opportunities

College faculty including Professor Eun-Suk Seo involve students in executing NASA Goddard missions.

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UMD Physics Alum Named Director of NIST's Physical Measurement Laboratory

James Olthoff, a 27-year veteran of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been named the director of the agency's Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML). Olthoff received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland in 1985 in the area of atomic, molecular and optical physics.

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Physics is Phun: Out of the Dark

Physics is Phun 1

Physics is Phun did it again! The Department’s Lecture Demonstration Facility hosted another great show with over 550 guests from around the Washington, DC metro area, filling the University of Maryland Physics Lecture Hall during the two evening performances of Out of the Dark. The first of the 2014-2015 Physics is Phun series, this show brought to life the scientists, discoveries, and inventions of electricity and magnetism from the past several centuries through the present.

An undergraduate physics student kicked off the program by sharing his current research on superconductors and then posed the question of how we got to the point where he could do his research on electrical properties of materials. The audience then embarked on a journey through time, making its way literally out of the dark, into the technologies of the present and future.

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The experiments and discoveries of over a dozen scientists were portrayed, such as Benjamin Franklin and James Maxwell. Rivals Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla hotly debated AC vs DC electricity. William Shockley shared the discovery of the transistor and Karl Mueller brought the audience back to present day with his work on superconductors.

Everyone enjoyed static electricity from the ever popular Van de Graaff Generator, causing audience volunteers’ hair to stand on end, and thunderous applause was given to an audience member who furiously pedaled on the bicycle generator to brightly illuminate four 60-watt light bulbs. (Followed by a more relaxing ride with 15-watt compact fluorescent bulbs!)

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The audience was wowed several times by the sheer power of electricity and magnetism, including when two volunteers were unable to separate an electromagnet powered by a flashlight battery, and then again when the can crusher split an aluminum can and sent each half hurtling across the stage!

Each evening ended with the highly anticipated Physics is Phun raffle and Name the Scientists contest. We hope everyone is eagerly looking forward to our next show in February!

For questions, contact us at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

UMD and NIH Researchers Receive $1.7M BRAIN Grant to Investigate How Crowds of Neurons Process Sensory Information

A University of Maryland-led research team, which includes Physics Professor Wolfgang Losert, has been awarded a three-year $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop new imaging technologies and data analysis techniques that will further our understanding of how large networks of neurons in the brain interact to process sensory information. This knowledge will help researchers identify the precise interactions between millions of nerve cells that drive behavior, like decision-making and speaking, and alterations in these interactions that may be responsible for disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy.

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Wolfgang Losert

Johnpierre Paglione Awarded a Material Synthesis Investigator Award

Johnpierre Paglione is among 12 scientists nationwide to be awarded a Materials Synthesis Investigator Award, by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, in support of research aimed at discovering novel quantum materials through a combination of exploratory synthesis, high-throughput semi-automated synthesis and data mining. The program is part of the Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems initiative, which enables investigators to dedicate substantial effort to discovery-driven research, such as investigative synthesis of new types of quantum materials.

Professor Paglione is a condensed matter experimentalist and a member of the Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials (CNAM). His research interests include cuprate and iron-based superconductivity and magnetism, quantum criticality and strongly correlated electron phenomena, and the new field of topological insulator research.

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Johnpierre Paglione

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Department of Physics

University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-4111
Phone: 301.405.3401
Fax: 301.314.9525