News from the Chair
Physics Can Explain Income Inequality, Finds Victor Yakovenko

Victor Yakovenko described his econophysics work in an episode of the TV series Through the Wormhold with Morgan Freeman on the Science Channel. The episode, Is Poverty Genetic? , aired on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 10:00 p.m. and will repeat several times, see the schedule at:

The appearance on the Science Channel follows coverage of Victor's econophysics work in Science Magazine last month it he the special Science of Inequalitly issue.

Robert W. Zwanzig (April 9, 1928- May 15, 2014)

Robert W. Zwanzig, Distinguished University Professor and Professor Emeritus in the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, died quietly in his sleep on May 15. Bob Zwanzig had a very distinguished career as a teacher and researcher in the field of statistical physics. He joined the faculty of the University of Maryland in 1968 and retired in 1988, after which he joined the Chemical Physics Division of the National Institutes of Health. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1972, was awarded the Debye Prize from the American Chemical Society in 1976 and received the Langmuir Award from the American Chemical Society in 1984.

A brilliant theoretical physicist and chemist, Bob was well known for his ability to describe a wide variety of physical phenomena using very sophisticated model systems of his own invention, and he possessed the mathematical skills to obtain results from them with striking clarity. His deep insights into equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics have influenced these fields profoundly. Bob's 1954 paper on thermodynamic perturbation theory, published in the Journal of Chemical Physics when he was in his mid-20s, provides one of the foundations of modern computational thermodynamics.

Bob may best be known for his “projection operator method,” which allows one to obtain equations for time-dependent distributions and correlation functions in a very simple and direct way, showing that a technical breakthrough can lead to a deeper conceptual understanding of the behavior of many-particle systems. This method continues to be widely used by workers of all generations in his field.

Bob Zwanzig was a great teacher of graduate students and mentor to younger scientists. With insights and skills that were greatly admired, in many instances he helped his colleagues to successfully find their way in their own research efforts. He will be greatly missed.

Professors Drake, Gates named Distinguished University Professors

James Drake

Two members of the Department of Physics have been named 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.”

Professor James F. Drake, a plasma theorist, received his PhD from UCLA and had research appointments there before joining UMD as a postdoc in 1978. He became a full professor in 1990, jointly with the Institute for Physical Sciences and Technology. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union. In 2010, he received the very prestigious James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics from the American Physical Society. He is co-director of the Joint Space-Science Institute, a research partnership between the Astronomy and Physics departments of the University of Maryland (UMD) and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Professor Drake is a well-reviewed teacher and excellent overall communicator, having received the Popular Writing Award of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. With colleagues from NASA, he helped create a video highlighting a 2011 paper that described the edge of the solar system as an effervescent wonder of magnetic bubbles nearly 100 million miles wide:

Professor Drake continues to investigate the structure of the heliopause, the boundary between the environment of the sun and the local interstellar medium. In addition, he is currently working with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, on magnetic energy's production of intensely energetic particles that are both scientifically intriguing and dangerous to manned space missions and Earth-orbiting satellites.

Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr. received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977 and was an assistant professor of mathematics there before joining the UMD faculty in 1984. He was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences. At the April 2014 induction ceremony, NAS President Ralph Cicerone cited Gates' groundbreaking work at the interface of information theory and superstring theory, and for efforts to engage the public, as Gates signed the membership book, becoming the first African-American physicist included in the 150 year-long NAS history.

Jim Gates

Professor Gates is the John S. Toll Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland. He is a UMD Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, a University System of Maryland Regents Professor, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Foundation’s 2014 Scientist of the Year. He serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the Maryland State Board of Education. He chaired the Department of Physics at Howard University from 1991-93, and holds honorary degrees/appointments from the University of Western Australia, Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies, Loyola University of Chicago, NYU Polytechnic Institute and Georgetown University.

He received the National Medal of Science at The White House in 2013.

He has been featured frequently on the PBS television program NOVA as an expert on physics, and has completed a DVD of 24 half-hour lectures that make the complexities of theoretical physics understandable to laypeople. In 2013, Villanova University awarded him the Mendel Medal, which honors scientists whose lives and work demonstrate that there is no intrinsic conflict between science and religion.

Physics Faculty and Staff Honored at CMNS Academic Festival

The Board of Visitors Awards and CMNS Awards was presented at the college's Academic Festival on May 2, 2014, in the James A. Yorke Rotunda. Award recipients from Physics include Christopher Monroe - BOV Distinguished Faculty Award, Carter Hall - Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching and Lorraine DeSalvo - Dean's Outstanding Employee Award.

UMD Celebrates Grand Opening of World-Class Research and Education Facility  
Click image for information.

The University of Maryland’s new Physical Sciences Complex is an instant architectural landmark with its shimmering elliptical atrium, and with its official opening on April 23, 2014, the state-of-the-art research building is poised to become a landmark of scientific achievement. 

Designed to create ideal conditions for scientific innovation—precision in the laboratory and freewheeling conversation in the corridors—the Physical Sciences Complex is one of the largest building projects in the university’s history. Constructed with a $115.7 million contribution from the state of Maryland and $10.3 million from the federal government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the 160,000-square-foot building houses nearly 50 laboratories, more than half of which were constructed to the most stringent technical standards.

This gives the university one of the nation’s largest expanses of top-quality research space, which already is attracting top scientists who will collaborate on groundbreaking discoveries about the universe, quantum science and the battle against disease. Occupying the new space are the university’s physics and astronomy departments; the interdisciplinary Institute for Physical Science and Technology; and the Joint Quantum Institute, a partnership between NIST and UMD.

“The partnership between NIST and the University of Maryland, going back some 40 years now, is one of our oldest, longest running, and most productive collaborations, but the new Physical Sciences Complex is a new high. We’re very pleased to have played in part in the creation of this outstanding research facility,” said Patrick Gallagher, director of NIST and undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology.

The capabilities of the Physical Sciences Complex will enhance UMD’s leadership in theoretical, experimental and applied quantum science research, placing the university firmly at the leading edge of what is likely to be the next great scientific revolution.

“The yellow brick road in cutting-edge fields like quantum science now leads to College Park,” says UMD President Wallace Loh. “Our faculty are now demonstrating the feasibility of quantum computing, and with these advanced facilities, they will have the tools and new partnerships to develop the concept.”

Fifteen years in the planning, and designed with extensive input from faculty members in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, the facility reflects the university’s commitment to collaborative research of the highest technical standards. Construction began in 2010.

“The new Physical Sciences Complex is a key component of our university's strategy to work across disciplines and with federal and state partners to create the innovations of tomorrow and educate the next generation of science and technology leaders,” says Jayanth Banavar, dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. 

Today’s experiments in quantum science and other technically demanding fields require precise control over conditions such as temperature, humidity and vibration. To accomplish this, the Physical Sciences Complex is built of reinforced concrete, which is stronger than steel. Laboratories’ temperatures are controlled to within .5 degree Celsius (.9 degree Fahrenheit); humidity is controlled to within 1 percent; and laboratory walls are isolated to minimize vibrations.

Two levels of underground laboratories, as much as 55 feet below the building’s plaza, were designed for researchers working with atoms and lasers and were built to the exacting standards of NIST’s Advanced Measurement Laboratory, one of the most sophisticated labs in the world for quantum physics research. The underground setting minimizes vibrations, electromagnetic variations and radiofrequency interference. To further reduce the chance of interference with delicate instruments, telephone connections are fiber optic and electrical wiring is carried through special insulated conduits. Anti-static flooring helps control static electricity.

The Physical Sciences Complex’s most striking architectural feature is a wide elliptical atrium. Shaped to reflect the orbits of planets and stars, the atrium soars through all four above-ground levels. The ellipse is lined with 953 panes of clear and red glass in a checkerboard pattern and opens the building up to the sky, flooding interior spaces with light. Corridors around the ellipse are extra wide and furnished with comfortable armchairs and couches to serve as gathering places for students and faculty. 

Click image for information.

The use of natural light is among the design features that earned the building Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Other features include energy-efficient fixtures, materials that come from rapidly renewable resources or include recycled content, reduced water use, a green roof, and plantings that capture stormwater runoff from paved surfaces and filter it into the soil.

At the base of the ellipse, the Gluckstern Garden honors the memory of Robert L. Gluckstern, who was a UMD physicist and former chancellor of the University of Maryland (this position is now called president). The glass-walled lobby has a café and views of the garden and the plaza surrounding the building.

University officials hoped the new facility would boost recruitment of leading scientists, and this is already proving true. This year two top experimental condensed matter physicists joined the Joint Quantum Institute, which also has recruited a higher number of promising young graduate students to attend UMD this fall than in years past. 

The building is also attracting stars of a different kind. Its striking architecture earned it a role in an upcoming episode of “Veep,” the Emmy-award-winning HBO comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which airs April 27, 2014.

--University of Maryland/College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences--

Media contact: Heather Dewar, 301-405-9267, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Watch a video highlighting the grand opening celebration:

Watch the full grand opening celebration:

University President Wallace D. Loh’s spring video message was filmed in the PSC:

Learn more about the Physical Sciences Complex:

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Department of Physics

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