Kollár Receives CAREER Award

Assistant Professor Alicia Kollár has received a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a proposal aimed at developing a new window into the physics of particles interacting inside of materials and performing educational outreach. The award will provide $675,000 of funding over five years for her proposal titled “Engineering Interacting Photons in Superconducting-Circuit Lattices.”

Kollár, who is a Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute and the Quantum Technology Center, will use the funds to investigate new physics that might be revealed by making particles of light (called photons) behave more like particles of matter (like electrons). Her plan is to tailor environments for photons by combining superconducting components into specialized circuits. This project builds on Kollár’s previous research that showed that these types of superconducting circuits can simulate material properties and even abstract mathematical spaces that can’t fit into normal space.

“I am thrilled to receive this award and the opportunities that it brings,” Kollár says. “Previously we showed that superconducting circuits have the ability to take photons into regimes where no other laboratory particles had gone before. The support of the NSF will enable us to truly dig into harnessing these unique circuits.”Alicia Kollár standing next to a dilution refrigerator in her lab. (Credit: Alicia Kollár)Alicia Kollár standing next to a dilution refrigerator in her lab. (Credit: Alicia Kollár)

The superconducting circuits allow Kollár and colleagues to artificially create and investigate material properties and particle interactions that are difficult or impossible to access in a material. With this window into the lives of sub-atomic particles, Kollár hopes to gain insights into the fundamental building blocks of the materials that make up the world, particularly the influence of a material environment on how multiple particles interact with each other.

The new research will study how qubits—quantum bits that are the elemental foundation of quantum computer information storage—can be incorporated to mediate the interactions between photons and give researchers more adaptability when performing experiments.

As part of the award, Kollár will also work to make seminars about atomic, molecular and optical physics and quantum physics more accessible to undergraduate students and other audiences that lack expertise on the topics. She plans to build on the accessibility of the online Virtual AMO seminars(link is external) by incorporating online, small-group discussions that can provide background information, context and clarification and can promote follow-up conversations. These discussions are intended as an opportunity for physicists to develop interdisciplinary communication skills and for a non-physicist audience to have easy access to more context and thorough explanations than are generally provided in a large seminar setting.

 “The online seminars that sprung up in response to COVID have shown that presentations about cutting edge research can be made available to a much broader group of people than traditionally had access,” Kollár says. “We are very excited to develop new ways to augment this content and allow people to engage with it, learning the language and context of modern quantum research.”

The CAREER award is the NSF’s most prestigious reward for early-career faculty. Recipients’ activities are intended to establish a foundation for them to be leaders in integrating education and research.

Original story by Bailey Bedford: https://jqi.umd.edu/news/kollar-receives-national-science-foundation-career-award

Shawhan Named a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher

Peter Shawhan has been named a University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher. The award honors faculty of outstanding scholarly accomplishment and excellence in teaching.

"Peter clearly deserves this recognition," said physics chair Steve Rolston. "He has been a key contributor to LIGO's celebrated successes, and we are just beginning to reap the rewards of his great contributions to multi-messenger astronomy," which integrates data from previously-disconnected satellites and observatories. "Peter is equally dedicated to our education mission. He was an excellent graduate director for five years, and has been a great teacher across the range of our course offerings. Last fall, he designed and launched PHYS 172, Succeeding in Physics, to help students who might otherwise struggle with the major's requirements to build better understanding."

Shawhan is also chair of the department's newly-established Climate Committee, which is working to ensure a welcoming and supportive environment for all.Peter ShawhanPeter Shawhan

“I’m fortunate to have an amazing group of colleagues who made LIGO a reality, after decades of careful preparations,” said Shawhan.  “It really works!  And now we are routinely detecting gravitational wave events from galaxies far, far away and getting important astrophysics insights from them.  But one of the great things about being a professor is that I can also talk about current research in my classes, connecting it with the course material and sharing some of the excitement of actually using physics to do revolutionary things.”

Shawhan received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago, and was appointed a Millikan Prize Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He continued at Caltech as a Senior Scientist before accepting a faculty appointment with UMD Physics in 2006.  Shawhan’s primary research for the past 20 years has been direct detection of gravitational waves with the LIGO and Virgo detectors, and he has held numerous leadership positions within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, including Burst Analysis Working Group Co-Chair (2004-11) and LSC Data Analysis Coordinator (2017-present).  He was instrumental in establishing and nurturing a program of sharing prompt information about gravitational-wave event candidates with astronomers to allow them to look for corresponding signals in their instruments.  That groundwork enabled a remarkably rich campaign of astronomical follow-up observations and study, spanning the whole electromagnetic spectrum, when LIGO and Virgo detected the first binary neutron merger event, in August 2017.  That first event has provided scientific breakthroughs in fundamental physics, neutron star properties, high-energy astrophysics, and cosmology.  LIGO and Virgo are currently being upgraded and preparing to report more event candidates as they are identified.

Shawhan served as the Physics Associate Chair for Graduate Education from 2014-19 and is a member of the UMD-Goddard Joint Space-Science Institute and its Executive Committee. In addition, he is a past Chair of the Division of Gravitational Physics of the American Physical Society and was elected an APS fellow in 2019. Shawhan received the Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship from the UMD Department of Physics in 2016. He was the recipient in 2018 of the Kirwan Faculty Research and Scholarship Prize and the USM Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Research.

Buonanno Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Alessandra Buonanno has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Buonanno is the director of the Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity Department at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam and a Research Professor at the University of Maryland. She joined the UMD Department of Physics in 2005, and received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship and the Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation. In 2018, she received the Leibniz Prize, Germany's prestigious research award. Earlier in 2021, she was awarded the Galileo Galilei Medal of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN).

Buonanno was one of 59 women elected to the NAS this year, the most in the academy’s history. Also elected was UMD Professor of Psychology Michele Gelfand.Alessandra Buonanno © A. Klaer Alessandra Buonanno © A. Klaer

The new class brings the total number of active members to 2,461 and the total number of international members to 511.  Other UMD physics members of the NAS include Michael Fisher, Jim Gates, Chris Jarzynski, John Mather, Chris Monroe, Bill Phillips, Roald Sagdeev, Rob Tycko, John Weeks and Ellen Williams.

Buonanno was also recently elected to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, which originated in 1652 as a classical scholarly society.

Buonanno's research has spanned several topics in gravitational-wave theory, data-analysis and cosmology. She is a Principal Investigator of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and her waveform modeling of cosmological events has been crucial in the experiment’s many successes.

Buonanno, Charlie Misner, Peter Shawhan and others detailed UMD's contributions to gravitational studies in a 2016 forum, A Celebration of Gravitational Waves

Gorshkov to Receive Flemming Award

Adjunct Associate Professor Alexey Gorshkov is among 12 exceptional public servants chosen to receive the Arthur S. Flemming Award for 2020. The awardees will be honored during a virtual celebration this summer. Gorshkov, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology(link is external) (NIST), is also a Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science (QuICS),

The award is presented annually(link is external) by the Arthur S. Flemming Commission, in partnership with the George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration. It recognizes federal employees who have provided outstanding service in the fields of applied science and engineering, basic science, leadership and management, legal achievement, and social science.

Established in 1948, the award is named after Arthur Sherwood Flemming, a distinguished government official who served seven presidential administrations of both parties, most notably as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Dwight Eisenhower.

Gorshkov, who joined NIST’s Quantum Measurement Division in 2013 and has been embedded at the University of Maryland since that time, was specifically noted for his pioneering research at the crossroads of quantum optics and atomic and condensed matter physics. His research team is engineering strong interactions between photons, providing a practical basis for a new generation of technologies, where instead of electrons, circuits of light are used to perform logical operations and computations.

Expanding upon this successful demonstration, which was hailed as one of Physics World’s Top 10 breakthroughs, Gorshkov has shown novel ways to control strongly coupled atom-light systems and is laying the theoretical foundation for a new suite of enabling quantum technologies.

“I am honored to receive this award in recognition of science and service that will ultimately benefit the public good,” says Gorshkov. “As we continue to develop and implement the ideas and technologies needed to build and deploy quantum systems, we should see a rapid increase in their uses for many practical applications, from secure communication, to accurate time-keeping, to optimizing supply chain logistics and traffic flow.”

Original story: https://jqi.umd.edu/news/jqi-fellow-gorshkov-receive-flemming-award-outstanding-federal-service

Mohapatra Authors Book on Neutrino's Importance

Rabi MohapatraRabi Mohapatra

Distinguished University Professor Rabi Mohapatra recently published The Neutrino Story: One Tiny Particle’s Grand Role in the Cosmos, a book describing the importance of the mysterious particle that Mohapatra has studied for decades.

“The idea for writing this book came to me when I realized how little common people knew about the neutrino and its role in building the universe” said Mohapatra. The book should be understandable to non-scientists with an interest in physics.

In 2020, his paper Neutrino masses and mixings in gauge models with spontaneous parity violation was named one of the three most influential titles in the first fifty years of Physical Review D, which was established to cover the fields of particles, fields, gravitation, and cosmology. This “neutrino mass seesaw" paper, written with Mohapatra’s student Goran Senjanović (then a UMD post-doc) has helped theorists better assess neutrinos and has inspired various experimental quests, as noted in Physics magazine.

Mohapatra has also written two textbooks. The first, Unification and Supersymmetry, appeared in 1986; a second, Massive Neutrinos in Physics and Astrophysics (with Palash B. Pal)in 1989. Each has gone through three editions, and each remains a standard reference in its subfield.

Mohapatra is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India, and a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Prize. He has written more than 450 papers, with over 45,000 citations. At the University of Maryland, he was named a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher  in 2001 and a Distinguished University Professor in 2016.