Erik Blaufuss Wins Provost’s Excellence Award

Research Scientist Erik Blaufuss has received the 2018 Provost’s Excellence Award for Professional Track Faculty in research.  

Blaufuss has served as scientific analysis coordinator of IceCube, an NSF-sponsored scientific instrument in Antarctica in which 5,160 photoreceptors are embedded in a cubic kilometer of crystal-clear ice more than one kilometer below the surface. About 300 times a day, a neutrino speeding through this billion-ton chunk will hit an atom, and the collision will generate a flash of light, from which the neutrino’s direction and energy can be determined. That information reveals the neutrino’s origin and energy.  When IceCube scientists in 2013 determined that about one in every ten thousand of those neutrinos (about a dozen a year) came from distant space outside our galaxy, the new field of neutrino astronomy  was launched. Physics World named this its “Breakthrough of the Year”.

Blaufuss was instrumental in bringing a “multi-messenger” approach to these observations. When IceCube detects an energetic neutrino from distant space, an alert is issued to the world’s radio, optical and gamma-ray telescopes, pointing them in a particular direction toward the particle’s origin.   These alerts have been in operation since April 2016, with more than a dozen issued to date.  On Sept. 22, 2017, one was broadcast by IceCube. Blaufuss’ system rapidly signaled other observatories to aim toward the direction whence the neutrino came.  This event has triggered extensive follow-up by telescopes world-wide, including the identification of a known source from NASA’s Fermi-LAT telescope’s catalog consistent with the neutrino direction. The likely source of the cosmisc neutrinos is a blazar billions of light years away.

Blaufuss earned his PhD in Physics from Louisiana State University in 2000, and joined UMD that same year. Early in his career, he worked on the Super-Kamiokande Experiment in Japan, for which Takaaki Kajita shared the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics. The Super-K collaboration’s experimental data, described in a 1998 paper “Evidence for Oscillation of Atmospheric Neutrinos”, demonstrated that neutrinos change identities. This metamorphosis requires that neutrinos have mass, and changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter. Shortly after the Nobel, the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was awarded to five collaborations studying neutrino oscillations, including Super-K.


Christopher Bambic Awarded University Medal

Christopher Bambic, who will graduate this month with bachelor of science degrees in physics and astronomy, will also be awarded the University Medal, which recognizes the most outstanding graduate of the year. The University Medal is awarded to the undergraduate who best personifies academic distinction, extraordinary character, and extracurricular contributions to the university and the larger public. He will be honored for this achievement at the university's Spring Commencement Ceremony on May 20, 2018.

Eliot Fenton Recognized as a Maryland ‘Undergraduate Researcher of the Year’

Eliot Fenton, UMD physics major, was among those recognized as a 2018 Maryland ‘Undergraduate Researcher of the Year.’ This award is eligible for exemplary seniors who have been nominated by their faculty advisors.  Fenton earned this award for his wide-ranging experimental physics research accomplishments.

From 2015-2017 Fenton worked on optical nanofibers with JQI Fellow and UMD Physics Professor Luis Orozco. Recently, Fenton along with fellow undergraduate researcher Adnan Khan (now a graduate student at University of Washington), together with colleagues, published a study of how light interacts with an optical nanofiber’s mechanical movements. Last year, Fenton co-authored a paper that detailed precise measurements of an optical nanofiber.

orozco solano fentonEliot Fenton (right) with research advisor Luis Orozco (center) and former UMD graduate student Pablo Solano (left). (Photo courtesy of L. Orozco)

In 2017 he began doing research with JQI Fellow and NIST scientist Ian Spielman and his team. In this group, Fenton has been working on the construction of a new ultracold atomic physics experiment in the Physical Sciences Complex.

In addition to UMD research activities, Fenton completed summer research internships at both the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark and CERN.

Fenton, who will graduate in May 2018, is planning to attend graduate school at Harvard University, where he will study ultracold molecules with Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Kang-Kuen Ni.


“Spin-optomechanical coupling between light and a nanofiber torsional mode,” Eliot F. Fenton, Adnan Khan, Pablo Solano, Luis A. Orozco, and Fredrik K. Fatemi, Optics Letters (2018)

"Modal interference in optical nanofibers for sub-Angstrom radius sensitivity," F. K. Fatemi, J. E. Hoffman, P. Solano, E. T. Fenton, G. Beadie, S. L. Rolston, and L. A. Orozco, Optica (2017).

Richard F. Ellis (1944-2018)

Professor Emeritus Richard F. Ellis died on Sunday, May 6.  He was 73.

Professor Ellis received his B.A. in physics at Cornell University in 1966 and his Ph.D. in plasma physics at Princeton in 1971.  He served on the faculty at Dartmouth and also held appointments at Los Alamos National Lab, the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before joining UMD Physics in 1979.  He was also an early and instrumental member of IREAP.

Ellis was a plasma experimentalist with two primary research efforts. On campus, he directed the Maryland Centrifugal Experiment (MCX), an innovative effort funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science to contain hot plasma for the goal of realizing energy from controlled fusion. The experiment evaluated this novel concept for its potential to achieve fusion energy and to explore basic plasma physics questions such as whether sheared flows can suppress fluid turbulence. He also directed efforts at General Atomics Technologies (GA) in San Diego on an Electron Cyclotron Emission (ECE) diagnostic to study the distribution of electron temperature on the DIII-D “tokamak” fusion device. 

A devoted educator, Ellis served as Assistant and Associate Dean of the College for several years and as Associate Chair of the Physics Department for Graduate Education (1994-99) and Undergraduate Education (2010-12).  He served several years in the campus senate and as president of the UMD chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  

He received the Department’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1981-82 and its Continued Excellence in Teaching Award in 1982-83. He was also nominated for the Parents’ Association 2001 Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award.  He was a resident of College Park and enjoyed attending Maryland sporting events.

Professor Ellis, who retired in 2016, is survived by his wife Adele, his daughter and two grandchildren. 


Three Graduate Students Recognized by the Graduate School as Outstanding Graduate Assistants

Please join us in congratulating Leonard Campanello, Minh Tran and Batoul Banihashemi, who were awarded the Graduate School's 2018 Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award. The Graduate School established this award to recognize and honor the outstanding contributions that Graduate Assistants provide to students, faculty, departments, administrative units, and the University as a whole. The award conveys the honor of being named among the top 2% of campus Graduate Assistants in a given year.


LennyLeonardo CampanelloMinhTran 10062016 7853Minh TranPhoto BatoulBatoul Banihashemi