Hafezi Named Finalist for 2020 Blavatnik Award

Associate Professor Mohammad Hafezi has been named a finalist for the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists for the second consecutive year. 

Hafezi is one of 11 finalists in the Physical Sciences and Engineering category.  Awards are also given in Chemistry and Life Sciences. Each of the three National Laureates will win $250,000—the world’s largest unrestricted prize for early-career scientists. The awards are sponsored by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Of the 11 Physical Sciences and Engineering finalists, three are from the University of Maryland: Hafezi, materials scientist Liangbing Hu and computer scientist Mohammad Hajiaghayi.

The Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists recognize the past accomplishments and the future promise of the most talented faculty-rank scientists and engineers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions. This year, 305 nominations from 161 academic and research centers across 41 states were submitted. The three 2020 National Laureates will be announced July 22, 2020.

Inspired by the concept of topology in mathematics, Hafezi is making pioneering contributions in the fields of nanophotonics and quantum optics. His innovative research is tackling a common challenge that has hindered the miniaturization and use of devices that use light-based components for decades: nano-scale fabrication defects that lead to random variations in device performance. Hafezi’s topologically-inspired optical devices have proven to be incredibly robust against nano-scale fabrication defects and, together with his theoretical work, have spurred the entirely new field of “topological photonics.” Hafezi is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Physics, and Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics.He is also a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute and Quantum Technology Center. 

 

David Falk, 1932-2020

Professor Emeritus David Sagal Falk died on June 10, 2020 at his home in Greenbelt.

Falk, a native of New York City, received his Ph.D. in 1959 at Harvard University. He held appointments at the University of Washington and as a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at the Istituto di Fisica dell'Università, Genoa, Italy, before coming to the University of Maryland as part of an 11-person hiring spree directed by then-chair John S. Toll. At the time, Physics Today noted that the additions represented a 30 percent increase in the UMD physics faculty.  Among those hired at the same time were Harry D. Holmgren, Guarang Yodh,  Rolfe E. Gover, Arnold J. Glick, Richard E. Prange  and Wally Greenberg.  

Though his research was in condensed matter theory and statistical and thermal physics, his interests were broad. With Dieter Brill and David G. Stork, he wrote Seeing the Light: Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision, and Holography, a very well-regarded and well-reviewed textbook published in 1986 and still popular today. He also created PHYS 106, the Physics of Light, which has taught thousands of non-majors about the wonders of holograms, lasers, sunsets, rainbows and other phenomena.

While serving as the physics department’s associate chair for education in the mid-1970s, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Slawsky Clinic, which has provided free tutoring to multitudinous UMD students. He also helped to create the department’s renowned lecture demonstration facility.

Falk was active on campus, serving on the Task Force on Academic Decision Making of the UMD Senate during a somewhat contentious 1970s overhaul of requirements in the campus curriculum and an enormous campus reorganization of departments and colleges that is still largely intact.FALK dbk

After Brit Kirwan was named Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 1981, he enlisted Falk as Assistant Vice Provost.  In this role, Falk oversaw curriculum development and managed academic interests in building construction and maintenance. He created a teaching facilities committee devoted to the upgrade of classrooms and the introduction of teaching technology. Falk continued in that position, working successively for Irv Goldstein, Bob Dorfman, and Jack Goldhaber until he retired in 1992 and was succeeded by another physicist, Victor Korenman.

Korenman recalls that Falk stressed quality control for this university. One example: during finals, Falk would walk the campus “to check that scheduled finals were actually being given, some faculty being inclined to give finals during the term, thus cutting down on actual instructional hours used.”

Falk also worked tirelessly to help guide the university during a 1990 financial crisis, and returned to campus in his retirement to assist with large projects such as the 1996 strategic plan.

Falk was known to be frank and plain spoken. He enjoyed funny hats, and when he left the Department of Physics for Academic Affairs, was bid adieu by the department with a "Mad Hatters" party.

The Falk family has asked that memorial trees be planted in his honor: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=david-falk&pid=196325612

The picture below shows the department around 1976.  Falk is fourth from the left in the third row.

1.Hans Griem, Bill Hornyak, Carroll Alley, Ernst Opik, Alex Dragt (Chair), Joe Sucher, Bice Zorn, Sadao Oneda, John Gilroy 2.Amitabha Bagchi, Arnie Glick, Alvin Trivelpiece, Angelo Bardasis, Richard Prange, Paulette Liewer, Dennis Drew, Madoka Tokumoto, Bob Glasser 3. Kuo-ho Yang, T. N. Padekl, Dieter Brill, Dave Falk, Charlie Misner, Bill Rose, Gene McClellan, George Snow, Larry Krisher, Gus Zorn 4.Yehuda Alexander, Ralph Myers, Ron Davidson, Bob Anderson, Claude Kacser, Jan Sengers, Herb Lashinksy, Ted Einstein, Bob Park, Richard Sohn, Milton Slaughter, Phil Steinberg 5. Steve Detwiler, Bahram Mashhoon, I Bialwicki-Birula, Wally Greenberg, Rolfe Glover, S. Buchner

 

Anna Grafov's Unexpected Challenges

This spring, Anna Grafov received news that many graduating seniors only dream about—that she was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. Just two days later, she learned that she was also accepted into the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship program.

grafovAnna Grafov

“I really couldn’t believe it,” said Grafov, who graduated in May 2020 with her bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Maryland. “They’re such competitive programs and I put in my best effort into my applications, but I had no way of knowing that I was going to get them. I was very excited and proud.”

After learning she had been accepted to both programs, Grafov began planning how she could take advantage of both opportunities. Her plan was to begin her Fulbright research in Belgium this fall, and then use her NSF Fellowship when she started graduate school in fall 2021.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of the Fulbright program and shortened its length, which left Grafov with a difficult decision: Should she pass up the Fulbright Scholarship or the NSF Fellowship? 

“It was frustrating having to sort everything out,” Grafov said. “I spent weeks writing emails every day and waiting for responses to figure out what my options were, what sort of policies were in place and what flexibility I would have.”

After speaking with multiple academic advisors and representatives from both programs, Grafov decided to decline the Fulbright Scholarship and move forward with the NSF Fellowship and graduate school this fall.

Grafov will pursue her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“The research culture there is really incredible,” she said. “They have some absolutely fascinating projects, and I'm really excited to get involved in the research.”

For the past two years, Grafov has been working with Professor John Fourkas in UMD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to use light to study materials. She has been studying a phenomenon called multiphoton-absorption-induced luminescence (MAIL). Through MAIL, when scientists irradiate silver or gold nanoparticles with pulsed laser light at one wavelength, highly efficient, broadband light is emitted by the structures.

Grafov has focused on studying how different shapes and structures impact the resulting MAIL signals. If she can determine how structures affect MAIL signals, then she can develop nanoparticles with structures specifically suited to creating the best MAIL signals for a variety of applications, such as generating white light efficiently. Grafov plans to continue using light to study materials as she pursues her Ph.D. 

As a UMD undergraduate, she was also active with physics student committee, and was a key organizer of the Conference of Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP).

As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Grafov will receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with $12,000 for tuition and fees.

“As long as I've planned on applying to grad school, the NSF Fellowship has been on my radar,” Grafov shared. “Pretty much everyone who applies to grad school in science applies for it because it's such a broad fellowship. It's one of the biggest and most prestigious fellowships in the country.”

Though it took some tough decisions, and some disappointments, to get her to this point, Grafov is happy with her decision and excited about her future.

“I think I made the best decision for myself and for my career,” she said. “When I visited the campus and met with professors, I was really blown away by how much I liked the university and how cool the research there was. It was the exact sort of environment that I want for grad school. I am definitely very happy with my decision and I'm really looking forward to this coming year.”

###

Original story:https://cmns.umd.edu/news-events/features/4609
Media Relations Contact: Chelsea Torres, 301-405-5204, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
@UMDscience 

CMTC Launches Blog

The Condensed Matter Theory Center (CMTC) recently launched a blog, and the first entry was written by CMTC Director Sankar Das Sarma, who holds the Richard E. Prange Chair and is a Distinguished University Professor.  Das Sarma writes about the interplay between the covid-19 pandemic and the physics community. This is the first of a series of blogs Das Sarma plans on writing on covid-19, covering different aspects of this earth-shattering crisis of the century. dasarmaSankar Das Sarma

Das Sarma, who has been a member of the Maryland physics department since 1980, has very broad research interests, covering the whole gamut from topological quantum computation to fluctuations in financial markets. He publishes regularly in Physical Review Letters, Physical Review A, B, E, X, Physical Review Research, and Physical Review Applied, with over 700 publications in APS journals over a 42-year period. He has also published three highly cited review articles in Reviews of Modern Physics on spintronics, topological quantum computation, and graphene.


Second entry, June 3: https://www.physics.umd.edu/cmtc/blog.html

 

Paul Named Princeton Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Recent alumna Elizabeth Paul has been selected as a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Princeton University. 

While a student at UMD, Paul was named a UMD Grad School Outstanding Research Assistant and received a $15,000 award from the Metro Washington Chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation. She twice received the IREAP Graduate Student Seminar Best Speaker Award.Paul ElizabethElizabeth Paul

In her research, Paul worked with Bill Dorland and Matt Landreman studying stellarator theory and optimization, neoclassical physics, and coil design. She defended her thesis, Adjoint methods for stellarator shape optimization and sensitivity analysison May 6. 

With the Princeton fellowship, Paul will return to the campus where she earned an undergraduate degree in astrophysical sciences in 2015. She graduated magna cum laude and received certificates in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Applications of Computing.

Paul will continue her research with plasma theorist Amitava Bhattacharjee. 

To learn more about the program:  https://www.princeton.edu/news/2020/05/26/sixteen-scholars-named-presidential-postdoctoral-research-fellows-aim-enhance