Professor Johnpierre Paglione Appointed to the Editorial Board of Physical Review X

Johnpierre Paglione is a Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials at the University of Maryland. His team has contributed to several fields of experimental condensed matter research through both single-crystal synthesis of superconducting, quantum-critical and topological materials, as well as exploration of novel phenomena. He is a leader in the field of quantum criticality and has made important contributions to the understanding of heavy-fermion materials and the quasiparticle picture of correlated materials.

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New APS Award Honors Richard Isaacson

The American Physical Society (APS) has established a new award honoring alumnus Richard Isaacson (Ph.D., 1967). The Richard A. Isaacson Award in Gravitational-Wave Science will recognize outstanding contributions in gravitational-wave physics, gravitational-wave astrophysics, and the technologies that enable this science.

The award was established with funds donated by Nobel laureates Kip S. Thorne and Rainer Weiss to commemorate Isaacson’s impact in this field. Isaacson’s research contributed to the theory of gravitational wave generation and propagation, and he later oversaw the development of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) during his career as Program Director of Gravitational Physics at the National Science Foundation (NSF). With theoretical knowledge, experimental sense, patience and perseverance, he worked for years to gain support for LIGO, the largest single enterprise ever undertaken by the NSF.

On September 14, 2015, the twin LIGO observatories succeeded in detecting gravitational waves resulting from the collision of two black holes, and additional discoveries have followed. On August 17, 2017, LIGO and Virgo (a similar project in Europe) detected and localized a collision of neutron stars. A gamma-ray burst was detected two seconds later by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The source was pinpointed by optical telescopes hours later and studied intensely with many different types of instruments around the world in a historic “multi-messenger” astronomy campaign.

Isaacson obtained his doctorate under the direction of Professor Emeritus Charles Misner, and held appointments at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Illinois Institute of Technology before joining the NSF. He received the Department of Physics’ Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2014.  

The APS Division of Gravitational Physics (DGRAV) sponsored the creation of the new award. DGRAV grew from the Topical Group in Gravitation, which was established in 1995 through the efforts of Beverly K. Berger (Ph.D., 1972), another of Misner’s graduate students. UMD Physics Professor Peter Shawhan currently serves as Chair of DGRAV. 

The CMNS story, The Chirps Heard Round the World, describes the University of Maryland’s contributions to gravitational wave science. The short documentary film Mirrors That Hang on Glass Threads illuminates the scale and complexity of the LIGO detector, while LIGO Detection tells the story of the September 2015 event in the words of many LIGO scientists.

James Robert “Bob” Anderson

Professor Emeritus James Robert “Bob” Anderson died on March 25, 2018 after a brief hospitalization. He was 85. 

Prof. Anderson received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University and was recruited by John S. Toll to strengthen the Department’s efforts in solid state physics. He held an NSF postdoctoral fellowship at the Mond Laboratory of Cambridge University before joining UMD in 1964 as an assistant professor. During his long career, his research spanned several topics in experimental condensed matter physics. He made highly-cited contributions to superconducting quantum computing since the late 1990s, and to diluted magnetic semiconductors from 1984 until the current decade. He also researched Fermi surfaces in many materials—mostly via experiment, but doing band-structure theory—from his thesis in 1962 through at least the 1980s. He enjoyed visiting appointments at the Institute for Materials Research, Sendai, Japan; Kuwait University; the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Institute of High Pressure Physics in Moscow, among others.

He was a member of the Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials and a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, and maintained research connections with the Laboratory for Physical Sciences. He retired from the University in 2014, but still spent much of his time in the Physics Department, and was a faithful attendee of its colloquia and seminars. He was an avid bicyclist, a devoted UMD sports enthusiast and a true fan of gentle jokes and puns.

Prof. Anderson’s memorial service has not yet been scheduled.

Peter Shawhan Honored by USM Board of Regents

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents has selected Professor Peter Shawhan of the UMD Department of Physics for the 2018 Regents’ Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship or Creative Activity. This award is the Board’s highest honor for exemplary faculty achievement.

Shawhan was cited for his work on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which in 2016 reported the first detection of gravitational waves. The detection of these waves—caused by the collision of two massive black holes 1.3 billion years ago—verified Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and generated immense acclaim, culminating in the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish.

Just two weeks after the Nobel announcement, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and the European Virgo Collaboration described another major finding: the collision of two neutron stars. A distinctive “chirp” of gravitational waves was first detected by the two LIGO interferometers, with a weaker signal recorded by the Virgo interferometer. About two seconds later, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope logged a burst of gamma rays. These nearly simultaneous signals triggered an alert to scores of observatories on Earth and in space to turn to the direction of the source and collect data over the whole electromagnetic spectrum. They gathered images and information about the neutron star collision that can be studied for years to come. This coordinated approach—multi-messenger astronomy following a gravitational-wave event—was an innovation developed and championed by Shawhan with various collaborators over many years.

Within the LSC, Shawhan is currently the Data Analysis Council Co-Chair and a member of the Executive Committee. For the initial detection of gravitational waves, the LSC and the Virgo collaboration were honored with a 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the 2016 Gruber Prize in Cosmology, the 2017 Bruno Rossi Prize, and the 2017 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research.

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. He serves as the Physics Associate Chair for Graduate Education and is a member of the UMD-Goddard Joint Space-Science Institute and its Executive Committee. In addition, he is Chair of the recently-established Division of Gravitational Physics of the American Physical Society. In August 2016, Shawhan received the Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship from the UMD Department of Physics.

Assistant Professor Maissam Barkeshli Receives 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship

Maissam Barkeshli, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Maryland and fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, has been awarded a 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship. Granted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this award identifies 126 early-career scientists based on their potential to contribute fundamentally significant research to a wider academic community.  

Barkeshli, a theoretical condensed matter physicist interested in complex quantum many-body phenomena, will use the fellowship to further his research into the collective behavior that emerges in systems of strongly interacting particles governed by the laws of quantum mechanics.

“I am honored to receive this prestigious fellowship,” said Barkeshli. “It represents an affirmation of my work by distinguished members of the physics community, and it encourages me to continue my efforts in understanding the complexities of quantum matter.”

Barkeshli’s research mixes physics with mathematics and draws motivation from the ongoing pursuit to build next-generation computing devices ruled by quantum physics. Beyond the applications, his research explores the many ways that atoms and electrons—prototypical quantum particles—can combine in large numbers to produce a range of novel behaviors.  

For example, interesting things seem to happen at the interface between two different quantum materials. In 2014, Barkeshli and several colleagues showed that, at least theoretically, electrons can lose their electric charge or shed a quantum property called spin when they hop between two quantum materials. With the Sloan Research Fellowship, Barkeshli hopes to continue studying the novel ways that electrons and other, more exotic particles behave at these interfaces. This research could uncover new ways of building quantum computers that are virtually immune to noise, and has led to experimental proposals that could soon be tested in the lab.

Barkeshli has authored more than 35 peer-reviewed journal articles. Before joining the UMD faculty in 2016, Barkeshli worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research’s Station Q (2013-2016) and at Stanford University (2010-2013). He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and a second bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004. He received his doctoral degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010.

Barkeshli joins the list of 39 current UMD College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences faculty members who have received Sloan Research Fellowships.  

The two-year $65,000 Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded to U.S. and Canadian researchers in the fields of chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics.  Candidates must be nominated by their fellow scientists and winning fellows are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of each candidate’s independent research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field.

“The Sloan Research Fellows represent the very best science has to offer,” said Adam Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “The brightest minds, tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly—Fellows are quite literally the future of twenty-first century science.”

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Writers: Abby Robinson and Chris Cesare
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About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 9,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college’s 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary researchcenters foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $175 million.