The David and Edith Harris Physics Colloquium Series

SPRING 2017 Schedule

Thursdays - Socials: 3:30pm in 4-349 (The Pappalardo Room) // Talk: 4:00pm in 10-250 (unless otherwise noted)

APRIL 6, 2017
ED BERTSCHINGER
MIT
Host: Peter Fisher & the Society of Physics Students

"The Value of Diversity in Physics"

Women and several minority groups are consistently under-represented in physics. In addition, the climate for women, LGBTQ-identifying people, and minorities in physics departments is often reported as being less welcoming than it is for white males. As a consequence, it becomes harder to recruit and retain talented individuals, and everyone loses. In order to reverse the cycle of oppression, faculty must create an inclusive and welcoming environment. Physicists are usually not trained to do this, but we can learn how.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 34-101 *NOTE: ROOM CHANGE
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

APRIL 13, 2017
SARAH DEMERS
Yale University
Host: Graduate Women in Physics

"Searching for Physics Beyond the Standard Model at ATLAS"

The ATLAS detector is one of two general-purpose detectors at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC). We take advantage of the highest energy human-generated collisions in the world to explore the fundamental particles of nature and the forces through which they interact. The LHC has performed extraordinarily well over the past few years, delivering data that enabled the discovery of the Higgs boson as well as other standard model measurements and many searches for new physics. In this talk I will share recent ATLAS results and put them in the context of our attempts to understand the universe from our vantage point on the collider energy frontier.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 34-101 *NOTE: ROOM CHANGE
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

APRIL 20, 2017
DEBORAH HARRIS
Fermilab
Host: Lindley Winslow

“Neutrinos: Probing the Nucleus and Beyond”

The fact that neutrinos have mass and can oscillate from one flavor to another has opened up new windows on the universe. These windows require ambitious programs that send beams of neutrinos to detectors located hundreds or thousands of kilometers from the source. Measurements there can determine whether neutrinos have the same mass patterns of the charged fundamental particles we know about, and whether or not differences between neutrinos and antineutrinos can explain why the universe is filled only with matter and no antimatter. To do this, however, we need to understand the different ways that neutrinos interact with the nuclei that make up these detectors. This talk will explain the challenges of these oscillation experiments, and how the measurements we are doing now support oscillation experiments and tell us about the inner workings of the nucleus.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

APRIL 27, 2017
VOLKER SPRINGEL
Heidelberg University
Host: Mark Vogelsberger

“Supercomputer Explorations of Galaxy Formation”

The Universe features a rather strange composition, with unknown dark matter and dark energy components dominating today's energy density. Early numerical simulations have played a pivotal role in demonstrating that this unexpected cosmological model gives rise to a remarkably successful theory for structure formation. Nowadays, hydrodynamical simulations have become our most important theoretical tool to study non-linear multi-scale dynamics in the baryonic sector, allowing us to follow how hydrogen and helium gases condense out in galaxies, form stars, and populate the predicted dark matter structures. However, we still struggle to understand the regulation of star formation, which appears rather inefficient on a global scale, defying simple theoretical expectations. In this talk, I will review some of the current results of galaxy formation simulations and discuss how they help us to identify and constrain the physics shaping galaxies and clusters of galaxies. I will also discuss the quest for high precision numerical predictions of the baryonic imprint on dark matter structures, which directly affects observational programs to constrain the physical nature of dark energy.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

MAY 4, 2017
DRAGAN HUTERER
University of Michigan
Host: Physics Graduate Student Council

"New Views of the Universe"

I will discuss how progress in cosmology over the past decade has improved our understanding of dark matter, dark energy, and the physics of the early universe. I will particularly concentrate on the developments in mapping out the expansion rate of the universe and the growth of density fluctuations in order to better understand dark energy, and eventually identify the physics responsible for universe's accelerated expansion.  

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

MAY 11, 2017
EDWARD PRATHER
University of Arizona
Host: Matt Evans

"Re-Thinking Astronomy and Physics Education: Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Experiments on College-Level Teaching and Learning"

Over the past two decades, members of the Center for Astronomy Education (CAE) have created a national STEM education research collaboration of faculty, post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students all working together to better understand and improve the teaching and learning of introductory astronomy and physics. Our multi-institutional and iterative education research model has successfully informed the development of several innovative active learning and assessment strategies. These research-validated classroom strategies have been used to significantly improve the discipline knowledge, critical reasoning and problem solving abilities, and attitudes of hundreds of thousands of learners in STEM classrooms. I will discuss the findings from two important research projects from this work, and unpack how these results inform future STEM education work on the creation of effective online-learning and addressing issues of inclusion and diversity in STEM.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

MAY 18, 2017

No colloquium scheduled.

MAY 25, 2017
ULF-G. MEISSNER
Universität Bonn & Forschungszentrum Jülich
Host: William Detmold

"Nuclear Physics as Precision Science"

Theoretical Nuclear Physics has entered a new era. Using the powerful machinery of chiral effective Lagrangians, the forces between two, three and four nucleons can now be calculated with unprecedented precision and with reliable uncertainties. Furthermore, Monte Carlo methods can be adopted to serve as a new and powerful approach to precisely solve nuclear structure and reactions. I will discuss the foundations of these new methods and provide a variety of intriguing examples. Variations of the fundamental constants of Nature can also be investigated and the consequences for the element generation in the Big Bang and in stars are considered. This sheds new light on our anthropic view of the Universe.  

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

PAST SPRING 2017 COLLOQUIA

FEBRUARY 9, 2017
BERNHARD KEIMER
Max-Planck-Institute for Solid State Research
Host: Riccardo Comin

"Control of Collective Quantum Phenomena in Metal-Oxide Superlattices"

Correlated electrons exhibit a fascinating variety of ordering phenomena including high-temperature superconductivity and unconventional magnetism. A grand challenge in this field is the transition from conceptual understanding of collective phenomena to their control and design. We will discuss recent results of an experimental program designed to meet this challenge through the synthesis and characterization of metal-oxide superlattices. We will show how polarized photon-based methods such as resonant x-ray scattering and Raman scattering can be used to obtain a comprehensive description of the electron system in these systems, outline perspectives for control of the phase behavior of correlated electrons by modifying the occupation of transition metal d-orbitals, the dimensionality of the electron system, and the electron-phonon interaction. 

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

FEBRUARY 16, 2017
SAM TING
MIT
Host: Peter Fisher

"The First Five Years of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the International Space Station: Unlocking the Secrets of the Cosmos"

AMS is a precision, large acceptance, multipurpose particle physics detector on the Space Station.  In five years, it has collected more than 90 billion primordial cosmic rays with energies up to the multi-TeV range. To date, the results show unique and unexpected features of cosmic rays.  The AMS results do not agree with existing cosmic ray models.  The precision of the results requires a new and comprehensive understanding of cosmic rays.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

FEBRUARY 23, 2017
ZORAN HADZIBABIC
University of Cambridge
Host: Martin Zwierlein

"Quantum Gas in a Box"

For the past two decades, ultracold Bose and Fermi atomic gases have been used with great success to study fundamental many-body physics. While traditionally they were produced in harmonic electromagnetic traps, it recently also became possible to create them in the uniform potential of an optical box trap. This has opened even more possibilities for fundamental studies, allowing closer connections with other many-body systems and the theories that rely on the translational symmetry of the system. Research topics for which the homogeneous, box-trapped quantum gases offer distinct advantages include critical phenomena near phase transitions, quantum turbulence, and searches for exotic states of matter that are expected to occur in tiny slivers of phase diagrams. I will give an overview of the recent progress in this growing field.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

MARCH 2, 2017
LIANG FU
MIT
Host: Senthil Todadri

"Topological Superconductors and Majorana Fermions"

In the past decade, there has been remarkable progress in our understanding of topological states of matter, whose universal properties are governed by the topology of quantum wavefunctions. Topological insulators and metals are found to be widespread in solids. A current frontier in condensed matter research is topological superconductors. These novel superconductors are theoretically predicted to host Majorana fermions, emergent fractional particles that are their own antiparticles. It is expected that spatially separated Majorana fermions can store quantum information in a protected manner. I will describe recent efforts in making topological superconductors in designed materials, detecting Majorana fermions, and engineering platforms for topological quantum computation. I will also discuss the search for naturally-occurring topological superconductors in quantum materials.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

MARCH 9, 2017
AMANDA WELTMAN
University of Cape Town
Host: Janet Conrad

"Does the Future of Fundamental Physics Lie in the Sky?"

Our understanding of the constituents of our universe and the laws that bind them, has grown in leaps and bounds over the last century. Nonetheless, concordance cosmology confronts us with the reality that 95% of the energy density of the universe is poorly understood, at best. In this talk we will explore what is known about our universe and discuss some modest ideas for how to push the bounds of our knowledge. 

In particular, I will review chameleon gravity and its predictions.  I will discuss how we can go about testing chameleons and present the experimental bounds to date as well as prospective future observations and bounds. Having taken this foray through chameleons as an exemplar of how valuable varied probes of our theories are, we will finally shift our focus to the immense potential of radio astronomy for probing fundamental physics and general relativity. 

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

MARCH 16, 2017
JAMES J. COLLINS
MIT & Harvard University
Host: Mehran Kardar

“Synthetic Biology: Physical Biology by Design”

Synthetic biology is bringing together physicists and biologists to model, design and construct biological circuits out of proteins, genes and other bits of DNA, and to use these circuits to rewire and reprogram organisms. These re-engineered organisms are going to change our lives in the coming years, leading to cheaper drugs, rapid diagnostic tests, and synthetic probiotics to treat infections and a range of complex diseases. In this talk, we highlight recent efforts to utilize biological physics principles to create synthetic gene networks and programmable cells, and discuss a variety of synthetic biology applications in biotechnology and biomedicine.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

MARCH 23, 2017
MATTHEW SCHWARTZ
Harvard University
Host: Society of Physics Students

"The Emergence of Jets at the Large Hadron Collider"

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is the largest scientific instrument ever built. Its greatest success at this point is the discovery of the Higgs boson, but we hope for many more discoveries in the coming years. So far, the LHC experiments have focused mostly on the cleanest discovery channels, i.e. those without the collimated beams of particles known as jets. Although these jets are ubiquitous at the LHC, they provide tremendous challenges to both theory and experiment. On the theory side, they are not well described at any order in perturbation theory; on the experimental side, they are hard to accurately measure. Over the last decade, there has been remarkable progress in overcoming these challenges. This talk will discuss elements of the LHC program and the ongoing revolution in jet physics, touching on recent theoretical advances including effective field theory methods and the application deep learning to particle physics.

Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Room 10-250
Refreshments @ 3:30 pm in 4-349 (Pappalardo Community Room)

Last updated on March 31, 2017 9:58 AM