The 13th Annual Pappalardo Fellowships
in Physics Symposium

FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2014

2:00 - 5:00 PM

MIT Department of Physics
Pappalardo Community Room
Building 4, Room 349
Cambridge, MA

Five members of the Department's premier postdoctoral fellowship program, the Pappalardo Fellowships in Physics, will present highlights from their independent research projects. All talks are designed for the enjoyment of the general MIT community.

Refreshments available in the foyer of 4-349 beginning at 1:45 pm.



  1:45 pm   Refreshments served in foyer outside the Pappalardo Community Room
2:00 pm

Prof. Peter Fisher, Head
Department of Physics

Introductory Remarks
2:15 pm

Robert Penna,
2013-16 Fellow,
Theoretical Astrophysics

"Spinning Black Holes"

A black hole is completely characterized by two numbers: mass and
spin. In this sense, black holes are as simple as elementary
particles. Astronomers have measured black hole masses for decades,
but only in recent years has it become possible to measure black hole
spins. I will describe the simulations and theory that underlie these

Rapidly rotating black holes push Einstein's theory of
gravity to the breaking point. Our great hope is that by studying
these objects we can glimpse whatever it is that lies beyond
Einstein's theory of space and time.

  2:30 pm Question & Answer
2:45 pm

Jeongwan Haah,
2013-16 Fellow,
Quantum Information Theory

"Protecting Quantum Information"

A large-scale quantum computer can be used as a virtual quantum laboratory, as classical computers are used as a virtual laboratory for classical mechanics. An important component of a quantum computer will be a robust quantum memory, which stores highly entangled quantum states during the computation.

I will explain basic principles of the fault-tolerant quantum memory, its relation to topological quantum computation, and a theorist's design of a quantum hard disk drive.

  3:00 pm   Question & Answer
3:15 pm Inna Vishik,
2013-16 Fellow,
Experimental Condensed Matter Physics

"Adventures in Unconventional Superconductivity"

Condensed matter physics examines the science of many: when one-billion-quadrillion atoms are assembled in a solid material, the behavior of the composite is often different from individual constituents. This is especially true in correlated electron systems, where the interactions between electrons are so strong that reductionist methods for understanding the aggregate electronic structure fail.

These materials are marked by unexpected emergent physics which are often discovered serendipitously by experiments. One example is high temperature superconductivity in copper-oxide (cuprate) superconductors, a phenomenon which lacks a microscopic explanation. The importance of the cuprates, both for applications and for fundamental physics, has driven the development of new experimental technologies to interrogate these cryptic materials.

In this talk, I will discuss how novel experimental probes based on principles of light-matter interaction can elucidate the surprising emergent physics in the cuprates and other correlated-electron systems.

  3:30 pm Question & Answer
3:45 pm I N T E R M I S S I O N
4:00 pm

Guy Bunin,
2013-16 Fellow,
Soft Condensed Matter Theory

"From Symmetries to Probabilities"

The microscopic world is constantly in complex motion, involving many separate, interacting pieces. This large complexity necessitates the study of event probabilities, rather than detailed deterministic evolution.

When systems are kept at a constant temperature, there exist symmetries that constrain the dynamics, yielding a simple and elegant probabilistic description. Yet this picture does not extend beyond this regime: 'thermal equilibrium' is special. In the last two decades, new symmetries have been found to persist in a wider range of settings, such as when heat flows between hot and cold regions.

I will describe how event probabilities can be deduced from symmetry under certain conditions. This provides insight and new tools for understanding the interplay between dynamics, probabilities, and symmetry in systems outside of 'thermal equilibrium'.

  4:15 pm Question & Answer
4:30 pm Joshua Spitz,
2011-14 Fellow,
Experimental Neutrino Physics

"Testing Einstein with Neutrinos"

Einstein's theory of special relativity is based on the assumption of Lorentz invariance—that physical laws are independent of the orientation and propagation speed of a system. Despite many careful studies, there is at present no compelling experimental evidence for the breakdown of Lorentz symmetry. Such a breakdown is predicted to occur at the Planck scale, however, and there are several unique physical processes that provide sensitivity at this level.

The process of neutrino oscillation, in which a neutrino of one flavor transforms into another flavor after traveling a distance, is due to interference between the slightly different wave states of the propagating particle. The experimental observable of this natural interferometer—oscillation probability—is therefore quite sensitive to small couplings between neutrinos and a possible Lorentz violating field. This talk will present two searches for Lorentz violation using neutrinos produced in a nuclear reactor.

  4:45 pm Question & Answer
5:00 pm F I N I S