The 18th Annual Pappalardo Fellowships
in Physics Symposium


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.The talks are designed for the enjoyment of all members of the MIT physics community.

Refreshments available for attendees in the foyer of 4-349 beginning at 1:30 pm.



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

Dr. Mark Mueller '78, Research Scientist, MIT Center for Theoretical Physics

Introductory Remarks
2:15 pm

Steven Villanueva, Jr.,
2018-2021 Fellow
(Experimental Astrophysics/Observational Astronomy)

The Search for Giant Planets Missed by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

For nearly two decades, the question of how short-period, giant planets formed has remained unanswered. Many theories exist to explain the presence of Hot Jupiters, planets as massive as Jupiter orbiting 10 times closer to their host stars than Mercury orbits the Sun. These theories require the migration of giant planets to the short-period orbits we see today, inferring a population of intermediate-period giant planets imprinted with the signatures of the migration mechanisms responsible. However, the lack of a suitable sample of intermediate-period giant planets around nearby, bright stars has prevented a comprehensive study of Hot Jupiters’ progenitors, the mechanisms that lead to their formation, and their implications for planet formation as a whole.

MIT’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission is in the process of discovering thousands of short-period planets around bright, nearby stars. I’ll discuss my work to leverage existing data of stars observed by TESS to search for hundreds of intermediate-period giant planets that TESS would have otherwise missed, providing a sample of intermediate-period giant planets for future studies.

  2:30 pm Question & Answer
2:45 pm

Bernhard Mistlberger,
2018-2021 Fellow
(Theoretical Nuclear & Particle Physics)

Precision Predictions for Particle Physics

Highly energetic collisions of fundamental particles allow us to study the very fabric of nature. The rapid experimental progress in the field of particle physics of the past years—such as the discovery of the Higgs particle—urges technological and conceptual advancement in our understanding of the interactions of matter. In my presentation, I discuss cutting edge advancements in this field.

  3:00 pm   Question & Answer
3:15 pm

Denis Bandurin,
2018-2021 Fellow
(Experimental Condensed Matter Physics)

Viscous Electronics in Graphene

Transport in systems with many particles experiencing frequent mutual collisions—such as gases or liquids—has been studied for more than two centuries and is accurately described by the theory of hydrodynamics. It has been argued theoretically for a long time that the behavior of interacting charge carriers in solids should also be visualized as a flow of a quantum soup, which has to be treated by the hydrodynamic approach. However, little evidence of hydrodynamic electron transport has been found.

Graphene offers an ideal platform for this inquiry as it hosts an ultra-clean electronic system with electron-electron collisions being the dominant scattering source above liquid nitrogen temperatures—a necessary condition for the hydrodynamic electron transport. In this talk, we will discuss why electron hydrodynamics has not been observed before and how it manifests itself in graphene. It will be shown that electrons in graphene can behave as a very viscous fluid and that its flow resembles that of classical liquids, such as honey. We will discuss how to measure the viscosity of such exotic fluids and talk about the applications of viscous electronics.

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

Hoi Chun "Adrian" Po,
2018-2021 Fellow
(Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics)

Topological Materials as Quantum Corrections to High School Chemistry

Topology is concerned with properties of spaces that remain unchanged under smooth deformations like bending and stretching. Surprisingly, it was realized over the past few decades that materials can also be topological, in that the electrons inside can form emergent spaces with interesting topological properties.

In this talk, I will try to demystify the physics of topological materials by highlighting how quantum mechanics modifies a simplified picture typically taught in high school chemistry, namely, that an electrical insulator arises from the localization of electrons.

We will see how topological materials defy this paradigm and are naturally more quantum mechanical. Furthermore, we will also discuss how this narration helps one efficiently discover thousands of topological material candidates.

  4:15 pm Question & Answer
4:30 pm

Carl Rodriguez,
2016-2019 Fellow,
(Theoretical Astrophysics)

The Era of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy

Since the first detection of gravitational waves in 2015, LIGO and Virgo have detected more than a dozen mergers of black holes and neutron stars. In this talk, I will sketch how we can begin to connect LIGO’s gravitational waves to our models of theoretical astrophysics. I will describe the various astrophysical pathways for creating LIGO’s binary mergers, and how specific features of the gravitational waves (such as the binary eccentricities and black hole spins) can shed light on the formation of these dark remnants.

Finally, I will talk about the future of the field, and how gravitational-wave astronomy is poised to offer us unprecedented insights into physics, astrophysics, and cosmology over the coming years and decades.

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