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CAS Awards and Recognition Ceremony  

Faculty, staff, and students of the College gathered on April 12, 2016, to recognize the many contributions of the members of our community this year to the College’s mission of teaching, service, and original creative work. Over 150 people gathered for a ceremony recognizing outstanding teachers, student researchers, staff, outreach to the community, and donors to the College.

The Physics & Astronomy Department's Assistant Director Undergraduate Program, Diane Diaferia received the Staff Excellence Award.

Recognition of retiring faculty and staff went to: Phillip Allen, Gene Sprouse and Sara Lutterbie.

See more here.

SBU makes the cover of American Journal of Physics  

Education is an important mission of the Stony Brook University. The Astronomy Group at Stony Brook has developed a Michelson-type stellar interferometer for education and is now offering this new lab experiment in the undergraduate and graduate astronomy laboratory courses. Students measure the diameter of the Sun using this radio interferometer in front of the Physics building. This new development is published in the American Journal of Physics and featured on its cover page.

Michelson interferometry is a technique with broad applications in both Physics and Astronomy and has recently been used for the detection of gravitational waves. Michelson stellar interferometer is an application of the same physical concept and is used to date, to directly measure stellar diameters. The Sun is a marginally resolved source for our home-built radio telescope when viewed in single-dish mode, but is well resolved when observed interferometrically. Students compare an intensity scan of the Sun to that of a known point source (a geostationary TV satellite) in single-dish mode and infer the Sun's angular diameter. Then repeat the experiment with the interferometer, recording the Sun's and the satellite's visibility amplitudes as a function of baseline for several different interferometer baselines. The interferometric measurements yield a much more accurate solar diameter.

See more here.

Ultrafast Meets Ultrasensitive  

To study the pure and un-interrupted quantum dynamics of a molecule, you need to isolate the molecule from its neighbors by getting it in the gas phase, preferably cold and free from collisions. You might want to have a few neighbor molecules to see how that affects the dynamics, a few partners joined together in a so-called “cluster”, but you want control over those neighbors so you can make a systematic study.

Scientists can produce cold, isolated molecules and clusters using the techniques of molecular beams, in which gas jets are shot into a vacuum. The trouble with molecular beams is that you don’t get very many molecules to work with. The density of molecules (molecules/liter) in a molecular beam is typically about 10 million times lower than in air and 10 billion times lower than a liquid, so very sensitive techniques are needed to record signals from these extremely dilute samples.

At Stony Brook, Prof. Tom Allison's group, using a special type of laser called a frequency comb, and optical resonators to passively amplify minute signals, has recently demonstrated a nearly 4 orders of magnitude improvement in the sensitivity of ultrafast spectroscopy, such that signals can easily be recorded from the “designer” molecules and clusters that can only be produced in molecular beam. The instrument can record changes in the absorption of the probe pulses to a few parts in 1010. The sensitivity enhancement comes from resonating the laser pulses in optical cavities, one for the pump pulses and a second for the probe pulses, which requires precise control of the electric-field of the laser pulses so they can be coherently added and stored. The techniques they have demonstrated in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum and can also be used in the UV and infrared, and thus applied to a wide range of fundamental problems in molecular physics.

The results are published in Optica, the OSA’s premier high-impact journal, see more here.

PhysTEC Recognizes Leaders in Physics Teacher Preparation  

Nationwide physics teacher preparation program recognizes colleges and universities helping to address the severe national shortage of high school physics teachers.

Stony Brook University came in 3rd in "The 5+ Club", a group of institutions that has graduated 5 or more physics teachers in a given year. Fewer than 20 institutions in the United States graduate 5 or more highly qualified physics teachers in most years and the most common number of graduates is zero.

In 2013 the National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics reported, “the need for qualified teachers is greater now than at any previous time in history.” Of the approximately 1400 new teachers who are hired to teach physics each year, only 35% have a degree in physics or physics education. Stony Brook University’s efforts are an essential part of helping to address the critical shortage of qualified physics teachers.

Stony Brook University offers three programs registered and approved by the New York State Education Department for individuals seeking New York State certification to teach physics in secondary schools, grades 7 – 12.

See more here.

YITP collaborators offer explanation of possible new particle  

Stony Brook University's Prof. Meade, postdoctoral fellow Sam McDermott and graduate student Harikrishnan Ramani published a potential explanation of what they described as a “diphoton excess” in arXiv, which is an electronic e-print of a scientific paper. The paper has also been accepted for publication in the journal Physics Letters B.

“In the case of this data that came out of Atlas and CMS [compact muon solenoid], the simplest explanation was something that looked like a relative of the Higgs,” he said. This particle, however, even if it was a relative of the Higgs, was wider than expected. To explain the data would require the particle interacting with particles other than those in the Standard Model.

“This could be a harbinger of an entirely new sector of particles in the universe, some of which could be dark matter, and this particle could also decay into this sector. If this particle turns out to be real, it would be the first particle ever discovered beyond the Standard Model.”

To be sure, it’s way too early for any conclusions, in part because it might not even be real. Even if it’s a new particle, “we definitely won’t know what the particle is without more data,” which should come this spring when the Large Hadron Collider starts running again.

See more here.

In Memoriam: Roderich Engelmann  

Roderich Engelmann, Stony Brook University Professor Emeritus, passed away Feb. 29, 2016 at his home in Delray Beach Florida after a lengthy battle with multiple myeloma. He was 76 years old.

Rod received his PhD in 1966 from the University of Heidelberg working on the weak interaction properties of hyperons. After several years on the staff at Argonne National Laboratory, he joined the Stony Brook faculty in 1973 and advanced to the rank of full professor in 1980. Early in his Stony Brook days, he led studies of high energy neutrino interactions and 200 GeV proton collisions at the newly commissioned Fermilab accelerator. In an extended stay at CERN in the 1980's, he exploited the UA2 data from the proton-antiproton collider to study the newly discovered W and Z bosons and high transverse momentum processes. During a leave at BNL, he worked to characterize the magnets for the accelerator that ultimately became RHIC. For many years he worked on the DZero experiment analyses of the production of single photons. More recently he played an important role in the ATLAS experiment in calibrating the response to electrons and photons, essential elements for the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. He was the adviser to nine graduate students.

Rod had a special talent for teaching the pre-med introductory physics courses. He started to work on internet-based education years before it became a major trend. He combined his understanding of the email, blogging and other WEB-based methods as a way to engage students. He used these and other computer-based tools to create novel and more effective ways to teach introductory physics. A 2009 interview with Rod about his teaching methods can be seen here.

Fermilab scientists discover new four-flavor particle  

Scientists on the DZero collaboration at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermilab have discovered a new particle - the latest member to be added to the exotic species of particle known as tetraquarks. As is the case with many discoveries, the tetraquark observation came as a surprise when DZero scientists first saw hints in July, 2015 of the new particle, called X(5568), named for its mass-5568 megaelectronvolts.

"At first, we didn't believe it was a new particle," says DZero co-spokesperson Dmitri Denisov." Only after we performed multiple cross-checks did we start to believe that the signal we saw could not be explained by backgrounds or known processes, but was evidence of a new particle."

"The next question will be to understand how the four quarks are put together," says DZero co-spokesperson Paul Grannis. "They could all be scrunched together in one tight ball, or they might be one pair of tightly bound quarks that revolves at some distance from the other pair." Four-quark states are rare, and although there's nothing in nature that forbids the formation of a tetraquark, scientists don't understand them nearly as well as they do two- and three-quark states.

The Stony Brook faculty from the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s High Energy Physics Group include Distinguished Research Professor Paul Grannis, Professor John Hobbs, Associate Professor Dmitri Tsybychev, Professor Robert McCarthy and Research Professor Dean Schamberger. They participated in the DZero project from its inception and co-authored the paper.

See more here and here.

Stony Brook's Society of Physics Students - Distinguished SPS Chapter  

Society of Physics Students recognizes Stony Brook University's SPS chapter as a Distinguished SPS Chapter for 2014-2015.

This group of undergraduate students visits government laboratories such as Brookhaven National Lab; organizes SBU faculty and grad student's talks about research or other interesting events in the physics world; have fun movie and game nights. Also, this chapter gives back to the community by reaching out to local schools.

SBU's chapter meets on Thursdays 7:00 PM in the Society of Physics Students Room (Physics P-120).

See more about the SBU SPS chapter here.

Face Book Link

Using Glass to Improve Graphene's Powerful Conductivity  

A team of scientists led by Matthew Eisaman, a physicist at Stony Brook University and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, have developed a method using common glass for creating resilient, customized, and high-performance graphene. The material is known for its durability and electrical conductivity and is used in the energy, electronics and semiconductor industries. The graphene-enhancing process is detailed in a paper published in Scientific Reports.

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Strong Field Molecular Ionization in the Impulsive Limit: Freezing Vibrations with Short Pulses  

The Weinacht group (time resolved spectroscopy and quantum control) recently published new measurements of how molecules behave in intense laser fields on very short timescales. Their work studied molecular ionization in the limit of impulsive excitation - i.e. with laser pulses shorter than the timescale for nuclear dynamics (molecular vibrations). They found a general, counterintuitive response involving a delicate interplay of electronic and nuclear degrees of freedom. Their work (Péter Sándor et al., is highlighted as an Editor's Suggestion in Physical Review Letters.

Separating left- and right-handed particles in a semi-metallic material produces anomalously high conductivity  

Scientists at the U.S Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University have discovered a new way to generate very low-resistance electric current in a new class of materials. The discovery, which relies on the separation of right- and left-"handed" particles, points to a range of potential applications in energy, quantum computing, and medical imaging, and possibly even a new mechanism for inducing superconductivity—the ability of some materials to carry current with no energy loss.

This "chiral magnetic effect" had been predicted theoretically to occur in superdense nuclear matter by Dmitri Kharzeev and collaborators. However the effect had been never observed definitively in a materials science laboratory at the time this work was done. In fact, when physicists in Brookhaven's Condensed Matter Physics & Materials Science Department (CMP&MS) first measured the significant drop in electrical resistance, and the accompanying dramatic increase in conductivity, in zirconium telluride, they were quite surprised. "We didn't know this large magnitude of 'negative magnetoresistance' was possible," said Qiang Li. To test that the separation of charges could be triggered by a chiral imbalance, they compared their measurements with the mathematical predictions of how powerful the increase in conductivity should be with increasing magnetic field strength. Tonica Valla performed the measurements and visualizations using angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) that confirmed that zirconium telluride indeed contained chiral quasi-particles.

For a complete press release of Stony Brook University, see here.

The results are published in the journal Nature Physics.

See more here.

Photo by R. Stoutenburgh, BNL

New CNC Milling Machine  
We are proud to present the latest addition to our Mechanical Workshop: A Vectrax 3-axis CNC milling machine. The new machine greatly enhances our milling capabilities for producing one of a kind pieces and small production runs with precise accuracy. It can import files from Mastercam, Solidworks and AutoCAD. The milling machine has a centroid controller and a fourth axis computer controlled rotary table for cylindrical profiling. It features an onboard Mastercam. It will machine components from small to large with maximum dimensions: travel X=31.75", Y=16.5" and Z=6" with.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy full service Machine Shop provides to the SUNY campus community a wide range of technical support for mechanical systems design as well as extensive manufacturing capabilities. The Machine Shop is particularly well suited for the design and manufacturing of research and prototype systems. The shop is available to provide clients a wide extent of precision fabrication services from prototype one-offs to production runs.

See more here.

Ice-like Phonons in Liquid Water  
For more than 100 years, scientists have debated what the underlying molecular structure of water is, and the common view has been that H2O molecules are either "water-like" or "ice-like". Now through computer simulation conducted at the Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS) at Stony Brook University, researchers can illustrate that the structure and dynamics of hydrogen bonding in liquid water is more similar to ice than previously thought. The finding, published in Nature Communications, changes the common understanding of the molecular nature of water and has relevance to many fields, such as climate science and molecular biophysics, and technologies such as desalinization and water-based energy production.

In the paper, "The hydrogen-bond network of water supports propagating optical phonon-like modes," lead author Daniel C. Elton, a PhD candidate, and Marivi Fernandez-Serra, PhD, Associate Professor, in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and IACS, show that propagating vibrations or phonons can exist in water, just as in ice. By centering on water's unique hydrogen bond network, they routinely demonstrated that optical phonon-like modes can propagate the hydrogen bond network, just as in ice. Unlike in ice, however, hydrogen bonds in water are constantly being broken and reformed, so the phonons only last for about one trillionth of a second yet can travel over long distances up to two nanometers.

See more here.


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