Laboratory and Classroom Demonstration Coordinator Bill Berner conducted his 17th annual holiday physics demonstration shows on Jan. 13 and 14. More than 500 students from local schools, along with a dozen home-schooled children, viewed the live demonstrations on electricity and magnetism as part of the SAS Science Outreach Initiative and Physics and Astronomy Department outreach program.
Profs. Arjun Yodh, Tom Lubensky, and Peter Collings formed a team to do research led by postdoctoral fellow Joonwoo Jeong and graduate student Zoey Davidson. Their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with a liquid crystal that dissolves in water shows, for the first time, that such crystals can form in the "columnar" phase leading to droplets (formed mostly of water) that look like gemstones.
Justin Khoury, Associate Professor and incoming Undergraduate Chair of Physics & Astronomy, has been appointed a Penn Fellow for 2014. The Penn Fellows program provides leadership development to select Penn faculty members at their mid-career point. Penn Fellows build cross-campus alliances, meet distinguished academic leaders, think strategically about universities and university governance and consult with Penn's senior administrators.
Profs. Tom Lubensky and Charles Kane have a paper on the cover of Nature Physics this month. Their work has established the mathematical relationship between the 'floppy modes' of isotatic lattices (like arrays of masses and springs that verge on mechanical instability) and the boundary modes that occur in quantum electronics systems like quantum Hall effect devices and topological insulators hence revealing unexpected connections between theories of hard and soft matter.
Prof. Andrea Liu has been named a Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics for Fall 2014. Prof. Liu will be supported for a sabbatical leave freeing her from teaching and administrative tasks to engage full time in research which will lead to intellectual stimulation of the field of condensed matter physics.
Prof. Gene Mele will assume a 2014-2015 Leverhulme Visiting Professorship in the United Kingdom. The award from the Leverhulme Trust enables UK institutions to invite eminent researchers from overseas to enhance knowledge and skills of academic staff or the student body within the host institution. Prof. Mele's host institution will be the University of Loughborough but he will visit various other UK universities during a year-long sabbatical.
The Final Design Review is the last stage of review for NSF and DOE projects to be officially declared as a construction project. The National Science Board is expected to approve a construction start for 2014 of LSST as a Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction project. Penn scientists and engineers play leading roles in the front-end electronics for the LSST camera, weak gravitational lensing, and supernovae dark energy study designs. See the LSST web site for more information.
Perfect optical components may be formable from nanotechnology according to recent work by a collaboration of Penn scientists including Prof. Randy Kamien. The group recently discovered a structure where the layers curve around multiple ellipses that fan out radially from a common point, like the petals on a daisy. Since each “petal” can act as a focusing element for light, these structures could be used to concentrate light at an intense central point.
Professor Marija Drndic has been named an APS Fellow "For development of novel nanofabrication methods for graphene nanoelectronics and fast biomolecular analysis in solution."
Starting July 1, 2015, Prof. Marija Drndic will serve as Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs and Assoc. Prof. Justin Khoury will serve as Associate Chair for Undergraduate Affairs.