The department’s February 2012 e-newsletter is now online. Read it here!
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Duke University Physics is represented by 42 papers at the APS March Meeting this year. Using the APS’s “affiliation” search function, here is a webpage with a list of all of our papers. You can see that a wide variety of work from several departments at Duke is represented.
Thank you to Prof. Harold Baranger for compiling this list.
What do first-year graduate students like about Duke Physics? “It’s a strong department—strong in many different areas,” says Meg Shea, who earned her BS at Yale. “Here there are lots of options.”
Shea likes the structured way in which the department introduces new graduate students to all the options. In a series of seminars over the course of the year, professors from each research group give talks about their work. The seminars include dinner, and the casual atmosphere allows students to get to know members of the faculty and their research. Shea appreciates the fact that incoming students don’t have to commit to a specialty and an advisor right away, as students at some universities do.
She’s considering working with the high-energy experimental group this summer. “My goal is to figure out if the day-to-day life of a high-energy experimentalist will suit me,” she says. The students say most of them will probably end up choosing an advisor from the group they work with this summer, although even then it’s not too late to switch to another group.
Jonah Bernhard, from Swarthmore College, says he was attracted to the interdisciplinary opportunities at Duke. He’s interested in applied physics—fabricating materials or devices. “If the professor you want to work with is in chemistry or engineering you can do that,” he says.
Timm von Puttkamer, who graduated from Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, also likes the interdisciplinary nature of Duke Physics. He wants to study mathematical physics and string theory. “At my home university, math and physics were in completely different places in the city,” he says. “Here they are across the hall.”
Although the students say the work load is heavy, and they are expected to be more self-directed than in college, they have found the department to be supportive. Kristen Collar of Florida State University says, “Some of the other programs I looked at had a competitive atmosphere among the students. I wanted a department where they wanted me to be here and wanted me to make it.” (more…)
Prof. Nicolas Buchler has received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), entitled “Biochronicity: Time, Evolution, Networks.” The goal is to automate the discovery of periodic processes in Biology at the cellular level. It is an interdisciplinary project involving multiple investigators with theoretical and experimental expertise in circadian clocks, cell cycle, metabolism, and development. John Harer (Duke) is the lead PI. The other team members are: Steve Haase and Philip Benfey (Duke), David Botstein and Ned Wingreen (Princeton), John Hogenesch and Joshua Plotkin (U. Penn), Konstantin Mischaikow (Rutgers), Thomas Fink (London Institute), Tomas Gedeon (Montana State), and Michael Elowitz (Caltech).
In a new Physical Review Letters paper (J. Huang et al., PRL108, 052001 (2012), [link], co-authored by members in Prof. Haiyan Gao‘s Medium Energy Physics Group, new measurements of novel spin phenomena provide the first experimental indication of a partial alignment of quark spin along the direction of motion of a neutron spinning perpendicularly to its direction of motion. Such an alignment, known as transversal helicity, can only be observed if the quarks undergo orbital motion inside the neutron.
The experiment used a high-energy polarized electron beam at DOE’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), located in Newport News, VA. Electron spins were frequently flipped so that the spins of the incident electrons were parallel to their motion half of the time and anti-parallel in the other half. The electrons scattered off polarized neutrons in helium-3 nuclei, with neutron spins aligned perpendicular to the beam direction. Neutrons decay into protons and antineutrinos. Spin aligned helium-3 nuclei are what nature offers physicists as the best effective spin aligned neutrons.
The high-energy electrons penetrated deep inside the neutron, striking one of its quarks. Remnants of the recoiling quarks were observed in high-precision particle detectors as high-energy pions in coincidence with the scattered electrons. In this first measurement of its kind, the observed dependence of the reaction rate on the beam and target spin orientations allowed the physicists to probe the transversal helicity, an important aspect in the three-dimensional imaging of quark motion in
the neutron. The success of this experiment has inspired a rich program of future experiments at energy upgraded Jefferson Lab that Prof. Gao is leading to further explore transversal helicity in the neutron and proton with much higher precision and larger kinematic coverage.
This research was recently featured in the Duke Today article “Quarks make their world turn.” Read it online here.
Prof. Daniel Gauthier, postdoc Hugo Calvalcante and graduate student Seth Cohen‘s paper “Subwavelength Position Sensing Using Nonlinear Feedback and Wave Chaos” was recently published in Physics Review Letters. The article was selected as an editor’s suggestion and Cohen was interviewed by Duke Today. The story is featured on the Duke Research Blog. You can read “Chaos puts a path on nanoparticles” here or download it from Physorg.com here.
Prof. Patrick Charbonneau and collaborators have taken another crack at the glass problem. Read the paper “Geometrical Frustration and Static Correlations in a Simple Glass Former” on Physical Review Letters website here.
January 25, 2012 was the first science fair of the spring semester for the physics outreach group. Physics graduate student Kristine Callan, undergraduates Lauren Musso (physics), Hunter Douglas (engineering), and Chad Liu (engineering) accompanied Derek Leadbetter to host Duke’s physics demo tables at North Chatham Elementary’s Science Night. The evening was a huge success, attended by hundreds of elementary school students. Our volunteer student team received many well deserved accolades. Upcoming science fairs scheduled for the spring semester include Githens Middle School, Creekside Elementary, NC Science Festival, and Duke Alumni Weekend.
View more photos on Flickr here.