The department mourns the passing of Emeritus Prof. Marv Ebel

Marv passed away January 28, 2017. Prof. Ebel was the 2016 recipient of the department’s Distinguished Service Award, recognizing his years of service in the Department and as an Associate Dean in the Graduate School.

UW-Madison team wins Innovation Award in Hyperloop competition

SpaceX and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk, who is the driving force behind the Hyperloop competition, took the opportunity to sit in the Badgerloop pod while touring the various team’s booths. The team purposefully built its pod to fit Musk, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall.

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Coherent Magnetic Response at Optical Frequencies Using Atomic Transitions

Over the last two decades, there has been a growing interest in a new generation of optical tools using materials that are not available in nature. These materials offer the promise of devices with unique capabilities such as super-resolution lenses and optical cloaks. For these materials to work, they must interact strongly with both the magnetic and the electric field of light. However, the interaction of atoms with the magnetic field is almost always ignored since its strength is many orders of magnitude weaker than the electric field. A paper published in Physical Review X by Nicholas R. Brewer, Zachary N. Buckholtz, Zachary J. Simmons, Eli A. Mueller, and Deniz D. Yavuz shows, for the first time, a strong interaction between the magnetic field of a laser beam and an ensemble of atoms.

The group passed laser light through a special crystal doped with europium atoms, which have a very complex electronic structure. The structure is such that, for a specific wavelength of light (527.5 nm), the electrons prefer to interact with the magnetic field of light instead of the electric field. For this to happen, it is essential that (i) the crystal is cooled to a temperature of 4 K, and (ii) the color of light is very precise (the wavelength should be accurate at the level of one part in ten billion). By measuring how much light is transmitted through the crystal as the laser intensity is varied, they were able to deduce the strength of the magnetic interaction.

The results demonstrate one way to create materials with unusual optical properties. Future work could also use interactions between electrons and the magnetic field of a laser to study quantum interference.

Jim Lawler Awarded 2017 LAD Laboratory Astrophysics Prize

The Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is pleased to announce that its 2017 Laboratory Astrophysics Prize, given to an individual who has made significant contributions to laboratory astrophysics over an extended period of time, goes to James E. (Jim) Lawler (University of Wisconsin, Madison) for his contributions in atomic physics to advance our understanding of galactic nucleosynthesis and chemical evolution. His spectroscopic work has opened a new era of stellar chemistry by advancing our ability to compare nucleosynthesis predictions with accurate relative elemental abundances.

Photo Credit: Jeff Miller

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2017 CUWiP at UW-Madison!

The UW–Madison Department of Physics hosted a meeting of the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) this past weekend (Jan 13-15, 2017) at Chamberlin Hall, UW–Madison. This event was one of ten 2017 CUWiP conferences held simultaneously around the US and in Canada.

Over 140 undergraduate students from the Midwest (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa), including students from many of the UW branch campuses, participated. The meeting included presentations from prominent women in physics, opportunities for networking, career advice and support, and a student poster session.

The CUWiP meetings are cosponsored nationally by the American Physical Society, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. The UW–Madison conference involved other collaborators and supporters, including the Department of Physics, WIPAC, the Graduate School, the College of Letters and Science, the Office of the Provost, and the Brittingham Family Foundation.

The lead organizers were Susan Coppersmith, Robert E. Fassnacht and Vilas Research Professor of Physics; Lisa Everett, Professor of Physics; Laura Fleming, Associate Instrumentation Specialist, Department of Physics; and Pupa Gilbert, Professor of Physics, Chemistry, and Geoscience. The local organizing team also included Dr. Silvia Bravo Gallart, Education and Outreach Specialist at WIPAC; Ms. Megan Madsen, Education and Outreach Coordinator at WIPAC; and Dr. Susan Nossal, Associate Scientist, Department of Physics and Director of the Physics Learning Center, as well as UW-Madison students and staff, including many graduate students in Physics, Medical Physics, Biophysics, Engineering, and Astronomy.

It was a fantastic event that inspired all in attendance.

For more info, please visit the conference website: