Gage Bonner earns 2020 Teaching Award

profile picture of Gage Bonner
profile picture of Gage Bonner
Gage Bonner

Congrats to physics grad student Gage Bonner for earning a 2020 College of Letters & Sciences Continuation of Study teaching award!

This new award category recognizes graduate students in L&S who provided exceptional continuity of instruction support to their department or delivered exceptional student experience in a remote instructional setting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bonner was nominated for his work as a TA in Physics 109, Physics in the Arts, by one of the course’s instructors, Prof. Pupa Gilbert. Physics 109 is a quantitative-reasoning course offered to non-science majors, typically serving more than 200 students.

“The students are terrified of physics, and are not quantitative thinkers, thus it is especially important for Physics in the Arts TAs to be kind, friendly, and not intimidating,” Gilbert says. “Gage excels at all these challenges, and teaches masterfully. He is kind, intelligent, knowledgeable, and always in a good mood, making everyone feel comfortable and not intimidated.”

Gilbert nominated Bonner for the Continuation of Study award because of how effectively he adapted to the changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, because in-person labs were no longer an option, Gilbert selected online labs, and asked the TAs to develop a series of interactive questions associated with each online experiment to help the students learn by doing. Bonner excelled at developing these questions. She also noted how well he interacts with students through the online Zoom lectures, helping to keep conversations going and being knowledgable, kind and effective with online instruction.

Based on course and TA evaluations, the students agree with Gilbert. Said one student in an evaluation:

“Gage has been a really awesome TA. He makes labs run so smoothly, responds to questions quickly and effectively, and reminds us [of] vital information. He was also super helpful in lectures. Letting the teachers know if there was a technical issue or question. He also made a really friendly and comfortable learning environment even with the restraints of BBC collaborate ultra.”

UW–Madison employs over 2,100 teaching assistants (TAs) across a wide range of disciplines. Their contributions to the classroom, lab, and field are essential to the university’s educational mission. To recognize the excellence of TAs across campus, the Graduate School supports the College of Letters & Science (L&S) in administering these awards.

Bonner has been a graduate student and TA in the department since Fall 2016.

New nondestructive optical technique reveals the structure of mother-of-pearl

A camera and some iridescent shells

Most people know mother-of-pearl, an iridescent biomineral also called nacre, from buttons, jewelry, instrument inlays and other decorative flourishes. Scientists, too, have admired and marveled at nacre for decades, not only for its beauty and optical properties but because of its exceptional toughness.

“It’s one of the most-studied natural biominerals,” says Pupa Gilbert, a University of Wisconsin–Madison physics professor who has studied nacre for more than a decade. “It may not look like much — just a shiny, decorative material. But it can be 3,000 times more resistant to fracture than aragonite, the mineral from which it’s made. It has piqued the interest of materials scientists because making materials better than the sum of their parts is extremely attractive.”

Now, a new, nondestructive optical technique will unlock even more knowledge about nacre, and in the process could lead to a new understanding of climate history. Gilbert, UW–Madison electrical engineering professor Mikhail Kats — who is also an affiliate professor of physics — their students, and collaborators described the technique, called hyperspectral interference tomography, today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read the Full News Story | PNAS study

Highest-energy Cosmic Rays Detected in Star Clusters

a false-colored and abstract-looking image of star clusters

For decades, researchers assumed the cosmic rays that regularly bombard Earth from the far reaches of the galaxy are born when stars go supernova — when they grow too massive to support the fusion occurring at their cores and explode.

Those gigantic explosions do indeed propel atomic particles at the speed of light great distances. However, new research suggests even supernovae — capable of devouring entire solar systems — are not strong enough to imbue particles with the sustained energies needed to reach petaelectronvolts (PeVs), the amount of kinetic energy attained by very high-energy cosmic rays.

And yet cosmic rays have been observed striking Earth’s atmosphere at exactly those velocities, their passage marked, for example, by the detection tanks at the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) observatory near Puebla, Mexico. Instead of supernovae, the researchers — including UW–Madison’s Ke Fang — posit that star clusters like the Cygnus Cocoon serve as PeVatrons — PeV accelerators — capable of moving particles across the galaxy at such high energy rates.

Their paradigm-shifting research provides compelling evidence for star forming regions to be PeVatrons and is published in two recent papers in Nature Astronomy and Astrophysical Journal Letters.

For the full news story, please visit https://www.mtu.edu/news/stories/2021/march/not-so-fast-supernova-highestenergy-cosmic-rays-detected-in-star-clusters.html.

 

IceCube detection of a high-energy particle proves 60-year-old theory

a colorized simulation of the detection event indicating where energies took place and were transferred

On Dec. 8, 2016, a high-energy particle hurtled to Earth from outer space at close to the speed of light. The particle, an electron antineutrino, smashed into an electron deep inside the ice sheet at the South Pole. This collision produced a particle that quickly decayed into a shower of secondary particles, triggering the sensors of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a massive telescope buried in the Antarctic glacier.

IceCube had seen a Glashow resonance event, a phenomenon predicted by Nobel laureate physicist Sheldon Glashow in 1960. With this detection, scientists provided another confirmation of the Standard Model of particle physics. It also further demonstrated the ability of IceCube, which detects nearly massless particles called neutrinos using thousands of sensors embedded in the Antarctic ice, to do fundamental physics. The result was published March 10 in Nature.

For the full story, please visit: https://news.wisc.edu/icecube-detection-of-high-energy-particle-proves-60-year-old-physics-theory/

For the study, please visit: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03256-1

Summer 2021 courses have been announced

image says: Department of Physics is offering the following courses for Summer 2021: Physics 103: General Physics (includes lab) 4 credits. Principles of mechanics, heat, and sound (non-calculus, uses algebra & trigonometry). Physics 104: General Physics (includes lab) 4 credits. Principles of electricity and magnetism, light, optics, and modern physics (non-calculus). Physics 202: General Physics (includes lab) 5 credits. Electricity, magnetism, light, and sound for Engineering students (calculus based). View course meeting times here: https://enroll.wisc.edu/search Enrollment beings the week of April 5th.

The Department of Physics is offering the following courses for Summer 2021:

  • Physics 103: General Physics (includes lab) 4 credits. Principles of mechanics, heat, and sound (non-calculus, uses algebra & trigonometry).
  • Physics 104: General Physics (includes lab) 4 credits. Principles of electricity and magnetism, light, optics, and modern physics (non-calculus).
  • Physics 202: General Physics (includes lab) 5 credits. Electricity, magnetism, light, and sound for Engineering students (calculus based).

View course meeting times at https://enroll.wisc.edu/search

Enrollment beings the week of April 5th.