Ellen Zweibel elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Ellen Zweibel

Astronomy and physics Professor Ellen Zweibel has been honored with membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

Zweibel is among 120 new members — and one of 59 women, the largest group ever — elected to the academy, one of the highest honors that can be conferred on an American scientist. Members are chosen “in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.”

Zweibel, the W.L. Kraushaar Professor of Astronomy and Physics, came to UW–Madison in 2003. She studies the way magnetic fields shape the universe, including the physics of plasmas in stars and galaxies and the cosmic rays they throw out into the universe.

A founding member of the Center for Magnetic Self-Organization, a Physics Frontier Center funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, Zweibel won the American Physical Society’s Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics in 2016.

The National Academy of Sciences — with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine — provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations. It is a private, nonprofit institution established in 1863 under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

For the full story, please visit https://news.wisc.edu/national-academy-of-sciences-adds-two-uw-madison-faculty-members/

Three department members earn teaching accolades

a hand writing on a chalkboard

Congratulations to the following Physics Department members who recently earned teaching awards:

  • Dr. Daniel Thurs won a 2021 Alliant Energy James R. Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award. These awards are funded by an endowment from the Alliant Energy Foundation and are intended to recognize and reward extraordinary teachers at UW System universities within Alliant Energy’s service area. The award pays tribute to Thurs’s dedication as a teacher, and his ability to communicate subject matter effectively and inspire an enthusiasm for learning in his students.
  • Daniela Girotti-Hernandez and John Podczerwinski were both named 2021 L&S Teaching Fellows. The Teaching Fellow Award is granted to TAs from the College of Letters and Science who have achieved outstanding success as students and teachers. Winners of this award serve as instructors at the L&S Fall TA Training, which takes place at the start of the fall semester and welcomes 300-400 new and experienced TAs from across campus.

Introducing the Physics Ph.D. Class of 2021

Bucky Badger in a lab coat holding a prism with a rainbow coming out, and Welcome to Physics! above

After record-breaking application numbers and the most unique recruiting season yet, the Department of Physics is pleased to introduce the 30 students of the incoming Ph.D. class of 2021!   

“This year’s incoming Ph.D. class is a remarkably strong and diverse cohort who have overcome truly historic obstacles to join us,” says Ph.D. admissions committee chair, Prof. Shimon Kolkowitz. “I couldn’t be more excited to welcome them to our department and to witness the great work they will accomplish in their time here.” 

602 students applied for one of 91 admissions spots, the most applications the department has received in at least the past decade (based on available graduate school data). 

Some highlights of the incoming class include:   

  • Students coming from 18 U.S. states and three other countries (China, India, and Malaysia) 
  • 22 expressing a preference for experiment, with the rest expressing a preference for theory only, or either/undecided 
  • Eight women 
  • Three Advanced Opportunity Fellowship (AOF) eligible students 
  • Two students who were named 2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellows

This year’s incoming class is also the first to ever participate in “Virtual Visit Days,” thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though perhaps not as exciting as visiting campus in person, admitted students could still meet with faculty to discuss research opportunities, participate in discussions and virtual games nights with current students, and watch videos — many newly-created just for these visits — about the University, the city of Madison, and research in our department. 

“Thank you to all the prospective students for their engagement and enthusiasm throughout the admissions and virtual visit process,” says Michelle Holland, graduate program coordinator. We are beyond thrilled to welcome the Class of 2021 to the Physics Ph.D. Program at UW–Madison as we find our new normal in being together on campus this fall.”   

The department would like to send a huge round of applause to everyone who participated in recruitment this year, especially current graduate students on the recruitment committeeTrevor Oxholm, Abigail Shearrow, Kunal SanwalkaSusmita Mondal, Winnie Wang. We also thank graduate program coordinators Michelle Holland and Jackson Kennedy for organizing and running the virtual visit days, Dan Bradley for once again providing IT solutions to help the admissions process and visit days run smoothly, and Sarah Perdue for website development and video production. 

The department also thanks the Ph.D. admissions committee for their thorough evaluation of the applicants. In addition to Kolkowitz, the committee members are Profs. Keith Bechtol, Stas Boldyrev, Victor Brar, Mark Eriksson, Ke Fang, and Jeff Parker.  

One student accepted our admissions offer but has deferred to 2022.  

  Name     Undergrad Institution   Major Zain Abhari Florida State University Physics Jared Benson University of Vermont Physics; Mathematics Emma Brann Michigan State University Physics Theodore Bucci Youngstown State University Physics/Mathematics Brighton Coe Illinois State University Physics/Computational Physics Caroline Doctor University of Georgia Physics Justin Edwards Texas Tech University Physics Carter Fox University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Physics; Astronomy/Astrophysics Syeda "Minhal" Gardezi Wellesley College Physics Daniel Heimsoth Yale University Astrophysics Tyler Kovach Case Western Reserve University Electrical Engineering; Engineering Physics Caroline "Carrie" Laber-Smith Massachusetts Institute Of Technology Physics Hong Ming Lim Nanyang Technological University Physics Yixiang "Ethan" Lu University of California-Berkeley Physics Justin Marquez Florida State University Physics Michael Martinez University of Chicago Astrophysics, Mathematics Stephen McKay Wheaton College Physics, Mathematics Trevor Nelson University of Massachusetts-Amherst Physics, Math, Astronomy Sam Norrell Indiana University Biology, Chemistry, Math Jesse Osborn University of Nebraska-Lincoln Physics and Mathematics Angelina Partenheimer Truman State University Physics Priyadarshini Rajkumar Texas Tech University Physics Zoe Rechav Truman State University Physics John "Jack" Reily University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; University of Wisconsin-Madison (M.S.) Engineering Physics; Physics-Quantum Computing (M.S.) Faizah Siddique University of Massachusetts-Amherst Physics Matthew Snyder University of Missouri-Columbia Physics and Mathematics Gabriel Spahn University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Physics and Music Spencer Weeden Carleton College Physics Hongyi Wu University of Maryland-College Park Physics, Mathematics Perri Zilberman University of California-Santa Barbara Physics, Mathematics

Gage Siebert named 2021 Goldwater Scholar

profile photo of gage siebert
profile photo of gage siebert
Gage Siebert 

Three University of Wisconsin–Madison students, including junior Physics and Math major Gage Siebert, have been named 2021 winners of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, considered the country’s preeminent undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

As a freshman, Siebert studied the origins of life in Professor David Baum’s lab at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Siebert then interned at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, studying the radio emission from several of the millisecond pulsars used in the search for gravitational waves. He later presented this work at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. For the past two years, Siebert has worked in Professor Peter Timbie’s observational cosmology lab on the Tianlai Array, a radio astronomy experiment built to map hydrogen. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.

More than 1,250 students were nominated this year from 438 academic institutions; 410 were named Goldwater Scholars. The scholarship program honors the late Sen. Barry Goldwater and was designed to develop highly qualified scientists, engineers and mathematicians. The scholarships were first awarded in 1989. Each scholar will receive up to $7,500 for their senior year of undergraduate study.

This post was adapted from this post originally published by University Communications


CMS Group publishes new study on Lepton flavor in Higgs boson decays

a cylindrical shape made up of blue lines has a cone of red lines emanating from its center within the cylinder, like it's heading toward exiting out the base of the cylinder

Neutrinos mix and transform from one flavor to the other. So do quarks. However, electron and its heavier cousins, the muon and the tau, seem to conserve their flavor identity. This accidental conservation of charged lepton flavor must have a profound reason, or low-levels of violation of that conservation principle should occur at high energy scales. However, evidence for any charged lepton flavor violation remains elusive.

The CMS group recently published a new study on Lepton flavor in Higgs boson decays. At UW–Madison, the effort was led by Sridhara Dasu and postdoctoral researcher Varun Sharma, building off of work done by former postdoctoral researcher Maria Cepeda and former graduate student Aaron Levine.

The international CMS collaboration recently published a news story about this new study. Please read the full story here.

a cylindrical shape made up of blue lines has a cone of red lines emanating from its center within the cylinder, like it's heading toward exiting out the base of the cylinder
An event similar to the lepton flavor violating decay of the Higgs boson, produced with the gluon fusion production mechanism. The red track corresponds to a muon, while the red cone along with its corresponding calorimeter deposits is the tau lepton. | CMS Collaboration