“Physics in the Arts” earns Texty award

Congrats to Pupa Gilbert, whose Physics 109 textbook, Physics in the Arts, has earned a 2022 Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) “Texty” award for Textbook Excellence.

Overall, forty-five textbooks have been awarded 2022 Textbook Awards by TAA. 12 textbooks received William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Awards, 13 textbooks received Textbook Excellence Awards, and 20 textbooks received Most Promising New Textbook Awards.

The McGuffey Longevity Award recognizes textbooks and learning materials whose excellence has been demonstrated over time. The Textbook Excellence Award recognizes excellence in current textbooks and learning materials. The Most Promising New Textbook Award recognizes excellence in 1st edition textbooks and learning materials.

The awardees were recognized during an awards ceremony today, April 27.

A testimony in support of the award for Physics in the Arts says:

Physics in the Arts is the third edition of a textbook which makes physics intriguing and even fun. It is a great effort in connecting complex physics principles with procedures and activities of artists. As artists and artisans, we create and share the beautiful through light and sound. For those of us interested in the aesthetic side of life, this book shows how a physical understanding of light and sound can expand and deepen our appreciation of the world opened up by these media. Understanding the concepts and connections of the book make their professional lives more fulfilling and more efficient.”

Texty award graphic, announcing that Pupa's book has earned a 2022 Textbook Excellence award

Alex Levchenko awarded NSF condensed matter and materials theory grant

Congrats to Alex Levchenko on his funded NSF proposal, Electronic phases and transport in quantum matter at strong coupling. It was funded through the Division of Materials Research, condensed matter and materials theory program.

According to the non-technical summary:

This award supports theoretical research on quantum materials where the strong electron-electron interaction leads to unique transport, thermodynamic and magnetic properties. The research agenda addresses both fundamental physics of electronic interactions in complex materials and practical physics of mesoscopic devices relevant for applications in the domain of quantum science with micro and nanostructures.

The conversion of heat into electricity in solid state systems is governed by thermoelectric effects. The thermoelectric transport in quantum materials and devices is at the heart of various modern electronics applications. Over the last decade, transport measurements in atomically thin two-dimensional materials, such as graphene composed of a single layer of carbon atoms, provided overwhelming evidence that the flow of electrons in such systems exhibits hydrodynamic behavior that resembles the flow of a viscous fluid. These advances pushed the limits of hydrodynamics, providing new perspectives on old fundamental problems and opening doors for completely new discoveries of emergent physics phenomena. This project is, in part, devoted to new research on thermoelectric resistance of such systems as they are subjected to magnetic fields. The PI will also extend these studies to other forms of low-temperature electronic behavior in solids such as superconductivity, where electrons flow without any resistance, and magnetism, as well as their coexistence.

This award also supports the PI’s educational and outreach activities. The project places significant emphasis on training graduate and undergraduate students by engaging them in research in a highly collaborative environment with a postdoctoral scholar and colleagues from other groups. The PI will reach out to the public and high-school student audiences through (i) collaboration with the USA Physics Olympiad team to foster new generation of physicists and train high-school students for international scholastic competition and (ii) public education via entertaining Wonders of Physics shows. The PI will also be involved in the scientific coordination of a physics summer school as well as organization of international conferences and workshops.

UW–Madison, industry partners run quantum algorithm on neutral atom quantum computer for the first time

a quantum computing lab with lots and lots of wires and a main hardware piece in the center

A university-industry collaboration has successfully run a quantum algorithm on a type of quantum computer known as a cold atom quantum computer for the first time. The achievement by the team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin­–Madison, ColdQuanta and Riverlane brings quantum computing one step closer to being used in real-world applications. The work out of Mark Saffman’s group was published in Nature on April 20.

Read the joint press release

Read the press release tipsheet 

Lucy Steffes awarded 2022 Goldwater Scholarship

This story was adapted from one first published by University Communications

Four University of Wisconsin–Madison students have been named winners of 2022 Barry Goldwater Scholarships, one of the most prestigious awards in the U.S. for undergraduates studying the sciences.

The UW–Madison winners are sophomore Lucy Steffes and juniors Sarah Fahlberg, Elias Kemna and Samuel Neuman.

Each university in the country may nominate up to four undergraduates for the annual award. To have all four candidates win is remarkable, says Julie Stubbs, director of UW’s Office of Undergraduate Academic Awards.

Lucy Steffes is a sophomore from Milwaukee, double-majoring in astronomy-physics and physics with a certificate in German. Her freshman year, Steffes began working with astronomy professor Snezana Stanimirovic on the ALMA-SPONGE project, for which she co-authored two papers recently published in the Astrophysical Journal. The project looks at molecular formation in the interstellar medium to describe potentially star-forming regions. At the end of her freshman year, Steffes earned a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship to calculate the upper limits of molecular detections in the Magellanic Stream. She spent last summer working at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia examining the chemical composition and evolution of two globules in the Helix Nebula. This summer, she will be returning to the observatory to examine neutral atomic carbon across the Helix Nebula. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics.

UW–Madison celebrates the first World Quantum Day, April 14

Even quantum physicists do not understand quantum physics, or so the saying* goes.

“The worst grade I ever got in any class was my first quarter of quantum mechanics, because it just was weird and I didn’t understand it and I couldn’t get my head around it,” says Shimon Kolkowitz, a UW­­–Madison physics professor with the Wisconsin Quantum Institute (WQI), who now conducts research in quantum sensing. “It is something you develop some kind of feeling and intuition for over time, so it’s my personal feeling, and the feeling of many, that it’s important to start exposing people to these concepts much earlier [than in college].”

Quantum science is weird because it explains the workings of our world at the sub-atomic level. The classical physical world we experience and understand — the predictable trajectory of a baseball in the air or the Earth rotating around the sun — breaks down at these tiny scales.

Understand it or not, quantum science is here to stay.

“Quantum science is a rapidly-growing area of research and industry, and it’s going to have a number of major impacts on any number of different areas of commerce,” Kolkowitz says. “There’s a huge need to train a growing quantum workforce that can participate in, engage with, and develop these new technologies.”

a black image that says laser star on the left, LED star in the middle, and UV light star on the right. The left "star" is completely black, the middle star is glowing a faint green, and the right star is glowing the brightest
QuanTime kits include a set of light sources and glow-in-the-dark stars. When participants shine different lights at the stars and observe the differences, they are learning about how light manipulates electrons.

The first-ever World Quantum Day, to be celebrated annually on April 14, is an international, community driven event to spark interest and generate enthusiasm for quantum mechanics. A goal of World Quantum Day is to promote public awareness of the positive impact quantum science has had and will have on society. [The date is taken from Planck’s constant, 4.14 * 10-15 eV · s, a value that is used in many quantum mechanics equations.]

“It’s a day to engage people in quantum science and let them know what is going on in current research, but it’s also a chance to demystify and make quantum science more accessible and available,” says Mallory Conlon, a quantum science outreach coordinator at UW–Madison.

Conlon is working with QuanTime, an educational initiative developed by leading quantum institutions to introduce quantum activities to middle and high school students. Anyone can play QuanTime’s online games, where they will learn about principals such as entanglement and superposition. There is even a quantum chess game.

a black and white coloring book-like image with quantum images, made to be colored in
Physics grad student and artist Aedan Gardill created this coloring page for WQD.

“We also have Wonders of Quantum Physics electron transition kits, and we’re sending out nearly 1000 kits to classrooms across the country,” Conlon says. “It’s an inquiry-based activity where participants learn how we can use light to manipulate atoms and electrons, which is really the underpinnings of how quantum computers work.”

The physics department and WQI will also be celebrating WQD by highlighting several quantum science researchers and sharing the top five quantum stories from the past year on social media. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram (both @UWMadPhysics) to learn more about the exciting quantum research being done at UW–Madison.

There is also a WQD coloring page made by physics grad student Aedan Gardill available for download.

UW–Madison and WQI are members of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, the NSF-funded Quantum Leap Challenge Institute HQAN, and the Department of Energy’s National Quantum Information Science (QIS) Research Center Q-NEXT, three collaborative efforts that are advancing quantum information science and engineering, especially in Great Lakes region. Learn more about the research happening across our collaborations by searching #MidwestQuantum on social media.

* Borrowed from quantum physicist Richard Feynman’s quote: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

Physics & math senior Gage Siebert awarded NSF GRFP

profile photo of gage siebert
Gage Siebert

Congratulations to Gage Siebert for being awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship! Gage is a senior math and physics major who has been conducting research in radio astronomy and cosmology. He is working on the optics of NASA’s EXCLAIM mission and constructing a periodicity search using the Tianlai Radio Array. Gage is also a 2021 Hilldale Fellow and Goldwater Scholar, and has won the department’s Hagengruber Scholarship, Liebenberg Family Scholarship, and Henry & Eleanor Firminhac Scholarship. He plans to attend graduate school but has not decided where yet.

Peter Timbie, Gage’s research advisor, says:

Congratulations Gage on winning one of these exceedingly rare awards! We’re really proud of you,Best of luck with you proposal to search for periodic signals in cosmological survey data and your plans for graduate school.

21 UW–Madison students in total received the fellowship, a highly sought and competitive award. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program supports high-potential scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers. Each year, more than 12,000 applicants compete for 2,000 fellowship awards.

Awardees from UW–Madison, including both undergraduate and graduate students, represent a variety of specializations across science, engineering, and technology. Another 23 UW–Madison students were recognized with honorable mentions.

The program provides awardees with three years of financial support consisting of a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 education allowance. UW–Madison contributes toward fringe benefits.