Mark Saffman named WARF professor

This post is adapted from the original

profile photo of Mark Saffman, posing in his lab with lots of wires and equipment
Mark Saffman

Thirty-two members of the University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty — including physics professor Mark Saffman — have been awarded fellowships from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education for 2022-23. The awardees span the four divisions on campus: arts and humanities, physical sciences, social sciences and biological sciences.

“These awards provide an opportunity for campus to recognize our outstanding faculty,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “They highlight faculty efforts to support the research, teaching, outreach and public service missions of the university.”

The awards are possible due to the research efforts of UW–Madison faculty and staff. Technology that arises from these efforts is licensed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the income from successful licenses is returned to the OVCRGE, where it’s used to fund research activities and awards throughout the divisions on campus.

Mark Saffman was awarded a WARF professorship. These professorships come with $100,000 and honor faculty who have made major contributions to the advancement of knowledge, primarily through their research endeavors, but also as a result of their teaching and service activities. Award recipients choose the names associated with their professorships. Saffman, the Johannes Rydberg Professor of Physics and director of The Wisconsin Quantum Institute, first began work on atomic physics and initiated a long-term effort to develop quantum computers. He is known for his research as a leader in the ongoing development of atomic quantum computers based on the Rydberg blockade mechanism.

In addition, physics affiliate professor Mikhail Kats received a Romnes Faculty Fellowship.

Physics undergraduates named 2022 Hilldale Fellows

Three UW–Madison undergraduate physics majors have been named 2022 Hilldale Fellows, in addition to one engineering physics major who is conducting their research in the Physics Department.

The Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship provides research training and support to undergraduates at UW–Madison. Students have the opportunity to undertake their own research project in collaboration with UW–Madison faculty or research/instructional academic staff. Approximately 97 – 100 Hilldale awards are available each year.

The students are:

  • Astronomy-Physics and Physics major Elyse Incha, in Susanna Widicus Weaver’s group (Chemistry)
  • Mathematics and Physics major Haoyi Jia, in Sridhara Dasu’s group (Physics)
  • Music and Physics major Daniel Laws, in Mary Halloran’s group (Integrative Biology)
  • Engineering physics major Nico Ranabhat, in Shimon Kolkowitz’s group (Physics)

“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

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.

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.

Sridhara Dasu named a member of the International Committee on Future Accelerators

profile photo of Sridhara DasuHigh energy physicist Sridhara Dasu was recently named a member of the International Committee for Future Accelerators (ICFA), a term he’ll serve for three years. ICFA was created to facilitate international collaboration in the construction and use of accelerators for high energy physics. The Committee has 16 members, selected primarily from the regions most deeply involved in high-energy physics. Dasu will be representing the United States on the committee.

Shimon Kolkowitz one of four UW professors awarded Sloan Fellowship

Four University of Wisconsin–Madison professors, including assistant professor of physics Shimon Kolkowitz, have been named to Sloan Research Fellowships — competitive, prestigious awards given to promising researchers in the early stages of their careers.

“Today’s Sloan Research Fellows represent the scientific leaders of tomorrow,” says Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which has awarded the fellowships since 1955. “As formidable young scholars, they are already shaping the research agenda within their respective fields—and their trailblazing won’t end here.”

Kolkowitz, an assistant professor of physics, builds some of the most precise clocks in the world by trapping ultracold atoms of strontium — clocks so accurate they could be used to test fundamental theories of physics and search for dark matter.

UW–Madison’s other 2022 Sloan Fellows are Tatyana Shcherbina (math), Zachary K. Wickens (chemistry) and Andrew Zimmer (math).

The UW–Madison professors are among 118 researchers from the United States and Canada honored by the New York-based philanthropic foundation. The four new fellows join 110 UW–Madison researchers honored in the past.

Each fellow receives $75,000 in research funding from the foundation, which awards Sloan Research Fellowships in eight scientific and technical fields: chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences and physics.

Physics of Climate Change project funded by WI Idea grant

Eleven research projects that illustrate how the Wisconsin Idea has evolved — including one from the Department of Physics — have now been funded by Extension and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

The premise of the Wisconsin Idea, extending university knowledge to all corners of the state, is traditionally described as starting on campus and traveling to other parts of Wisconsin. This new series of grant-funded projects recognizes the value of knowledge transfer in reverse: utilizing Extension’s local networks to bring community perspectives and knowledge into research studies conducted on campus.

The Wisconsin Idea is almost 120 years old, and in that time it has evolved to include the wide range of topics currently being studied by faculty and specialists at UW–Madison. Extension’s locally based educators deliver evidence-based programming for farmers and 4-H youth and also help address specific issues in local communities by sharing expertise on natural resources, family, financial, economic development, and health/well-being topics.

The heart of the Wisconsin Idea – creating vital links between UW–Madison and communities across the state to inform community programming and improve lives – is embodied as the core mission of Extension. The new grant series will showcase how communities can both inform and benefit from university research. This work follows the longstanding tradition of Extension’s role to advance the Wisconsin Idea, while the research methods used to develop knowledge continue to evolve.

Extension collaborated with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education to create the Wisconsin Idea Collaboration Grant project series. The competitive grants will kickstart applied research and development of innovative educational programming or community engagement to address community needs and priorities.

Funded project: The Physics of Climate Change

Principal Investigator Mallory Conlon (Physics); co-PIs Cierra Atkinson (Physics), Haddie McLean (Physics), and Joanna Skluzacek, Professor and STEM Specialist, Division of Extension

The scientific principles explaining and predicting the effects of climate change are being lost in the noise of rampant misinformation. Understanding of climate change varies across age groups and location, and many K-12 teachers are left without the support needed to incorporate climate change concepts in their curricula.

To mitigate misinformation, this project will create hands-on activities to understand the impacts of climate change and empower teachers to accurately share content with their students. Specific efforts will include a museum exhibit at the Ingersoll Physics Museum, outreach demonstration for the Wonders of Physics traveling show, and an activity kit designed to empower middle and high school students, teachers, and general audiences to identify accurate information about climate change.

Maxim Vavilov named Vilas Associate

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has announced 26 faculty winners of the Vilas Associates Competition, including physics professor Maxim Vavilov. The competition recognizes “new and ongoing research of the highest quality and significance.” Tenure-track assistant professors and tenured faculty within 20 years of their tenure date are eligible.

The award is funded by the William F. Vilas Estate Trust.

Recipients are chosen competitively by the divisional research committees on the basis of a detailed proposal. Winners receive up to two-ninths of research salary support (including the associated fringe costs) for the summers of 2022 and 2023, as well as a $12,500 flexible research fund in each of the two fiscal years. Faculty paid on an annual basis are not eligible for the summer salary support but are eligible for the flexible fund portion of this award.

Alex Levchenko named Humboldt Fellow

UW­–Madison physics professor Alex Levchenko has been named a Humboldt Fellow for Experienced Researchers. Sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the fellowship enabled highly-qualified scientists and scholars from abroad to spend time conducting research at a partner university in Germany.

Levchenko was nominated by the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, where he will be affiliated with the Quantum Many Body Theory Department. His research topic will be “Effects of Strong Coupling Fluctuations, Criticality, and Topology in Superconductors.”