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 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.”
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
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
High 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.
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.”
Shimon Kolkowitz earns NSF CAREER award
Shimon Kolkowitz has already developed one of the most precise atomic clocks ever. Now, the UW–Madison physics professor has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to use his atomic clocks to potentially answer some big questions about the physics of our universe.
The five-year, $800,000 in total award will cover research expenses, graduate student support, and outreach projects based on the research.
“I am honored and proud to receive an NSF CAREER award, which will help my research group expand our experimental efforts and build upon our recent results,” Kolkowitz says. “This award will support research into new ways to harness the remarkable precision of optical atomic clocks for exciting physics applications such as searching for dark matter and detecting gravitational waves.”
Atomic clocks are so precise because they take advantage of the natural vibration frequencies of atoms, which are identical for all atoms of a particular element. Kolkowitz and his research group have developed atomic clocks that can detect the difference in these frequencies between two clocks that would only disagree with each other by one second after 300 billion years, the tiniest detectable frequency changes to date. These clocks, then, can measure effects that shifts their frequency by only 0.00000000000000001%, opening the possibility of using them in the search for new physics.
A significant advancement in Kolkowitz’s clocks is that they are multiplexed, with six or more separate clocks in one
vacuum chamber, effectively placing each clock in the same environment. Mutliplexing means that comparisons between the clocks, and not their individual accuracy, is what matters — and allows the group to use commercially available, robust and portable lasers in their measurements. Though the clocks are not yet ready to be used to detect gravitational waves, Kolkowitz says the current setup “looks a bit like how you would eventually do that,” and will allow him to test out and demonstrate the concept.
In the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea and the NSF’s “broader impacts” to benefit society beyond scientific merit, with this award, Kolkowitz will focus efforts on quantum science outreach with pre-college students.
“We’ll be developing new demos and hands-on activities designed to introduce K-12 students to modern physics concepts,” Kolkowitz says. “We’ll use these activities to engage students at live shows and interactive events as part of The Wonders of Physics outreach program, with an emphasis on reaching rural and Native American communities in Wisconsin.”
NSF established these awards to help scientists and engineers develop simultaneously their contributions to research and education early in their careers. CAREER funds are awarded by the federal agency to junior-level faculty at colleges and universities.
Study of high-energy particles leads PhD student Alex Wang to Department of Energy national lab
In 2012, scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider announced they had observed the Higgs boson particle, verifying many of the theories of physics that rely on its existence.
Since then, scientists have continued to search for the properties of the Higgs boson and for related particles, including an extremely rare case where two Higgs boson particles appear at the same time, called di-Higgs production.
“We’ve had some searches for di-Higgs right now, but we don’t see anything significant yet,” said Alex Wang, a PhD student in experimental high energy physics at UW–Madison. “It could be because it doesn’t exist, which would be interesting. But it also could just be because, according to the Standard Model theory, it’s very rare.”
Wang will have a chance to aid in the search for di-Higgs production in more ways than one. Starting in November, he will spend a year at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory as an awardee in the Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program.
The program funds outstanding graduate students to pursue thesis research at Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories. Students work with a DOE scientist on projects addressing societal challenges at the national and international scale.
At the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Wang will primarily work on hardware for a planned upgrade of the ATLAS detector, one of the many detectors that record properties of collisions produced by the Large Hadron Collider. Right now, ATLAS collects an already massive amount of data, including some events related to the Higgs boson particle. However, Higgs boson events are extremely rare.
In the future, the upgraded High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC) will enable ATLAS to collect even more data and help physicists to study particles like the Higgs boson in more detail. This will make it more feasible for researchers to look for extremely rare events such as di-Higgs production, Wang said. The ATLAS detector itself will also be upgraded to adjust for the new HL-LHC environment.
“I’m pretty excited to go there because SLAC is essentially where they’ll be assembling the innermost part of the ATLAS detector for the future upgrade,” Wang said. “So, I think it’s going to be a really central place in the future years, at least for this upgrade project.”
Increasing the amount of data a sensor collects can also cause problems, such as radiation damage to the sensors and more challenges sorting out meaningful data from background noise. Wang will help validate the performance of some of the sensors destined for the upgraded ATLAS detector.
“I’m also pretty excited because for the data analysis I’m doing right now, it’s mainly working in front of a computer, so it will be nice to have some experience working with my hands,” Wang said.
At SLAC, he will also spend time searching for evidence of di-Higgs production.
Wang’s thesis research at UW–Madison also revolves around the Higgs boson particle. He sifts through data from the Large Hadron Collider to tease out which events are “signals” related to the Higgs boson, versus events that are “backgrounds” irrelevant to his work.
One approach Wang uses is to predict how many signal events researchers expect to see, and then determine if the number of events recorded in the Large Hadron Collider is consistent with that prediction.
“If we get a number that’s consistent with our predictions, then that supports the existing model of physics that we have,” Wang said. “But for example, if you see that the theory predicts we’d have 10 events, but in reality, we see 100 events, then that could be an indication that there’s some new physics going on. So that would be a potential for discoveries.”
The Department of Energy formally approved the U.S. contribution to the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider accelerator upgrade project earlier this year. The HL-LHC is expected to start producing data in 2027 and continue through the 2030s. Depending on what the future holds, Wang may be able to use data from the upgraded ATLAS detector to find evidence of di-Higgs production. If that happens, he also will have helped build the machine that made it possible.