News Archives

Garage Physics: a makerspace for undergraduate brainstorms

Duncan Carlsmith (left) discusses an advanced search engine with Josh Cherek, the student who developed it, at the Garage Physics makerspace. The twin copper pipes in the foreground replicate an 1851 experiment that Albert Einstein cited as one foundation for his special theory of relativity.

Photo: David Tenenbaum

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Francis Halzen Awarded Balzan Prize

The Balzan Prizewinners 2015 were announced today in Milan by the Chairman of the Balzan General Prize Committee, Salvatore Veca, together with the President of the Balzan Prize Foundation, Enrico Decleva, at the Corriere della Sera Foundation. Francis Halzen was awarded the prestigious prize “for his unparalleled accomplishments which have led to the construction of the large IceCube Neutrino Observatory in the south polar ice, a facility that has opened up a new window into the Universe through the study of cosmological high-energy neutrinos.”

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Antarctic Neutrino Detector Firms Up Cosmic Neutrino Sighting

Sorting through the billions of subatomic particles that zip through its frozen cubic-kilometer-sized detector each year, researchers using the IceCube Neutrino Observatory have gathered powerful new evidence in support of 2013 observations confirming the existence of cosmic neutrinos.

         The new observations are important because they herald a new form of astronomy using neutrinos, nearly massless high energy particles generated in nature’s accelerators: black holes, massive exploding stars and the energetic cores of galaxies. In the new study, the detection of 21 ultra high-energy muons – secondary particles created on the very rare occasions when neutrinos interact with other particles – from the mass of particles coursing upward through the IceCube detector provides independent confirmation of astrophysical neutrinos from our galaxy as well as cosmic neutrinos from sources outside the Milky Way.

The results are published today in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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Entrepreneurial student R&D support

Garage Physics and Venturewell offer a program of support for UW-Madison entrepreneurial teams to conduct R&D and to participate in local and national business plan competitions.

Garage Physics is a makerspace in Sterling Hall for innovative student-focused research, education, and entrepreneurship. Venturewell (formerly National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, NCIIA) is a national organization supporting student entrepreneurship.

For additional information and to apply, visit the website.

Garage Physics Website

The Department is saddened by the passing of Prof. Bob March.

Prof. March, 81 years old, died peacefully at Agrace HospiceCare on August 4, 2015. Prof. March came to Wisconsin in 1960 as a post doc with Profs. Walker and Erwin. In 1962 he joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor, working with Profs. Camerini, Fry, Cline and Reeder on bubble chambers. March pioneered measurements of muon polarization in bubble chambers, which permitted the first direct test of time reversal invariance in weak interactions. His interests later in his career were in particle astrophysics. Prof. March was author of Physics for Poets, which has been translated into 6 foreign languages. Of his more than 240 publications, more than 100 were written for general audiences. He received many distinguished teaching awards during his tenure at Wisconsin.

In 2003 Prof. March wrote a history of the early years of Physics at Wisconsin (1848-1960) which can be found here.

All are welcome to join in a memorial and celebration of Bob’s life in the Varsity Room of Union South (on the UW Campus) on Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 1:30 PM.

John Unguris, Ph.D. 1980, wins APS 2015 Joseph F. Keithley Award for Advances in Measurement Science

For the invention and development of electron spin sources and detectors, and their application to measurement science.

John Unguris received a B.S. in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University in 1973, and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1980. He initially joined the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Associate investigating the application of electron spin measurements to various surface sensitive spectroscopies. This work lead to the development of an electron microscopy technique for directly imaging magnetic nanostructures, Scanning Electron Microscopy with Polarization Analysis (SEMPA). He has since used SEMPA to measure the magnetic properties of a wide variety of structures including ultrathin patterned magnetic films, oscillatory exchange coupled magnetic multilayers, and multiferroic heterostructures. He is currently a Project Leader in the Electron Physics Group in the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, where he is leading multiple projects investigating the fundamental physics of magnetic nanostructures. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and has been awarded a Bronze Medal from the Department of Commerce, and is a member of AVS and APS.

As the giant physics machine restarts, the essential role of UW in the LHC continues

UW-Madison has dozens of scientists — including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows — involved in the experiments, analysis, data handling and computation at the Large Hadron Collider. Research has resumed at the 27-mile tunnel on the Swiss-French border after two years spent raising its power.  Pictured is Wesley Smith with a special-purpose data winnowing board built for the new, high-power runs at the Large Hadron Collider.  Photo credit: David Tenenbaum, UW-Madison.

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Military Kids University offers fun

The Department of Physics participated in making Operation Military Kids University 2015 a success: Wonders of Physics student workers Emily Ehlerding and Jake Nesbit helped with hands-on demonstrations.  Wisconsin 4-H Military Kids programs support the nearly 15,000 Wisconsin youth in military families. To learn more about Wisconsin 4-H Military Kids and the opportunities available to Wisconsin youth, visit

Dr. Kurt Retherford (BS ’94) Exploring Europa

Dr. Kurt Retherford, BS ’94, is the lead scientist for one of nine instruments that NASA recently selected to include on its next mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. While an undergraduate researcher in the Physics department (Scherb & Roesler labs) he began studying the moons of Jupiter. Now at the Southwest Research Inst., he recently used the Hubble Space Telescope to co-discover evidence for large plumes of water vapor emitted from Europa’s icy surface that may connect to a habitable subsurface ocean.

More About the Europa Mission