News

4/7/2021

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

A team of faculty and students from the University of Kentucky Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has contributed to a major experiment at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). The landmark results, announced today, are changing how physicists understand the subatomic world.

Fermilab’s three-year Muon g-2 experiment revealed that fundamental particles, called muons, behave in a way not predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. The researchers think this behavior could be caused by the existence of

4/6/2021

By Richard LeComte

LEXINGTON, Ky – The Earth’s mantle has spontaneous magnetism, contrary to what was believed until recently, and one University of Kentucky College of Arts & Sciences professor wants geophysicists to go figure out why.

Dhananjay Ravat, professor of geophysics, co-wrote a paper recently in Nature Reviews/Earth and Environment that explores reasons for the magnetism  in the Earth’s mantle. Basically, the prevailing wisdom was that mantle could not  be magnetic.

So what gives? The problem dates back to the launching of satellites in the late 1960s and ‘70s with magnetometers attached. Those devices picked up some strong magnetic anomalies that puzzled scientists.

“When satellites with magnetometers came along in the 1970s – the  analysis techniques were crude compared to today’s standards – and yet those early

3/8/2021

By Carl Nathe and Kody Kiser

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 8, 2021) — Students often are figuratively encouraged to ‘reach for the stars’ — yet, there are those who actually follow this aspirational goal in a very literal way.

For example, longtime University of Kentucky Professor Gary Ferland, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, recently received a very rare honor for his work in blazing new trails in his chosen field.

On this episode of "Behind the Blue," UK Public Relations and Strategic Communications’ Carl Nathe talks with Ferland about his life, his career, and why he loves working with students.

"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a

2/9/2021

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 9, 2021) — Gary Ferland, a professor in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics and Astronomy, has been named a fellow by the American Astronomical Society (AAS).  Ferland is one of 31 members recognized by the organization for his innovative and significant contributions to astronomy.

Ferland was honored for his work in developing and applying “Cloudy,” a special computer code that studies how light from distant celestial bodies is produced.

“This award is a great honor, and is as much to UK as to me,” Ferland said. “Over the last 40 years, several dozen UK undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs have developed Cloudy into one

2/8/2021

By Richard LeComte   

Danielle Schaper, an experimental nuclear physics doctoral student and graduate assistant at the University of Kentucky and Los Alamos National Laboratory, has won the Harry Lustig Award from the American Physical Society.  

 Schaper received the honor thanks to a presentation she gave as a finalist in the 2020 competition at the society’s annual meeting. She presented on her dissertation work, “Precision Measurements of Parity Violation in Neutron-Nucleus Resonance States for Future Time-Reversal Violation Experiments.”  

12/2/2020

Emeritus Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor Marcus T. McEllistrem died in June 2019. Marcus was born in 1926, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Marcus and his wife, Eleanor, were married for 62 years and raised six children. 

Following his service in the Naval Reserve in World War II, Marcus obtained his B.A. degree (1950) from St. Thomas College and M.S. (1951) and Ph.D. (1955) in nuclear physics from the University of Wisconsin. After a post-doc appointment at Indiana University, Marcus joined the UK faculty in 1957. He rapidly rose through the ranks to become a professor in 1965, and he remained in this position until his retirement in 1994; however, his research continued until just before his death.

Marcus had a leading role in proposing, designing and constructing the University of Kentucky Accelerator Laboratory (UKAL), and he served as director

12/2/2020

Longtime faculty member and department chair Fletcher Gabbard died in November 2017.

Fletcher was born in Jackson County, Kentucky in 1930 and obtained his B.S degree in physics from U.K. in 1951, after transferring from EKU. Among his favorite teachers at UK was Lewis "Bud" Cochran, who was then still a graduate student but would go on to become a faculty member, dean of the Graduate School and UK vice president, and who was instrumental in bringing the Van de Graaff accelerator to UK.

After graduating from UK, Fletcher served in the Army and worked in government laboratories before returning to school and obtaining his Ph.D. at Rice University, where he studied the transmutation of light nuclei under bombardment by neutrons, and where he met his wife, Anne. 

Fletcher then joined the UK faculty and the experimental nuclear physics group, which included Marcus

12/2/2020

Yuanyuan Su joined the University of Kentucky as an assistant professor of astronomy in 2019 after being a postdoc at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. 

She is originally from Sichuan, China, the hometown of giant pandas. Su received her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama and went on to a postdoc in California before moving to Harvard.

Her primary research interest lies in clusters of galaxies. They are the largest gravitationally bound objects in the universe, containing thousands of galaxies that are held together by dark matter. The space between galaxies is filled with a very diffuse gas, the so-called “intracluster medium."

This gas is so hot that it radiates in X-rays but is undetectable at visual wavelengths. Su and her colleagues use space-based telescopes to observe galaxy clusters since the Earth's atmosphere absorbs X-rays.

12/2/2020

UK undergraduates Emily Ballantyne and Rebecca Calvert and WKU undergraduate Sarah Vickers carried out a research project under UK professor Christopher Crawford in summer 2018. Their project was a part of a quest to solve a persistent discrepancy between two different types of measurements of the neutron lifetime, which disagree by over four standard deviations (see Figure 1 below).

Known as the beam and bottle methods, the former measures the in-flight decay rate normalized by the number neutrons in the beam and the length of the decay region, while the second measures the exponential decay curve as a function time, as neutrons are stored for times comparable to the 15 minute lifetime. 

UK is responsible for the design of a new neutron detector, which will study systematic errors while measuring the neutron lifetime to unprecedented precision using the beam method.

10/21/2020

By Jenny Wells

Sumit R. Das, the Jack and Linda Gill Professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Physics and Astronomy, is serving as the 2019-20 UK College of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Professor and will deliver the annual Distinguished Professor Lecture next week.

The lecture, titled “Deconstructing Space-Time,” will be held 7-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, on Zoom.

Developments in theoretical physics over the past couple of decades have led to a set of ideas that "space" is not a fundamental notion, but arises as an emergent concept from more abstract entities. This view has led to remarkable progress

10/13/2020
By Jenny Wells-Hosley Tuesday

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 13, 2020) — Two University of Kentucky students have been named to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program.

Jared Brewington and Michelle Gervais, both doctoral students in the UK College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy, are two of 52 total students selected to join the program. They will conduct part of their doctoral thesis research at host laboratories in collaboration with a Departent of Energy scientist.

Brewington will study magnetic field design for the Los Alamos National Laboratory neutron electric dipole moment experiment, or LANL-nEDM, for short. He will begin his yearlong project at LANL in New Mexico this November.

10/6/2020

The UK Department of Chemistry and the UK Office for Institutional Diversity have arranged to make the film, Picture a Scientist, available for anyone in the University of Kentucky community to view.

“PICTURE A SCIENTIST chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries - including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists - who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all.”

Licensed viewers will be

9/28/2020

By Jenny Wells-Hosley and Sara Shoemaker

The experiment measured the weak force between protons and neutrons by detecting the tiny electrical signal produced when a neutron and a helium-3 nucleus combine and then decay as they move through the helium gas target cell. Andy Sproles/ORNL, U.S. DOE.

 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2020) — Chris Crawford, a professor in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy, is the co-leader of a team that just precisely measured the weak interaction between protons and neutrons, also known as the weak force — one of four fundamental forces in nature.

The one-of-a-kind experiment was executed at the U.S.

9/24/2020

By C. Lynn Hiler T

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 24, 2020) — The University of Kentucky Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence has announced its newest class of 31 Chellgren Student Fellows.  

The Chellgren Center Student Fellows Program aligns with the university’s goal of cultivating undergraduate excellence. By providing experiences that go beyond the classroom, students become prepared for the next phase of their career, whether it be graduate school or a gap year dedicated to service. 

COVID-19 has certainly made for an unprecedented academic year. Students and professors are adhering to mask regulations in the classroom, dining halls are empty and many classes are completely online. In spite of this unexpected turn of events, Philipp Kraemer, Chellgren Chair for Undergraduate Excellence, is

9/16/2020

By Hannah Edelen and Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 16, 2020) — Yuanyuan Su, an assistant professor in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics and Astronomy, is finding new ways to analyze images of our universe.

“There are two milestones in the history of modern astronomy,” Su said. “The first was to put cameras on telescopes. Instead of sketching them, we can now take pictures of celestial objects. Astronomy thus develops from being subjective to objective. The second was to put telescopes in space, allowing us to look at the high energy (X-ray and gamma ray) part of

9/15/2020

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 1, 2020) — The University of Kentucky is part of a new Physics Frontier Center (PFC) that launched today at the University of California, Berkeley. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Network for Neutrinos, Nuclear Astrophysics, and Symmetries (N3AS) PFC seeks to improve understanding of the most extreme events known in the universe: mergers of neutron stars and their explosive aftermath, which includes ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves.

Susan Gardner, professor in the UK Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, is leading the effort on behalf of UK.

“I am really enthusiastic about the new Physics Frontier Center and am

8/4/2020

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 4, 2020) — It’s not every day members of an international team of scientists find themselves perplexed over unexpected data results. And it’s even less likely the team will turn to a student to help make sense of the findings. But this was what happened with University of Kentucky student Maryam Dehghanian.

Dehghanian, a doctoral candidate in the UK Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, has spent the last three years helping a team of NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) astronomers understand observations they made while studying a supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 5548, a nearby galaxy. The observations were made as part of NASA’s Space

6/22/2020
By Jenny Wells-Hosley
 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 19, 2020) — The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees today approved the University Research Professorships for the 2020-21 academic year. Among them are Amy Murrell Taylor in the Department of History; and Renée Fatemi in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The purpose of the University Research Professorship program is to recognize and publicize research accomplishments of scholars across the full range of disciplines at UK. The award amount is $10,000 for one year, to be used to further the research, scholarship and creative endeavors of the awardee.  

“It is gratifying to recognize these distinguished experts who have made significant

6/11/2020

By Richard LeComte

Sumit R. Das, University research professor of physics and astronomy, has been named to the Jack and Linda Gill Endowed Professorship in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Kentucky. UK’s Board of Trustees approved the designation in December, and the appointment takes effect in July. 

The Gill Research Excellence Fund supports the Gill Professorships in Science and Engineering. The deans of the Colleges of Arts & Sciences and Engineering jointly administer the program. Professors are recommended by a committee based on a nomination letter. Das also is a College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor for 2019-20.

“Das has made major contributions in a range of different areas related to the branch of theoretical physics known as string theory, the unified theory of elementary particles and gravity that describes

6/5/2020

By Richard LeComte

Postdoctoral positions help launch the academic careers of Ph.D. graduates and bring acclaim to their doctoral-granting institutions. Several recent Ph.D. students in the College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy have landed stellar postdoctoral positions:

Alina Aleksandrova (experimental nuclear physics) is working at the California Institute of Technology. Mark Broering (experimental nuclear physics) has started a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. Ankur Das (theoretical condensed matter physics) has accepted a postdoctoral position at Weizmann Institute in Israel starting in September. Animik Ghosh (theoretical high energy physics) will serve as a postdoc at the University of Illinois, also starting in September. Aaron Jezghani (experimental nuclear physics) is working as a research scientist at Georgia Tech

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