News

9/13/2021

By Jesi Jones-Bowman

UK undergraduate researchers Bridget Bolt and Gretchen Ruschman. Students are encouraged to explore undergraduate research opportunities at the Research + Creative Experience Expo.

At the University of Kentucky, undergraduates have access to outstanding research and creative work activities led by world-class faculty and staff that promote self-discovery, experiential learning and lifelong achievement.

Explore exciting undergraduate opportunities at the first annual UK Research + Creative Experience Expo 3-5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13, around the Gatton Student Center’s Social Staircase.

“The goal of the Research + Creative Experience Expo is to introduce undergraduates to the diversity of research and creative work conducted at UK,” said Chad Risko, faculty director of the

8/5/2021

The Physics and Astronomy Department has welcomed Bill Gannon as assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy in the fall of 2019 after postdoctoral fellowships at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory, Texas A&M University and the University of British Columbia.

Gannon received his B.S. degree in physics from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He is originally from Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Gannon’s primary research interests are in the synthesis of materials with interesting quantum magnetic properties, which he studies using neutron scattering. Interactions among electrons in a material can lead to a variety of magnetic properties that cannot be understood by considering each individual electron on its own. Of particular interest to Gannon are those whose

8/5/2021

By Julie Wrinn

Experimental scientists at UK faced setbacks during the pandemic, and none more so than experimental physics, where the loss of hands-on time in laboratories is especially difficult to overcome. To protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff involved in experimental research, the University established a four-phase plan for resumption of research, from the most restrictive (phase 1, March-June 2020) to the least restrictive (phase 4, begun in April 2021), when 70-100% of normal activities resumed. We visit the labs of Professors Gannon, Martin, Plaster and Seo to learn how they pressed forward to re-create the lab experience for their students while adhering to health and safety protocols.

Bill Gannon’s Lab

In March 2020, I was in my second semester as an assistant professor and had just hired a postdoc to assist

7/20/2021

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 20, 2021) — Six of the University of Kentucky's passionate and accomplished educators were surprised earlier this spring by student nominators and the UK Alumni Association as 2021 Great Teacher Award recipients.

Chris Crawford, professor of physics and astronomy in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, is one of this year’s Great Teacher Award recipients.

“All my effort and energy at UK is directed towards the student research and teaching, and so to see recognition from the people that I'm working hardest for, and care the most about, it adds great fulfillment to my job,” Crawford said.

Crawford is a leading researcher of fundamental symmetries in nuclear physics, which is

7/12/2021

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 12, 2021) — An international team of researchers have discovered a galaxy cluster acting like a passenger on what astronomers are calling an "intergalactic highway."

The cluster is known as the "Northern Clump" and is located about 690 million light years from Earth. Previously, scientists discovered an enormous filament, a thin strip of very hot gas, that stretched for at least 50 million light years. This new study found evidence that the Northern Clump is traveling along this filament, similar to how a car moves along the interstate.

A variety of telescopic images allowed the researchers to observe the galaxy cluster and its movement. Yuanyuan Su, an assistant professor in the University of Kentucky Department

6/14/2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Each year, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association recognizes six professors with the great Teacher Award and honors them with a plaque and a cash award at a recognition luncheon or dinner.. In 2021, the association recognized two College of Arts & Sciences professors. They are:

Christopher Crawford, professor and director of graduate studies, Physics & Astronomy.  Chad Risko, associate professor, Department of Chemistry. 

The six recipients of the award are announced at a luncheon or dinner, attended by students, other faculty and past recipients of the award.

Since 1961, when the program was started, 308 faculty members have been honored. Recipients are selected by a committee appointed by the UK Alumni Association's Board of Directors and representatives of the student

6/10/2021

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 10, 2021) — In theoretical physics, a significant outstanding challenge is the mathematical description of the collective motion of electrons in synthetic materials. Despite nearly a century of research, the subtle laws of quantum mechanics in this regime remain poorly understood.

But a University of Kentucky alumna is leading the field in the right direction.

Nisheeta Desai, a 2020 UK graduate and now postdoctoral fellow at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, in collaboration with her mentor, Ribhu Kaul, in the UK Department of Physics and Astronomy, has developed a theory that sheds new light on these mysteries. Their work, which recently published

5/26/2021

By Danielle Donham

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 26, 2021) — Two University of Kentucky faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences are recipients of The Graduate School’s distinguished annual awards for exemplary research in the last four years and outstanding contributions to graduate student mentoring and graduate education.

Mark T. Fillmore, Director of Graduate Studies and professor of cognitive science in the Department of Psychology, is the 2021 recipient of the William B. Sturgill Award, an honor given each year to a graduate faculty member who has provided outstanding contributions to graduate education at UK.

In addition, 

5/11/2021

As a 6th grade student in his hometown of Greencastle, Indiana, Jack Steele realized that his life ambition was to be a chemist and, when time came to go to college, he pursued a BA in chemistry at DePauw University. Jack worked on electrochemistry with Prof. Eugene Schwartz at DePauw the summer of 1964 after getting his BA. Following his work at DePauw, Jack opted to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky. He had a great appreciation for Prof. Donald H. Williams who directed his graduate research at UK. While he considers himself a coordination chemist, his coursework and research reflected broad interests – from electrochemistry to biochemistry. Dr. Steele has said that Professors Don Sands and Joe Wilson of UK Chemistry were “without a doubt” the best teachers he ever had. 

After receiving his doctoral degree in 1968, Dr. Steele accepted a postdoctoral position at the

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.

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