By Jenny Wells-Hosley

Results from two separate research studies, led by University of Kentucky postdoctoral scholar Valeria Olivares and graduate student Arnab Sarkar, will be presented during the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) semiannual meeting, taking place in Pasadena, California, this week.

As the largest astronomy conference in the United States, the AAS meeting will bring together more than 2,000 astronomers, educators, students and journalists to highlight the nation’s most groundbreaking work in the fields of physics and astronomy.

“Approximately 30 works from around the world are being highlighted at the AAS press conference, representing some of the highest impact findings of this year,” said Yuanyuan Su, assistant professor in the UK Department of Physics and Astronomy and faculty mentor to Olivares and


Da Bi (Shlosman): “First Steps in the Small-Scale Structure Formation in the Universe: the Appearance of Galaxies” – now a postdoc, Center for Astrophysics and Related Technologies (Chile).

Priyanka Chakraborty (Ferland): “Exploring the X-ray Universe in the Microcalorimeter Era” – now a postdoc, Harvard University (Massachusetts).

Qing Chen (Hill): “Effective Field Theory Applications: From Dark Matter to Neutrino Nucleon Scattering” – now at University of Science and Technology (China).

Austin Hinkel (Gardner): “Axial Symmetry Tests of Milky Way Disk Stars


The Department of Physics and Astronomy recognized two of its undergraduate students: Gabija Ziemyte with the Outstanding Junior Award and Richard Lai with the Outstanding Senior Award.

Gabija Ziemyte, Outstanding Junior Award

Double majoring in Physics and Mathematics, Gabija is a research assistant with Dr. Christopher Crawford’s “Robotic Mapping of Magnetic Fields in a Magnetically Shielded Environment.” Her additional honors include the 2020 Chellgren Fellow, 2021 Goldwater UK Nominee, 2021 and 2022 UK OUR Research Ambassador, 2021 REU, ODU/Jlab “Measurement and Modeling of Injection Locked Magnetron to the Stable Bandwidth,” and 2022 REU, University of Chicago.

Richard Lai, Outstanding Senior Award

Richard Lai graduated from UK in 2022 with a major in Physics and a minor in Mathematics. Working with


By Professor Nicholas Martin

Free-free scattering is the scattering of a free electron by an atom in the presence of, for example, a laser beam — the free electron may either absorb or emit one or more photons from the beam. (A free electron cannot absorb or emit photons without the presence of an atom because both energy and momentum cannot be conserved; the photon is a "relativistic" particle traveling at the speed of light!) The term free-free scattering is used since the electron is free (not bound to the atom) both before and after the event. The absorption or emission of radiation by charged particles during collisions with atoms and molecules has long been known to be important in astrophysical and electrical plasma phenomena. Free-free transitions are also known to dominate the radiation transport in


By Professor Wolfgang Korsch

I have always been fascinated by the “spins” of subatomic systems, specifically the spins of atomic nuclei and their constituents. Although a spin is an intrinsic property of a fundamental particle, like its mass or charge, Nature exhibits remarkable spin-related phenomena. For example, protons and neutrons are composed of a multitude of structureless, or point-like, particles called quarks and mediators of the strong force, called gluons. The total number of quarks and gluons is completely unknown at any instant since it can vary due to quantum fluctuations. Quarks are spin-1/2 particles and the spin of gluons is 1 (in units of hbar). Since these fundamental constituents are confined to a tiny volume, it implies that the particles are highly relativistic and therefore possess


By Professor Sumit Das, College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor (2019)

As far as we know, almost all natural phenomena stem from four fundamental interactions: electromagnetism, weak interaction, strong interaction, and gravity. The first three are governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. It is natural to think that gravity should also be governed by quantum mechanics. However ever since Einstein discovered the laws of gravity in 1915, reconciling gravity with quantum mechanics has been famously problematic.

One reason for this difficulty is the following. The other forces can be understood as processes happening in a fixed space-time background, where spatial distances and time intervals are fixed once and for all. For example, light is an electromagnetic wave which propagates


Ryan MacLellan joined the University of Kentucky as an assistant professor of physics in early 2020. Ryan was an assistant professor at the University of South Dakota for the five years prior.

Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, Ryan received his Ph.D. on the energy calibration of the SNO experiment in 2009 from the Queen’s University. He went on to do a postdoc at the University of Alabama and then was a research associate at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory before moving to the University of South Dakota in 2014. The discovery of neutrino mass by the SNO experiment, earned his Ph.D. supervisor Art McDonald a share of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics; and Ryan, along with the rest of the SNO Collaboration, a share in the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

His primary research interests remain

Anyi Li, 2003

Nineteen years ago, in summer 2003, I landed in the Bluegrass Airport. Lexington and the University of Kentucky then became my home until I graduated in the summer of 2009 with a Ph.D. in Theoretical Nuclear Physics under the direction of Professor Keh-Fei Liu. Now, I am an attending physicist and the chief of the Department of Medical Physics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

It has been quite an exciting and unique journey since I graduated from UK with a master's and Ph.D. in Physics. I began with a two-year postdoctoral training program at Duke University and continued with another two-year research associate position at the Institute for Nuclear Theory at the University of Washington. After that, I shifted my interests and became a senior software engineer at the Yahoo data core team. In 2014, IBM


By Lindsey Piercy

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 13, 2022) — Three graduate students at the University of Kentucky have been selected for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program.

Austin Nelsen, Manh Tien Nguyen and Henry Pruett are among 80 graduate students nationwide to receive supplemental funds to conduct part of their thesis research at a host DOE laboratory in collaboration with a DOE scientist. 

“For decades, the DOE has cultivated the expertise to meet the nation’s greatest scientific challenges," said Geraldine Richmond, under secretary of science and innovation at the DOE. "Now more than ever, we need to invest in a diverse, talented pipeline of scientists, engineers and


By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 3, 2022) — Two University of Kentucky faculty members are recipients of The Graduate School’s two distinguished annual awards for exemplary research and outstanding contributions to graduate student mentoring and education.

Susan Gardner, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, was presented the 2022 Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize. The prize is bestowed each year to a faculty member in recognition of their outstanding contributions to original research or scholarship, with an emphasis on work produced four years prior to the award.


By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 9, 2022) — Less than two months ago, NASA, in coordination with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, launched the James Webb Space Telescope into its 1.6 million-mile journey away from Earth. The project, nearly 30 years in the making, is designed to see some of the first stars and galaxies that were formed in the universe.

Since it launched, the space agency has been working to get the telescope unfolded, aligned and powered up — a meticulous process that continues to see success after success. Just this week, the telescope detected its first photons from a distant star. 

To learn more about this historic step forward in space exploration, UKNow caught up with Gary Ferland, professor of physics


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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, 


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