Departmental News

Dec. 10, 2014

starburst galaxies Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away
Like hedonistic rock stars that live by the "better to burn out than to fade away" credo, certain galaxies flame out in a blaze of glory. Astronomers have struggled to grasp why these young "starburst" galaxies — ones that are very rapidly forming new stars from cold molecular hydrogen gas up to 100 times faster than our own Milky Way — would shut down their prodigious star formation to join a category scientists call “red and dead.” Dr. Greg Rudnick and his collaborators have exposed the real cause of death for some starburst galaxies. To learn the secret, the complete press release can be accessed at this link.

Dec. 05, 2014

AAS 2015 Postdoc Honored by the American Astronomical Society
Congratulations to postdoc Dr. Tyler Desjardins who received an honorable mention for the Doxsey Prize for his thesis research. The Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize provides graduate students or postdocs within one year of receiving or receipt of their PhD a monetary prize to enable the oral presentation of their dissertation research at a winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Honorable mention ensures that his meeting registration is waived for the meeting in Seattle January 4-8, 2015 where he will present his dissertation research. The complete news release can be found at this link.

Nov. 25, 2014

Single atom layer Research yields material made of single-atom layers that snap together like Legos
KU Physicists Dr. Hsin-Ying Chiu and Dr. Hui Zhao have fabricated an innovative substance from two different atomic sheets that interlock much like Lego toy bricks. The researchers said the new material — made of a layer of graphene and a layer of tungsten disulfide — could be used in solar cells and flexible electronics. Dr. Chiu and grad student Matt Bellus fabricated the new material using “layer-by-layer assembly” as a versatile bottom-up nanofabrication technique. Then, Jiaqi He, a visiting student from China, and Nardeep Kumar, a grad student now at Intel Corp., investigated how electrons move between the two layers through ultrafast laser spectroscopy in KU’s Ultrafast Laser Lab, supervised by Dr. Zhao. The complete press release can be found at this link. The news item has been featured on the NSF web site at this link.

Nov. 20, 2014

Kristen Rennells

Kim Hubbel

College staff honored at reception
Congratulations to Kristin Rennells and Kim Hubbel for being selected and honored by the College of Liberal Arts and Science. They were among 36 staff members recognized at a reception on Nov. 20 for their exceptional work for the Department over the past year. The appreciation reception was held at the Oread and more than 100 staff members were in attendance. The complete press release can be accessed at this link.

Sep. 23, 2014

MAVEN KU professor among team analyzing data from Mars explorer
Physics and Astronomy Professor Tom Cravens will be among a number of interdisciplinary scientists analyzing and interpreting data collected by MAVEN about Mars' atmosphere. Last month MAVEN arrived in Mars' orbit after traveling 442 million miles over 10 months. The mission represents an unprecedented study of Mars' upper atmosphere and will help scientists learn more about the history of the planet's climate. The complete story from the Lawrence Journal World can be accessed at this link.

Sep. 16, 2014

Galaxy evolution KU Astronomer Explains "Mind-Blowing" Observation
Professor Greg Rudnick's research focus is the growth of mass in galaxies over cosmic time and how this growth is influenced by galaxy environment. He was called upon by the Lawrence Journal World to explain the recent discovery of a distant galaxy in the process of forming, the first time astronomers have caught a glimpse of the earliest stages of massive galaxy construction. NASA described the galaxy, nicknamed "Sparky," as “a dense galactic core blazing with the light of millions of newborn stars that are forming at a ferocious rate." The complete Journal World story can be found at this link.

Sep. 10, 2014

Alice Bean Physics researcher to advise faith-based office in U.S. Department of State
Professor Alice Bean is best known for her work as a high-energy experimental particle physicist. In 2012, she was a member of the international consortium of scientists who detected the Higgs boson using the world’s most advanced scientific instrument: the Large Hadron Collider. Prof. Bean’s scholarly expertise and eagerness to carry science to society at-large has led the U.S. Department of State to name her as a Jefferson Science Fellow via a program that brings tenured American faculty in science, engineering and medicine to the department and USAID for a year, to contribute to and learn from foreign policy processes. Specifically, she’ll work with the State Department’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. The complete press release/interview can be found at this link.

Sep. 04, 2014

Misha Medvedev Researcher Advances a New Model for Dark Matter
Astrophysicists believe that about 80 percent of the substance of our universe is made up of mysterious “dark matter” that can’t be perceived by human senses or scientific instruments. Mikhail Medvedev, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas has just published breakthrough research on dark matter that merited the cover of Physical Review Letters, the world’s most prestigious journal of physics research. Medvedev proposes a novel model of dark matter, dubbed “flavor-mixed multicomponent dark matter.” For more insight, the full press release can be found at this link.

Sep. 04, 2014

Judy Wu KU Women of Distinction - 2014/15
The Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity has announced 27 honorees for the 2014-15 Women of Distinction calendar. The women were selected for their outstanding contributions to the university and community. Congratulations to Distinguished Professor Judy Wu on her selection for the Women of Distinction calendar. The reception for this year’s Women of Distinction will take place from 4 - 5:30 PM Thursday, Sept. 4, in the Big 12 Room in the Kansas Union. The press release can be found at this link. The calendar will be available at the reception and also at the Student Involvement & Leadership Center in the Kansas Union.

Sep. 01, 2014

LHC Forward KU Hosts Forward Physics Workshop: Sept. 3 - 6, 2014
The KU Department of Physics and Astronomy, in collaboration with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the KU Office of Research, and CERN, is hosting the Forward Physics Workshop . These meetings will bring together members of all CERN LHC collaborations and other U.S. national labs, as well as colleagues from the theory community to discuss their latest research progress, upgrade LHC plans and future ideas on forward physics, diffraction, ultra-peripheral collisions and forward heavy-ion physics in general. This is the first time that this CERN LHC Working Group meeting is being held outside Europe. Details on meeting locations and schedules can be found at this link.

Aug. 15, 2014

Higgs toy Higgs Toy Makes its KU Debut!
A new Higgs Boson plush doll (above) was developed by the KU Quarked! team of physicists, museum educators and designers, aided by KU Innovation and Collaboration. It is now available online at the KU Bookstore and at the KU Natural History Museum store. The Higgs Boson is a sub-atomic particle. The six-inch doll ($12) comes with printed information about the Higgs field and its importance, i.e., without it atoms and molecules would not be able to form, and the world of matter as we know it would not exist. So, BUY ONE NOW and KEEP the UNIVERSE ALIVE! Rock Chalk HiggsHawk!

June 09, 2014

top quark CMS Research Highighted on APS Website
Two papers published by the CMS collaboration, including Drs. Baringer, Bean, Benelli, Murray, Sanders, Sekaric, Stringer, Wang, and Wood, and grad students Danny Noonan and Pat Kenny, were featured on the APS webpage, Viewpoint, spotlighting exceptional research in Physics. The column can be accessed at this link.

May 10, 2014

Department Banquet

GRADS of 2013/2014
The annual department banquet was held on May 10 at the Lawrence Art Center. The record attendance at the event was coupled to a bumper crop of new graduates. The students graduating over the last 12 months included:
Engineering Physics (BS)
Griffin Adams, Caleb Christianson, Han Zhongyi, Dustin Kerby, Jake Meeth, Phuc Nguyen, Alexander Polsley, Ben Weintrub
Physics BS:
Johnathan Croxell, Abhinav Kumar, Katrina Martin, Greg Pach, Brian Schafer, Benjamin Vail, Amie Vo, Ben Weintrub, Jill Wenderott
Physics BA:
Yasen Ivanov, Daniel Webb
Astronomy BA:
Daniel Webb
Astronomy BS:
Abhinav Kumar, Brian Schafer
Brian Schafer (Astrobiology)

At the Graduate Level:
Masters Recipients:
Chris Gerstenkorn, Yonatan (Jonny) Israeli, Sarah LeGresley, Eddie (James) Orcutt, Matt Russell

April 30, 2014

Supernova remnant

Research will gauge hypothetical disaster: a supernova close to Earth
A research team led by Dr. Adrian Melott of Physics and Astronomy has been awarded $500,000 by NASA to make the most painstaking assessment ever of the potential damage from a near-Earth supernova. Melott is working with Dr. Andrew Overholt of MidAmerica Nazarene University and Dr. Brian Thomas of Washburn University — both Physics and Astronomy alumni — to perform computer modeling and data analysis on supercomputers such as the National Science Foundation’s Teragrid. The full press release can be accessed at this link.

April 12, 2014

Ultra-fast laser

Using strong lasers, investigators observe frenzy of electrons in a new material
A research team led by Dr. Hui Zhao of Physics and Astronomy has used high-powered lasers to track the speed and movement of electrons inside an innovative material that is just one atom thick. The work at KU’s Ultrafast Laser Lab could help point the way to next-generation transistors and solar panels made of solid, atomically thin materials. The full press release can be accessed at this link.

April 10, 2014

Jeremy Ims

Justin Mann

University announces NSF Graduate Fellowship Awardees and Honorees
Congratulations to Jeremy Ims, (BS ASTR, PHSX: 2013) on his selection for an NSF Graduate Fellowship. Jeremy is at KU working toward a PhD in Aerospace Engineering under Z. J. Wang. Congratulations also to Justin Mann, doctoral student in physics under Prof. Greg Rudnick, on receiving honorable mention in the NSF competition. The full press release can be accessed at this link.

April 08, 2014

Jeff Worth

University announces October 2013-March 2014 Employees of the Month
Congratulations to Jeff Worth, Electronics technologist for the Department of Physics & Astronomy, who was selected as the KU University Support Staff Employee of the Month for October. Jeff is under consideration to be named the Employee of the Year at the annual recognition ceremony, which will be at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, in the Kansas Union Ballroom. The full press release can be accessed at this link.

March 01, 2014


State Dept. logo

CMS Group - Featured Research and a Distinguished Appointment
Congratulations to the CMS collaboration for an exciting two weeks. A research paper with lead authors Dr. Phil Baringer, grad student Danny Noonan, and Postdoc Dr. Gabriele Benelli on measurements of the top quark was featured in the CERN Courier for Feb. 24. Meanwhile, Prof. Alice Bean has been selected as a Jefferson Science Fellow for 2014. The prestigious JSF program is administered by the National Academies and supported through a partnership between the U.S. academic community, professional scientific societies, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Jefferson Science Fellows spend one year on assignment at the U.S. Department of State or USAID as science advisors on foreign policy issues. More on the program can be found at this link.

February 14, 2014

Wai-Lun Chan

Renewable energy research, education project receives NSF grant

Congratulations to Asst. Prof. Wai-Lun Chan, who has been awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award by the NSF for his research proposal, “Understanding the Role of Quantum Coherence in Exciton Transport and Separation in Molecular Aggregates.” The award is the highest honor given by the NSF to young researchers. His research explores fundamental materials issues related to organic semiconductors. It addresses the challenge of finding low-cost renewable energy by exploring the mechanisms that could improve the efficiency of next generation solar cells. The full press release can be accessed at this link.

January 28, 2014

David Gier Davis St. Aubin

Caleb Christianson Jill Wenderott

Four Undergrad Majors Win Research Awards

Congratulations to the following undergraduate students (and their advisors) for their selection for Research Awards for Spring 2014. Jill Wenderott (right), senior-physics (Prof. Hsin-Ying Chiu), Anthony St. Aubin (far right), junior-astronomy and interdisciplinary computing (Prof. Hsin-Ying Chiu), Caleb Christianson (far left), senior-engineering physics (Prof. Judy Wu), David Gier (left), junior-physics and computer science (Prof. Alice Bean). A complete description of their projects can be found at this link.

January 14, 2014

Hubble Space Telescope

Hubble Astronaut Uses HST for Long-Term Research
Prof. Steve Hawley, whose career at NASA prior to joining the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at KU included two Shuttle missions to launch and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, now uses the telescope to probe a long-standing mystery surrounding the odd object known as Tololo 26. The unique capabilities of HST have allowed Dr. Hawley and his collaborator to begin to make sense of the peculiarities in earlier observations of this planetary nebula that he first noted over 30 years ago. The full press release can be accessed at this link.

For DEPARTMENT NEWS BEFORE JAN. 2014, click here.

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