Welcome to the Spring 2014 Newsletter Spring in Durham has been a lovely change of pace but it looks like winter might have one last hurrah. That isn

Duke-Physics-hEADER 02

Welcome to the Spring 2014 Newsletter

Spring in Durham has been a lovely change of pace but it looks like winter might have one last hurrah. That isn't slowing down progress at Duke Physics. Read on to learn about everyone's accomplishments.

Do you have news submissions or comments? Please send your updates to the News Team.


Another Outstanding Fermion Sign Problem Solved


Graduate Student Emilie Huffman

Second year graduate student Emilie Huffman and Prof. Shailesh Chandrasekharan have recently solved an outstanding sign problem that had remained unsolved for almost 30 years.

Sign problems arise when one tries to design Monte Carlo methods to compute quantum amplitudes in quantum many body physics. Although Feynman taught us how one can compute such amplitudes by summing over an exponentially large number of classical paths, to perform such a sum exactly is almost always impossible in realistic physical systems. Most analytic calculations involve a "perturbative" expansion in which one argues that only a few diagrams contribute. Unfortunately, one needs to sum an incredibly large number of diagrams before an accurate answer can be found in many interesting strongly correlated quantum systems.

Click here to read the rest of this exciting story.


Alumni News

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Robin Canup in Duke Gardens, February 2014 | Photo Credit: Horst Meyer

Planetary Scientist Robin Canup Models the Origins of Moons

Duke physics alum Robin Canup, '90, has been thinking about moons—and their origins—ever since graduate school at the University of Colorado (CU). She was halfway through her PhD thesis on Saturn’s rings when, she says, “I got this idea that I wanted to start working on the origin of the moon. My thesis advisor was very supportive, so I changed the topic of my thesis. I’m forever grateful to him for that.”

In fact, he suggested that she send a grant proposal to NASA, with the result that she had funding for a postdoc at CU as soon as she graduated.

Since then, she’s proposed leading theories not just about our moon, but many other moons as well. “I’m best known for my work on the Earth-moon system because that’s the one that generates the most public interest,” she says. “But I’ve worked on the origin of all the big satellites in the solar system.” Click here to read the rest of this article.


Photo credit: Seth Hansen (via Phys.org)

Alum Jamie Bock Featured on Phys.org

Prof. Jamie Bock (Duke Physics '87) from Caltech was one of the leaders of the group which achieved the recent exciting experimental result on gravitational waves from the earliest time, detected by the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole. Read "Building BICEP2: A conversation with Jamie Bock" on the phys.org website here. More material on these results along with pictures and the paper can be found here. You can also read DukeToday's article "Duke Graudate a Leader on Big Bang Inflation Theory Discovery" here.

Read more alumni news here.


Duke Nuclear Physics Tied for 6th Place in the Country

In the latest rankings by U.S. News & World Report, the department of Physics is tied for the 29th place in the country.

The magazine also ranked a number of specialty programs within the various disciplines. Within physics, nuclear physics tied for the sixth place together with California Institute of Technology, University of California-Berkeley, and Yale.

For ranking information about other Duke departments and schools, you may read the Duke Today article "Duke’s Graduate and Professional Schools Continue to be Highly Ranked" here.


Faculty News

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Prof. Phillip Barbeau Received 2014 Sloan Research Fellowship for Physics

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Prof. Daniel Gauthier Elected to Editorial Board of New Optical Journal "Optica"

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Prof. Hubert Bray Received Community Service Award from Duke


Profs. Phillip Barbeau and Kate Scholberg Part of Duke Feature Story "Physics on a Shoestring Budget: Building a Neutrino Detector with Scraps and Ingenuity"

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Work of Prof. Steffen Bass and His Group Featured on "International Science Grid This Week"

Click on the images or links above to read each story. | Read more faculty news here.


Research News


T2K Experiment Highlighted in PRL


Members From Behringer Lab Presented Work at March APS Meeting

Read more research news here.


Student News

Eugene Rabinovich Named a Faculty Scholar and a Goldwater Scholar Duke Physics and Math major Eugene Rabinovich, has been named a faculty scholar, the highest honor Duke's faculty bestows upon undergraduate students. The last physics major to win this award was Vivek Bhattacharya (Economics and Physics) in 2012. In addition, Eugene has been named a Goldwater Scholar. This is the second year in a row that a Duke Physics major has won this prestigious award (Kushal Seetharam, a double major in Physics and ECE, was a Goldwater last year). Eugene is the only Duke Goldwater Scholar this year which makes his success even more impressive. See the full list of 2014 Goldwater Scholars here. Click to read more about Eugene's accomplishments here. Rabinovich has also been admitted to the Cargese Workshop on Holography and String Theory this summer. You can read that news here.

Two Second Year Graduate Students Recognized by National Science Foundation Two second year graduate students, Emilie Huffman and Anne Watson, were recognized earlier this month by the National Science Foundation. Both students had applied for the graduate research fellowship last Fall. Anne Watson, who is working with Prof. Gleb Finkelstein in experimental condensed matter physics for her PhD, was offered the fellowship and Emilie Huffman, who is working with Prof. Shailesh Chandrasekharan in theoretical quantum many body physics for her PhD, received an Honorable Mention. More details can be found at the NSF web site here. Congratulations to both students.

SPS Tour of FEL Recently Duke's Society of Physics Students toured the FEL. There were about 35 students on the tour. The trip was written up by Erin Weeks for Duke Research Blog. Read it and view more pictures here.

Congratulations to the following graduate students who recently passed their PhD defenses!

Dr. Yuan Lin, "A Quantitative Poly-energetic Reconstruction Scheme for Single Spectrum CT Scanners" on March 5, 2014. Yuan's advisor is Prof. Ehsan Samei.
Dr. Shangying Wang, "Quantifying Gene Regulatory Networks" on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Shangying's advisors are Profs. Sridhar Raghavachari (Neurobiology) and Nicolas Buchler.
Dr. Di-Lun Yang, "Applications of Gauge/Gravity Duality in Heavy Ion Collisions" on Friday, March 21, 2014. Di-Lun's advisor is Prof. Berndt Mueller.
Dr. Abe Clark, "Granular Impact Dynamics: Grain Scale to Macroscale", on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Abe is Prof. Robert Behringer's advisee.
Dr. Taritree Wongjirad, "Measurement of Muon Neutrino Disapperance at T2K" on Monday, March 31, 2014. Taritree's advisor is Prof. Kate Scholberg.
Christopher Coleman-Smith, "Using Gaussian Processess for the Calibration and Exploration of Complex Computer Models" on April 8, 2014. Coleman-Smith's advisor is Prof. Berndt Mueller.
Ethan Robert Elliott, "Quantum Transport and Scale Invariance in Expanding Fermi Gases" on April 9, 2014. Elliott's advisors are Profs. Steffen A. Bass and John Thomas.

Congratulations to the following graduate student who recently passed their preliminary examinations!

Jonah Bernhard on Monday, January 6, 2014. Jonah's advisor is Prof. Steffen A. Bass.
Leo Yao-Lung Fang on Monday, January 13, 2014. Leo's advisor is Prof. Harold Baranger.
Margaret Shea on Friday, March 28, 2014. Meg's advisor is Prof. Daniel Gauthier.

Click on the links above to read more.

Read more graduate student news here and undergraduate student news here.


Write-Up of 2014 Hertha Sponer Lecture


This still from a model shows Earth just after collision with a planet-sized object. The colors indicate temperature. | Photo Credit: Robin Canup

Robin Canup, Associate Vice Preseident of SouthWest Research Institute and alumna of Duke Physics, '90, delivered the fifth annual Hertha Sponer Lecture on Thursday, February 20, 2014. A write-up of her talk is featured on Duke Today's Duke Research Blog. You can read "The Catastrophic Origins of Our Moon" here.


Upcoming Events

Event details may change at any time. Always click "More Info" to retrieve contact info for event organizers when planning to attend events.

Joint HEP/Theory Seminar The next HEP/Theory Seminar will be on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 11:00am in Physics room 278. Alexandre Deur (Jefferson Lab) will be discussing "A correlation between the amount of dark matter in elliptical galaxies and their shape."

Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory Seminar The next TUNL Seminar will be on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 2:00pm in Physics 298. The event will feature Alexandre Deur (JLab) discussing "The QCD Coupling Constant."

Physics Department Colloquium The next Colloquium will be held Monday, April 21, 2014 at 3:00pm in Physics room 128. The event will feature Thomas Barthel from The University of Paris-Sud and CNRS speaking on "Efficient Parametrization and Simulation of Condensed Matter Systems Using Tensor Network States."

Condensed Matter Seminar Series The next CM Seminar will feature The University of Paris-Sud's Thomas Barthel's "Algebraic Versus Exponential Decoherence in Dissipative Many-Particle Systems" on Tuesday, April 22 at 9:30am in Physics 298.


The Fritz London Memorial Lecture

David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, Harvard University

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at 3:30pm in Physics 128

"Dripping, Jetting, Drops and Wetting: The Magic of Microfluidics"

This talk will discuss the use of microfluidic devices to precisely control the flow and mixing of fluids to make drops, and will explore a variety of uses of these drops. These drops can be used to create new materials that are difficult to synthesize with any other method. These materials have great potential for use for encapsulation and release and for drug delivery and for cosmetics. I will also show how the exquisite control afforded by microfluidic devices provides enabling technology to use droplets as microreactors to perform reactions at remarkably high rates using very small quantities of fluids. I will demonstrate how this can be used for new fundamental and technological applications.

Hosted by the Duke University Physics and Chemistry Departments The Duke University Chapter of Sigma Xi, Faculty Host: Prof. Bob Behringer

Refreshments will be served after the event in room 128

Triangle Nuclear Theory Colloquium The next TNT Colloquium will be Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 3:30pm at NC State featuring Alain Coc of Paris discussing "Big Bang Nucleosynthesis."

Duke Teaching Observatory The next public stargazing event will be on Friday, May 9, 2014 at 9:00pm. Observe the sky through modern 10" telescopes, guided by Duke physicists. Everyone welcome. Weather dependent.