Summer 2019

Welcome New Physics Students!

Speaker(s): 
PQI
Dates: 
Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 12:00pm

Pittsburgh Quantum Institute (PQI) will be hosting a Thai food lunch for new PhysAstro graduate students from Noon-1pm on Tuesday, August 20th in B4 Thaw Hall. Come meet the PQI staff, hear introductory comments from Jeremy Levy, and see the resources PQI has available for you!

Giannis Mpourmpakis awarded NSF for screening catalysts

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 13 August 2019

The National Science Foundation has awarded Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis $354,954 to continue his research into a promising but poorly understood method of creating olefins. Olefins, simple compounds of hydrogen and carbon, serve as the building blocks in chemical industry and are important for the synthesis of materials, including polymers, plastics and more. However, creating them can be problematic: it requires the use of fossil fuels, energy intensive “cracking” facilities, and limited production control. The team in Dr. Mpourmpakis’s CANELa lab will use computational modeling and machine learning to understand how the dehydrogenation of alkanes takes place on metal oxides, and use that knowledge to screen a wide range of metal oxides and their properties for use in the process.

Congratulations Dr. Mpourmpakis!

Jyoti Katoch receives DOE Early Career Grant to probe quantum matter

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 7 August 2019

Jyoti Katoch, assistant professor of physics at Carnegie Mellon University, has received a prestigious early career grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Katoch’s research focuses on understanding the properties of two-dimensional quantum materials.

The grant will allow Katoch, a condensed matter physicist, and her research group in Carnegie Mellon’s Lab for Investigating Quantum Materials, Interfaces and Devices (LIQUID) to investigate quantum materials using advanced technologies. 2D materials are the thinnest known materials. When these materials are stacked together, they form heterostructures with unique quantum properties, such as superconductivity. By changing the layers of materials, researchers can finely tune the heterostructure’s electronic and physical properties.

Under the DOE grant, Katoch will probe the spatially resolved electronic band structure of 2D quantum materials, including those made by stacking graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides, and engineer the materials’ properties by making nanoscale perturbations in superlattices and adatoms found in the materials’ heterostructures. They will do this by further developing in-operando nanoARPES, an experimental technique that combines spectroscopy and microscopy to study the band structures of quantum systems under non-equilibrium conditions.

John Keith receives NSF funding for water sterilization research

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 7 August 2019

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund collaborative research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Drexel University’s College of Engineering that could transform the way we sterilize water on demand and in larger scales. 

The project, “Collaborative Research: Regulating homogeneous and heterogeneous mechanisms in six-electron water oxidation,” will receive $473,065, with $222,789 designated for Pitt’s team. Led at Pitt by John Keith, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, the research aims to discover a simpler and less energy-intensive way to create ozone, a molecule that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for water and food sanitation since 2001.  

Dr. Keith’s research group will use computer modeling to study how water can react to form ozone in electrochemical cells.  

Mimicking nature with the aid of machine learning

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 24 July 2019

Computational modeling and experimental research are used in a synergistic manner to develop and understand advanced materials in Professor Paul Leu's lab at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. In collaboration with SigOpt and NETL, his team created a nanostructure glass that takes inspiration from the wings of the glasswing butterfly to create a new type of glass that is not only very clear across a wide variety of wavelengths and angles, but is also antifogging. Glass for technologies like displays, tablets, laptops,  smartphones, and solar cells need to pass light through, but could benefit from a surface that repels water, dirt, oil, and other liquids.

The team recently published a paper detailing their findings: “Creating Glasswing-Butterfly Inspired Durable Antifogging Omniphobic Supertransmissive, Superclear Nanostructured Glass Through Bayesian Learning and Optimization” in Materials Horizons. “Something significant about the nanostructured glass research, in particular, is that we partnered with SigOpt to use machine learning to reach our final product,” says Dr. Leu. “When you create something like this, you don’t start with a lot of data, and each trial takes a great deal of time. We used machine learning to suggest variables to change, and it took us fewer tries to create this material as a result.” 

NSF funds $10 million expansion to Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 17 July 2019

On the morning of July 9, the National Science Foundation announced a $10 million dollar grant to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) to fund a new piece of cutting-edge hardware for the local research institutions. Known as Bridges-2, the machine, currently under construction by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, will specialize in artificial intelligence and machine learning and is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020.

Amazon prime deal on quantum computers

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 17 July 2019

If only! This headline might be a near-future reality soon enough though as a collaborative effort between UPitt professor Hrvoje Petek and a team at the University of Tsukuba has made progress towards affordable consumer quantum computers. Studying a novel process for creating coherent lattice waves inside silicon crystals using ultrashort laser pulses (shown in image), they were able to show that coherent vibrational signals could be maintained inside the samples. This research may lead to quantum computers based on existing silicon devices that can rapidly perform tasks out of the reach of even the fastest supercomputers now available.

Summer Workshop in Creative Science Writing for Undergraduates

Speaker(s): 
Multiple speakers
Dates: 
Friday, July 19, 2019 - 3:00pm

The grand finale of the 2019 Summer Workshop for Creative Science Writing for Undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh co-organized by Lillian Chong, Maryloud Gramm, and Sam Pittman, takes place this Friday, July 19th from 3:00-4:00 pm in the Cathedral of Learning 602. This celebration will feature the following:

  • Selected works by the 2019 Writers in Residence: Jacqueline Bridges, Regina Gee, Yujie Luo, Hannah Piston
  • ...

dB-SERC awards help transform science education

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 28 June 2019

The need to bring different educational methods to different academic subjects has long been clear to Chandralekha Singh, a physics and astronomy professor at UPitt and director of dB-SERC — the Discipline-Based Science Education Research Center. She has been conducting research on discipline-based education for more than two decades. She continues to amass evidence that gearing educational methods to specific types of students in specific subjects can result in measurable gains in knowledge and in attitude, which can be just as important. On average, the GPAs of engineering majors in introduction physics courses, who are study subjects for Singh's students, did not change over four years

“I don’t believe it is the students’ fault,” she says, if they do not improve their GPAs across their college careers. “We as faculty in the University should think of it as our responsibility to help these students.” That’s the impetus behind dB-SERC and the motivation for its course transformation awards. Since db-SERC’s founding in 2013, it has funded as many as 10 awards annually — up to $10,000 — to natural sciences faculty members in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

The dB-SERC course transformation awardees meet weekly and present talks about their ideas and progress. “Participating in those, my first year at Pitt, I met a lot of the other science faculty,” Whittinghill recalls. “It helped me feel a part of a community at Pitt.” The weekly gatherings help faculty improve their approaches to course changes and conceive of new directions, based on others’ experience and thoughts, Singh says: “A lot of times when people are doing some innovative teaching and learning, things may not work as people expected. You may need to keep refining things to make them really adaptable to your students, to your own style.”

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