2013 Physics & Astronomy e-Newsletter

Welcome Alumni and friends to the 2013 newsletter


Dr. Ni Ni, who received her Ph. D from Iowa State University and did postdoctoral research in Princeton University and Los Alamos National Laboratory, has agreed to come to help build new efforts in Experimental Condensed Matter physics, with particular emphasis on the rapidly growing field of quantum materials.
Before coming to UCLA she was Curie Fellow at LANL — the first person to receive this fellowship — and joined UCLA Physics & Astronomy in July 2013. Ni Ni is a scholar of truly impressive accomplishments and future prospects.
UCLA Physics and Astronomy Department continues to attract the finest faculty talent available. We are looking forward to having Ni initiate her work here, bringing new research thrusts and perspectives to our department.
Ni Ni
Assistant Professor of Physics
Rahul Roy, Assistant Professor of Physics, has been awarded the prestigious 2013 Sloan Research Fellowship for recognition of outstanding scholarship.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is interested in projects that it expects will result in a strong benefit to society, and for which funding from the private sector, the government, or other foundations is not widely available. The Sloan Research Fellowships seek to recognize the achievements of outstanding young scholars in science, mathematics, economics and computer science.
Past recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships have gone on to win 38 Nobel prizes, 14 Fields Medals (mathematics), and eight John Bates Clark awards (economics).
Rahul Roy, Assistant Professor of Physics

"The First Galaxies in the Universe"

Astronomy professor Steven Furlanetto and colleague Abraham Loeb have written a new book, "The First Galaxies in the Universe," now available.  

This book provides a comprehensive, self-contained introduction to one of the most exciting frontiers in astrophysics today: the quest to understand how the oldest and most distant galaxies in our universe first formed. Until now, most research on this question has been theoretical, but the next few years will bring about a new generation of large telescopes that promise to supply a flood of data about the infant universe during its first billion years after the big bang. 
Steven Furlanetto, Professor of Astronomy 
The Air Force YIP supports scientists and engineers who have received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last five years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research.
The objective of this program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering; enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators; and increase opportunities for the young investigator to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering.
Wes Campbell has been awarded this prestigious Airforce Young Investigator Research Program grant for exceptional ability and promise in basic research. Professor Cambell's research uses ultra-cold atoms and molecules to learn about the physical processes that permeate our world. We are specifically focused on the physics of quantum mechanical systems that involve many-body interactions, where our ability to theoretically describe and numerically simulate the microscopic features is severely limited.
Wesley Campbell, Assistant Professor of Physics 
The 2012 - 2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings Physical Sciences judges world class universities across all of their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The ranking of the world's top 50 universities for physical sciences employs 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.The Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2012 - 2013 has placed UCLA Physical Sciences at 9th worldwide (8th in the United States).
Theoretical Computer Science is unique in that star graduate students working independently produce some of the best results in the field. After two or three years one can identify many of the emerging stars in the field.
The Simons Graduate Fellowships will identify and support these stars. Professor Yaroslav Tserkovnyak has been awarded the prestigious Simons Fellowship for his work in theoretical physics.
Yaroslav Tserkovnyak
Professor Peccei shares 2013 J.J. Sakurai Prize

Roberto Peccei, along with Prof. Emeritus Helen Quinn of SLAC, shared the 2013 J.J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics, awarded by the American Physical Society to recognize and encourage outstanding achievement in particle theory. Professor Peccei is the first UCLA recipient of the Sakurai prize, named in honor of our late colleague here in the department.

Read More.

Roberto Peccei
Professor Peccei's website

Professor Rene Ong and Vladimir Vassiliev win NSF grant 

Rene Ong and Vladimir Vassiliev won a major NSF grant entitled "Development of a Novel Telescope for Very High-Energy Gamma-Ray Astrophysics." Although there are many collaborators on this project, UCLA is the lead and the telescope design comes from Vladimir's early pioneering efforts with this kind of optical design.

Rene Ong (left) and Vladimir Vasiliev (right)
Professor Ong's website
Professor Vassiliev's website

Undergraduates win NSF Fellowships

Physics major Nora Brackbill and Astrophysics major Carina Cheng were among the winners of the 2013 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP) provides fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.
The program provides three years of support for graduate study in a field within the NSF's mission and leads to a research-based master's or doctoral degree. Each fellow has a total of five years in which to use these three years of support.
Pictured at left: Carina Cheng;  right: Nora Brackbill.


The effect of an asteroid hitting Earth can be — and has been — devastating. Radar astronomy plays a critical role in evaluating and mitigating the risks associated with such asteroid impacts.
UCLA asteroid expert Jean-Luc Margot recently spoke about using radar astronomy to monitor and respond to asteroid threats at the third Planetary Defense Conference of the International Academy of Astronautics, in Flagstaff, Arizona.  
In a four-minute video, Professor Margot, a member of both the departments of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences and Physics & Astronomy, describes some of the radar astronomy research conducted in his UCLA laboratory.
Jean-Luc Margot


3D images of structural defects inside a platinum nanoparticle at atomic resolution

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles have found a way to create stunningly detailed three dimensional representations of platinum nanoparticles at an atomic scale. These are being used to study tiny structural irregularities called dislocations. Professor John Miao has been at the forefront of this study.

View video

Read the paper

John Miao, Professor of Physics
UCLA physicists have pioneered a new technique that combines two traditional atomic cooling technologies and brings normally springy molecules to a frozen standstill. Their research was published March 28 in the journal Nature.
"Scientists have been trying to cool molecules for a decade and have succeeded with only a few special molecules," said Eric Hudson, a UCLA assistant professor of Physics and the paper's senior author. "Our technique is a completely different approach to the problem — it is a lot easier to implement than the other techniques and should work with hundreds of different molecules."
Pictured left to right: Steven Schowalter, Eric Hudson and Scott Sullivan in Hudson's UCLA physics laboratory.
Accelerating a free electron with a laser has been a longtime goal of high-energy physicists.
David Cline, a distinguished professor in the UCLA Department of Physics & Astronomy, and Xiaoping Ding, an assistant researcher at UCLA, have conducted research at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York and have established that an electron beam can be accelerated by a laser in free space.
This has never been done before at high energies and represents a significant breakthrough, Cline said, adding that it also may have implications for fusion as a new energy source.
Background image: An electron beam accelerated by a laser in free space; insert: David B. Cline.
The Scientist highlights John Miao's pioneering work on extending X-ray crystallography to allow structural determination of non-crystalline specimens. "It took us a while," Miao concedes. For one thing, the virus measures only 150–200 nm in diameter, whereas the synchrotron beam is about as wide as the thinnest human hair, perhaps 20 μm.
Getting the two to line up in complete darkness inside a large vacuum chamber took some doing, he says. In the end, Miao's team first used a "high-resolution optical microscope" to locate individual virus particles on the membrane. They then inserted the membrane into the chamber and scanned it relative to the X-ray beam while watching for diffraction signals. After 10 days of around-the-clock effort, they finally succeeded.
The resulting diffraction pattern yielded a low-resolution structure of a single herpes virus virion, the first time such an image had ever been obtained. But at 22-nm, or 220-Å, resolution, the virus does not look like a classical virus so much as a niblet of corn, or perhaps an asteroid (see image at right). "We can see the capsid and the membrane, but not much detail," Miao says.
Background image:  Naked virus, the first high-contrast image of a single herpes virus ever taken with a coherent X-ray synchrotron. The virus, with its capsid, measures about 100 nm in diameter. Insert: John Miao, Professor of Physics.
UCLA Daily Bruin article by James Rosenzweig, Chair, Physics & Astronomy 
Professor Rosenzweig states in this article the fact that, despite bipartisan acknowledgment of the essential role of research and development, funding for physical science research in the United States has remained stagnant for three decades. UCLA has benefitted from strong growth in extramural research support with the impressive enhancement of the school's reputation.
UCLA is second or third in the nation in research support received, and UCLA's physical sciences were rated ninth in the world according to an article in The Times of London. Excellence in graduate programs is directly tied to the success in obtaining research support, mainly from the federal government.
Rosenzweig states that in recent years there has been a reorganization of American science funding priorities, resulting in some outstanding research. On the other hand, established researchers get recognition and funding, while young investigators at the start of their career struggle to get research funding.
Programs such as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project are both located in Europe. With U.S. support being so erratic, long term undertakings will work against this countries ability to host first class projects. Professor Rosenzweig fears that with looming budget cuts the future of U.S. science would destroy the U.S. standing in the world, producing lasting harm.
Students and postdoctoral researchers who might consider UCLA for their program of study will simply choose to go elsewhere to find more welcoming and stable conditions. The scientific community and concerned citizens have to stand up to needless damage of our economic and intellectual futures. This article was included in our Physics & Astronomy 2011 - 2012 Annual Report.

2011 - 2012 Physics & Astronomy Annual Report

The 2011 - 2012 Physics & Astronomy Annual Report, documenting highlights of departmental experience in the last year, can be read online.

The feature article is devoted to new developments in biophysics research on campus, including the establishment of the Center for Biological Physics. This new center ties together many threads of this multi-disciplinary field and spans efforts in the physical sciences, life sciences, engineering and the medical school at UCLA.

Click here to read the 2011 - 2012 Annual Report


First Moossa J. Arman Physics Colloquium: Science and Innovation

On May 29, 2013 we held the first Moossa J. Arman Physics Colloquium: Science and Innovation. This colloquium series was established by a generous gift in memory of Dr. Moossa J. Arman, an alumnus of our department, to highlight innovations in the area of physics and materials science, innovations that have a major impact to society.

Professor George Gruner organized the event and invited Stuart S. P. Parkin to give the inaugural colloquium at CNSI.

Dr. Parkin is an IBM Fellow (IBM's highest technical honor), Manager of the Magnetoelectronics group at the IBM Almaden Research Center, and a consulting professor in the Deptartment of Applied Physics at Stanford University. He has received numerous awards, has been made a member of several learned societies, and received honorary degrees from universities worldwide.

Dr. Parkin's Colloquium was entitled "The Spin on Electronics! Science and Technology of Spin Currents in Nano-Materials and Nano-Devices".


Stay Connected

BruinWorks is an online networking site exclusively for UCLA alumni. It allows alumni to connect professionally and personally to a network of over 400,000 UCLA alumni. BruinWorks enables you to:
  • Network with other alumni from our department
  • Search for jobs, resumes and other alumni
  • Post a job or your own resume
  • Access a comprehensive UCLA alumni directory
  • Explore a global calendar of UCLA events
  • Mentor
  • Join special interest and geographic alumni groups
Sign up for BruinWorks is easy and free: Go to the Bruinworks webpage and login to the site. First-time users will be directed to sign up to establish an account. If you already have an account, you can login with your e-mail address and password.
Networking with other alumni groups
If you have more than seven years of experience, the Bruin Professionals UCLA alumni network is for you. With already nine regional chapters in California, BP is the premier UCLA group for well established professionals to network and expand their business activities.
If you have been in business less than seven years or are a recent graduate, Bruin Business Network is the alumni group for you. Check them out and join them on Facebook and on their BruinWorks' group site.
Free UCLA email
Did you know that as UCLA alumni you are eligible to have an @ucla.edu email address forward indefinitely to another email account of your choosing? Switch your email accounts as many times as you want without having to send a change of address to your contacts. Free UCLA Lifetime Forwarding email is avaialble from BruinOnline.
UCLA Alumni Day
UCLA Alumni Day 2013 took place on May 18 and was a great success! Over 1,500 alumni and guests convened in the new Pauley Pavilion to celebrate  with interesting talks, great food, and new and old friends. Stay tuned for UCLA Alumni Day 2014. We look forward to seeing you there!
Visit the Physics & Astronomy website for upcoming events

Visit the Division of Physical Sciences website for more upcoming events

Educational initiatives

New quantum optics laboratory class
New this year is our new upper division undergraduate experimental quantum mechanics laboratory created by Professor Eric Hudson. Taught for the first time is a new laboratory class on experimental quantum optics. In this class, students use tools of modern optics to generate and study entangled photons, culminating in the violation of Bell's inequality and the observation of the interference of two photons. 


This year Professor Roberto Peccei taught an upper division physics elective "The Physics of Energy." As one may anticipate from the timeliness of the topic, the course was extremely popular. It was successful at harnessing the physics training of our undergrads to give them an appreciation of the fundamentals for this field, which is of central importance in our collective economic and environmental futures.



In the works

Professor Dolores Bozovic is working on creating a new upper division physics elective "Polymer Physics," which has a broad range of applications to actively expanding fields of current research. Specifically the course is intended to provide the students with the theoretical background for topics in soft condensed matter and biological physics.

Professor James Larkin is working on a new GE course, "Revolutions in Physics," which will focus on developments of the 20th century including relativity, quantum mechanics and cosmology. We believe this material will be exciting to many students as these topics are also key to understanding our increasingly technical world. Emphasis will be placed on how our more modern understanding of the physical world led to such everyday conveniences as GPS satellites, microwave ovens, semiconductors, and nuclear power.


Giving to the Department of Physics & Astronomy

The principal commitment of the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy is to train the scientific leaders of the next generation and to expand the limits of our knowledge of the nature of the universe in which we live. Your generosity plays a vital role in our ability to fulfill that commitment. Your gift to the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy allows us to enrich and enhance our educational program and to create new opportunities for students, faculty, and all who benefit from the pursuit of knowledge at the frontiers of human understanding. 

Please click here to make a contribution to the Department.

Thank you for your continued support to the Physics & Astronomy Department.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. 
William James



The Department of Physics & Astronomy Website

James Rosenzweig, Chair
UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy
Box 951547
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1547
Phone: (310) 825-3440, Fax (310) 206-0864

e-Newsletter compiled and designed by: Mary Jo Robertson, Mary Jo Designs