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Newsletters of the Institute for Physical Science and Technology

24th Annual Shih-I Pai Lecture

September 25, 2018. The Institute for Physical Science and Technology and the Department of Physics announce the 24th Annual Shih-I Pai Lecture. This year's lecture will be presented by Charles H. Bennett, IBM Fellow, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, and 2018 Wolf Prize Recipient. His talk, "Occam's Razor, Boltzmann's Brain, and Wigner's Friend," will be given on Tuesday, October 9, 2019 at 4:00 pm in room 1412 of the Physics building at the University of Maryland, College Park. A reception preceding the lecture will take place at the James A. Yorke Rotunda in the Mathematics building from 3 to 3:50 pm. All are invited. Further details can be found at the Annual Shih-I Pai Lecture news announcement.

How the desert could bloom

September 7, 2018. A new University of Maryland-led study, co-authored by Distinguished University Professor Eugenia Kalnay (IPST / AOSC) and Safa Motesharrei (IPST / AOSC / Physics), and published in Science shows that wind and solar farms in the Sahara would lead to a doubling of rainfall in the earth’s largest hot desert, potentially opening large expanses to agriculture.

Such precipitation increases could lead to substantial improvements of rain-fed agriculture in the region, and vegetation increases would lead to the growth in production of livestock, said Safa Motesharrei.

Their September 7th paper has attracted significant media coverage including BBC News, the Los Angeles Times, and The Japan Times.

Biophysics graduate student is first author in Nature Communications article

August 9, 2018. In "Interphase human chromosome exhibits out of equilibrium glassy dynamics", just published in Nature Communications, Guang Shi (lead author and graduate student, Biophysics Program) with Dave Thirumalai (IPST Visiting Professor) and Changbong Hyeon (Korea Institute for Advanced Study) have mapped the movement of a chromosome for the first time, using computer modeling to show how billions of base pairs of DNA get packed into an impossibly small space without getting tangled. The movement is sluggish and glass-like, differing from one cell type to the next and even among cells of the same type. Understanding this movement better could have big implications for the study of genetic diseases, human health and gene editing.

"Rather than the structure, we chose to look at the dynamics to figure out not only how this huge amount of genetic information is packaged, but also how the various loci move," said Dave Thirumalai, chair of UT Austin's chemistry department. "We learned it is not just the genetic code you have to worry about. If the timing of the movement is off, you could end up with functional aberrations."

"We found that the movement of the chromosomes was sluggish, reminiscent of glass-like behavior. We believe this might have profound consequences for how the cells behave both individually and collectively," said Shi. "In addition, different regions of the chromosome move at different speeds."

Ellen Williams, former Director of ARPA-E and Distinguished University Professor, comments in Science Magazine on recent pick to lead energy technology program

July 17, 2018. Distinguished University Professor Ellen Williams (IPST / Physics) was quoted in Science Magazine, July 13, in an article on the White House nominee for Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

From December 2014, Williams served as Director of ARPA-E where she was responsible for the oversight of the Agency. Launched in 2009, ARPA-E focuses on early-stage technologies that could fundamentally change the way we generate, use, and store energy. Prior to Senate confirmation to her role at ARPA-E she was a Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary of Energy where she established the Office of Technology Transitions, defining its initial goals for technology commercialization and engagement with the business and industrial sectors.

Research reveals how energy dissipates outside Earth's magnetic field

May 22, 2018. NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, with help from James Drake (IPST / Physics), is the first to observe a new type of turbulent magnetic reconnection, providing important clues about heating in the Sun's outer layers. Read the full story.

Konstantina Trivisa earns 2018 Outstanding Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) Award

May 2, 2018. Konstantina Trivisa (IPST / Math), the Associate Director of IPST, has been selected for the Outstanding Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) Award for 2018, for her energetic leadership of the Applied Mathematics and Statistics, and Scientific Computation Program (AMSC).

The AMSC program is one of the most highly ranked applied math programs in the US. This program is supported jointly by the Department of Mathematics, the Center for Scientific Computation and Mathematical Modeling (CSCAMM), and IPST.

Konstantina's research, combining nonlinear partial differential equations and continuum physics with applications to problems in fluid dynamics, materials science and biology, has been recognized by a Sloan Fellowship, a Presidential Early Career (PECASE) Award, and a Simons Foundation Fellowship, among others. She has also been selected as an ADVANCE Professor and Leadership Fellow at UMD for her work on diversity and inclusion.

Elaine Oran Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

May 2, 2018. Elaine Oran (IPST / Glenn L. Martin Institute professor of engineering) has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is among 213 new members of the academy being recognized for their accomplishments as scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic and philanthropic leaders.

The American Academy, founded in 1780, is a society and center for nonpartisan policy research dedicated to the cultivation of the arts and sciences. Other IPST faculty who are members of the American Academy include Distinguished University Professors Michael Fisher, Christopher Jarzynski, Eugenia Kalnay, John Weeks and Ellen Williams. Elaine will be inducted into the American Academy in October in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

IPST faculty use AI to predict chaos

April 26, 2018. Professors Michelle Girvan (IPST / Physics) and Brian Hunt (IPST / Mathematics) along with Edward Ott (Physics / ECE / IREAP) graduate student Jaideep Pathak (Physics / IREAP), and recent Chemical Physics Ph.D. Zhixin Lu (IPST / IREAP, now at the University of Pennsylvania) discovered artificial intelligence's amazing ability to predict chaos. They employed a machine-learning algorithm called reservoir computing to "learn" the dynamics of an archetypal chaotic system called the Kuramoto-Sivashinsky equation. Read the full story.

IPST External Review

April 17, 2018. On Monday and Tuesday, April 23-24, IPST will host a highly distinguished External Review Committee consisting of Professors Russel Caflisch (New York University, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences), Jean Carlson (UC Santa Barbara, Physics), Herbert Levine (Rice University, Bioengineering), and Steven Sibener, (University of Chicago, Chemistry). This committee has been invited by the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences to review the Institute and to provide advice regarding its interdisciplinary research and education missions. The committee will meet with IPST faculty, staff and students, and with Dean Amitabh Varshney, and will conclude the visit by writing a report on their findings.

Lise-Marie Imbert-Gérard joins the faculty of IPST, Mathematics, and CSCAMM

April 13, 2018. Dr. Lise-Marie Imbert-Gérard joined the campus community as an Assistant Professor in January 2018, with a joint appointment in the Department of Mathematics, the Center for Scientific Computation and Mathematical Modeling, and IPST.

She earned her Ph.D. in 2013 from Université Pierre et Marie Curie, where she studied with Bruno Després at the Laboratoire Jacques-Louis Lions in Paris, after which she was a postdoctoral research associate at the Courant Institute at New York University. Her research in the propagation of time-harmonic waves in variable media has, more recently, focused on time-dependent problems for resonances.

John Weeks to give inaugural David Chandler Memorial Lecture in Physical Chemistry

April 12, 2018. Distinguished University Professor John Weeks (IPST / Chemistry and Biochemistry) will give the inaugural David Chandler Memorial Lecture in Physical Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, on April 17. Sponsored by the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry, the lecture series was established in 2017 to carry forward the scientific vision of David Chandler (1944-2017), a pillar of the theoretical physical chemistry community.

In the early 1970's, John Weeks, David Chandler, and Hans Andersen established the foundations of modern liquid state perturbation theory, providing accurate expressions for calculating thermodynamic properties of liquids, as well as deep insights into the crucial roles of short- and long-range forces in determining those properties.