Spring 2011 Colloquia
Physics and Astronomy Colloquium - Spring - 2011 (4-5pm, Science Bldg. 127)
January 20 - Constraining Properties of Neutron Stars with Terrestrial Nuclear Reactions
Dr. Bao-An Li
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Texas A&M University-Commerce
Dr. Bao-An Li conducts research in nuclear physics and astrophysics. The goal of his recent work is to understand properties of dense neutron-rich nuclear matter that can be produced in terrestrial nuclear reactions and may also exists in the core of neutron stars. The results of his work may help better understand the origin of elements and nature of matter under extreme conditions as well as the evolution of the Universe. His recent publications can be found here
You can also get a feeling about the impact of his research by checking out the citations of his publications at Google Scholars
or at SPIRES.
Dr. Li’s research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Texas Coordinating Board of Higher Education.
Neutron stars are highly condensed stellar objects produced in supernova explosions, the end point in the evolution of more massive stars. The masses of neutron stars are in the range of 1-2 times of the sun, whereas their typical radii are only 10-20km. The matter they contain, primarily neutrons, is therefore the densest found outside black holes in the universe. Neutron stars thus provide a laboratory to test our understanding of nature at the extreme, and verify our theories of matter, energy and their interactions. However, neutron stars are still among the most mysterious objects in the universe and they pose a great scientific challenge. The structure and properties of neutron stars are determined by the Equation of State (which is a relationship among the pressure, density and temperature) of neutron-rich nuclear matter. For the EOS of neutron-rich nuclear matter, what has been most uncertain is the symmetry energy term related to the energy cost of converting protons into neutrons in nuclear medium at various densities. Nuclear reactions conducted in terrestrial laboratories, especially heavy-ion reactions induced by highly neutron-rich radioactive beams, can produce nuclear matter similar to those contained in neutron stars. In this talk, I will first review the latest theoretical and experimental progress in constraining the EOS of neutron-rich nuclear matter, especially the density dependence of the nuclear symmetry energy, using nuclear reactions in terrestrial laboratories. I will then discuss several key astrophysical ramifications of the EOS partially constrained by the latest experimental data from several nuclear physics laboratories around the world.
January 27 - How Strange is the Proton? A collection of interesting puzzles for the LHC (Large Hadron Collider)
Prof. Fredrick I. Olness
Department of Physics, Southern Methodist University
Professor Fredrick Olness received his B.S. from Duke University (1980), and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin (1982,1985). Continuing his work-across-America tour, he took postdocs at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago (1985-88) and the University of Oregon in Eugene (1988-91), before joining SMU in 1991 where he is now an Professor of Physics. He served as Department Chair from 2001-2007, and again from 2010 to present. In 2010 he was selected as the Dedman College distinguished Professor. Professor Olness currently serves as Co-Spokesperson of the CTEQ Collaboration (cteq.org). He spent the 1997-98 academic year on sabbatical with the Theoretical Physics Group at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the 2007-08 academic year on sabbatical working on the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at the CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) laboratory in Geneva Switzerland. In 2005 Olness was elected as an APS Fellow for "For significant contributions to understanding nucleon structure and heavy quark production in perturbative quantum chromodynamics." Each year, no more than one-half of one percent of the then current membership of the Society are recognized by their peers for election to the status of Fellow in The American Physical Society. Prof. Olness served as President of the SMU Faculty Senate for 2009-2010. He received a SMU Ford Fellowship in 2008, the SMU "M" Award in 2007, the SMU Distinguished University Citizen Award in 2006, and the President's Associates Outstanding Faculty Award in 2000. He is also the Director of the Dallas Regional Science & Engineering Fair. His research is in elementary particle physics phenomenology, at the interface between theory and experiment. Specifically, he studies Quantum Chromodynamics (the fundamental force that binds nuclei) to help answer the questions: What are the fundamental building blocks of nature, and what holds them together? Fredrick initiated the DOE theory grant at SMU in 1992, was awarded an SSC Fellowship in 1993, and is an active member of the CTEQ collaboration--a novel collaboration of theorists and experimentalists. He has written over 100 research articles, served as a convener for international workshops and conferences, and has been an invited speaker for international conferences and summer schools. On the side, he presents "The Physics of Music" and "The Physics Circus" public lectures to local schools, and is the co-director of the Dallas Science Fair. Outside of physics, he entertains himself (and others) playing his trumpets for church services and weddings. More information about Prof. Olness and his research can be found at
NOTE: the picture above of Prof. Olness during a conference in 2001, shows an interesting (but dangerous) use of units.
Although we've been measuring the structure of the proton for decades, the strange-quark content of the proton (as well as the heavier c and b flavors) is relatively unconstrained. The broad kinematic reach of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) increases the role of the s,c, & b components; this has important implications for the LHC "benchmark" processes such as W and Z boson production which are a crucial stepping stone to the Higgs discovery. We review the recent data as well as theoretical advances which are enable an enhanced analysis of the LHC data.
February 3 - Patterning silicon surfaces by chemical self-assembly for biomedical and energy applications (Cancelled: TOO MUCH SNOW IN TEXAS!)
Prof. Yves J. Chabal
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Texas at Dallas
Yves Chabal holds a Texas Instrument Distinguished University Chair in Nanoelectronics at the University of Texas at Dallas. He obtained a BA in Physics from Princeton University in 1974, and a Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University in 1980. He then joined Bell Laboratories where he developed sensitive spectroscopic methods to characterize surfaces and interfaces. He worked at Murray Hill, New Jersey, from 1980 until 2002 for AT&T, Lucent Technologies (1996) and Agere Systems (2001) in the Surface Physics, Optical Physics and Materials Science departments. In 2003, he joined Rutgers University as Professor in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering, where he expanded his research into new methods of film growth (atomic layer deposition), bio-sensors, and energy (hydrogen storage). He directed the Laboratory for Surface Modification, an interdisciplinary Center to promote large initiatives.
Yves joined UT Dallas in January 2008 to lead the Materials Science and Engineering department in the Erik Jonsson Engineering School. This department is located in the new Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory building, where interdisciplinary research is carried out among several departments (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Electrical Engineering, Brain Science, and Medical Research). Yves is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Vacuum Society, received a Bell Laboratories Affirmative Action Award (1994), an IBM faculty award (2003), the Rutgers Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research (2006), and the Davisson-Germer Prize (2009), and the Tech Titan Technology Innovator Award in 2010. He is the author of more than 330 publications (>12,500 citations), 10 book chapters, several patents and the editor of a book on the Fundamental Aspects of Silicon Oxidation. More information about Prof. Chabal and his research can be found at http://mse.utdallas.edu/people/chabal.html
Future devices for biomedical and energy applications are likely to use hybrid organic/inorganic junctions. Semiconductor substrates are often used because they are particularly appropriate for electronic sensing and photo-electric or voltaic devices. For instance, field-effect transistors (FETs) are being developed as biosensors, wherein the electric field induced by the attachment of a charged biomolecule onto an organic self-assembled monolayer (SAM) results in a change of the FET drive current. Similarly, attachment of light-absorbing molecular groups or nanoparticles on a SAM-covered semiconductor surface is being considered for high efficiency photovoltaic devices. In all cases, the performance of such hybrid devices critically depends on the quality and stability of the organic/semiconductor interface.
In this talk, we suggest that the formation of SAM on oxide-free silicon surfaces can lead to higher chemical stability and electrical performance than on oxidized silicon surfaces that are currently used. It is known that hydrogen-terminated surfaces are ideal starting point for such oxide-free organic functionalization, but the functionality (i.e. versatility) of current SAMs is limited when simple hydrosylisation methods are used. Chemical functionalization of H-terminated silicon is therefore critical to further developments. We present new results that greatly facilitate the grafting of a variety of molecules directly on Si, using both wet-chemical and gas-phase methods. For instance, we show that it is possible to form fluorine or hydroxyl terminated Si surfaces by simple HF etching or water immersion without formation of silicon oxide, and that F-terminated Si surfaces can be used for easy “snap-on” chemistry. An essential ingredient for this process is alcohol, although not for the experimenter!
February 10 - Stellar Necroscopy: Using white dwarfs to probe the end stages of stellar evolution (Cancelled: TOO MUCH SNOW IN TEXAS, again!)
Prof. Kurtis Williams
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Texas A & M University-Commerce
Dr. Kurtis Williams is a new faculty member at Texas A&M University – Commerce. He studied astronomy and physics as an undergraduate at Penn State University, after which he spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany. He earned his doctorate in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2002. He then was a postdoctoral research at Steward Observatory in the University of Arizona and a National Science Foundation Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas in Austin. His research interests are widely varied, and have included X-ray astronomy, white dwarfs and stellar evolution, gravitational lensing, and galaxy evolution.
White dwarfs are the final state of stellar evolution for the vast majority of stars ever formed, and are ever-cooling remnants of their progenitor star's central nuclear reactor. As such, white dwarfs are an ideal observational probe of the end stages of the stellar life cycle. In this talk, I will first present our latest results in understanding the relationship between white dwarf masses and the masses of their progenitor stars. Second, I will discuss the numerous mysteries surrounding a rare type of white dwarf, those with carbon-dominated atmospheres. Finally, I will outline a new project to determine the age of the thick disk and halo of the Milky Way galaxy using data from a recently-completed survey of the northern sky.
February 17 - Thermal Properties of Nanowires
Prof. Mark Holtz
Department of Physics
Texas Tech University
February 24 - How Physicists Help to Treat Cancer in Radiation Oncology Departments
Prof. Arnold Pompoš
Dept. of Radiation Oncology
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Prof. Arnold Pompoš received his BS in Theoretical Physics from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic in 1994 and his Ph.D. in experimental high energy physics from Purdue University in 2002. He did postdoctoral research in high energy physics at The University of Oklahoma and his medical physics residency at The University of Nebraska Medical Center. In 2009, Prof. Arnold Pompoš joined the faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. His current research interest is in employing Monte Carlo computation and simulation technique to study energy deposition of accelerated carbon ions & energetic photons in tissue, micro-dosimetry on a molecular scale, nuclear activation of the irradiated tissue and its use for imaging, interaction of polarized DNA with polarized free radicals in irradiated tissue and energy deposition of plasma accelerated high energy electrons. More information about Prof. Arnold Pompoš and his research can be found at http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/findfac/professional/0,2356,106823,00.html
Ionizing radiation is dangerous, but if handled with caution, it helps many people to fight their cancer. In Radiation Oncology departments, we deposit energy to tumors via ionizing radiation. This process creates free radicals which then attack the cellular structures and cause cell death. It is challenging to cause tumor cells death only while keeping the healthy cells untouched. This presentation will be about physics of cancer treatment. I will cover the pros and cons of various radiation modalities as well as the research areas we are working on to maximize tumor eradication efficiency.
World renowned astronomer and astrophysicist Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell visits Texas A&M University-Commerce, February 28 through March 4, 2011.
Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jocelyn_Bell_Burnell) is best known for the discovery of pulsars (rotating neutron stars) in 1967 when she was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge in UK – work for which her thesis supervisor Dr. Antony Hewish was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1974. The discovery, considered as the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century by many people, has changed our understanding of stellar evolution and the fundamental make up of matter at extremely high densities. Dr. Bell Burnell is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. She has been President of the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society and has just completed her term as (the first female) President of the UK/Ireland Institute of Physics. She is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford and Mansfield College Oxford.
Dr. Bell Burnell will be speaking to several groups during her stay. The public is welcome to attend each of these events free of charge.
Monday, Feb. 28 from 7:30-8:30 pm in the Planetarium Science Building room 125, Dr. Bell Burnell will give a talk on Astronomy and Poetry. The talk will be hosted by Dr. Kathryn Jacobs, Professor of English. As a hobby Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell collects poetry with space or astronomy themes, she has recently co-edited an anthology of poetry with an astronomical theme – ‘Dark Matter, Poems of Space’. During this talk she will be presenting poetry under the starry skies of the planetarium.
Tuesday, March 1 from 11:00am-12:00 noon in Innovations A of the Sam Rayburn Student Center, Dr. Bell Burnell will have Discussions with female faculty and students. The event is organized by Dr. Mary Hendrix, Vice President for Student Access and Success. Dr. Bell Burnell is interested in women’s studies. She hopes that her presence as a senior woman in science will encourage more women to consider a career in science. “Dr. Bell Burnell will serve as a tremendous inspiration to our youngsters thinking of entering science and a great motivation for those still uncertain”, said Dr. Allan Headley, Dean of the Graduate School and Research.
Tuesday, March 1 from 7:20-8:20 pm in room 214 of the Distance Education Center in the Agriculture-Industry Technology building, Dr. Bell Burnell will give a talk on A Reflection on the discovery of pulsars to the graduate class Physics 561: Astronomy Problems. The lecture is delivered via two-way video to TAMU-Commerce Metroplex Center at 2600 Motley Drive, Mesquite, Texas 75150.
Wednesday, March 2 from 4-5 pm in Science Building room 127, Dr. Bell Burnell will give a talk on Will the world end in 2012? The astronomical evidence. This talk will be hosted by Dr. Kent Montgomery, Director of the Planetarium. A reception in her honor will be held from 3:30-4:00pm in the lobby of the Planetarium, everyone is invited. What's all this about the end of the world in 2012? Just what is meant to happen, and how likely is it to happen? This talk examines the threats from space and explains how much truth there is in the suggestions that killer asteroids, lethal solar flares or the black hole at the center of the Milky Way (for example) could cause the end of the Earth.
Thursday, March 3 from 4-5 pm in Science Building room 127, Dr. Bell Burnell will give a physics and astronomy colloquium on Pulsars and extreme physics. This is an overview of the current state of our knowledge about Pulsars. The colloquium will be hosted by Dr. William G. Newton, a nuclear astrophysicist.
UK and US universities and learned bodies have presented Dr. Bell with many awards including the 2010 Faraday Medal of the Royal Society of London, the Albert Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize of the Center for Theoretical Studies in Miami, the Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize of the American Astronomical Society and the Herschel Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Dr. Bell Burnell received a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) from Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 and was promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in June 2007.
March 3 - Nuclear Astrophysics Seminar
12noon-1:00pm, Science 103
Nuclear Symmetry Energy Project
Prof. Betty Tsang
National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory
Michigan State University
Symmetry energy is the penalty energy a nucleus has to pay when the number of protons and neutrons are different. It is an essential ingredient in determining nuclear masses and the properties of objects with extreme ratios of neutrons and protons. These exotic objects include nuclei that are near the limit of existence and astrophysical objects such as neutron stars. As the symmetry energy and the nuclear density are different at the center and at the surface of a nucleus, the exact relationship between symmetry energy and nuclear matter density, known as the asymmetric term of the nuclear equation of state, is of intense interest to the nuclear physics community.
March 10 - Global Warming - How bad is it? What can we do?
Prof. Wolfgang Bauer
Michigan State University
Special Nuclear Astrophysics Seminar
12noon-1:15pm, Friday, March 11, 2011, Science 103 (lunch will be provided)
The Role of Deformation and Isovector Pairing on the Nuclear Symmetry Energy
Dr. Ian Bentley
Department of Physics
University of Notre Dame
Special Nuclear Astrophysics Seminar
4;00-5:00pm, Friday, March 21, 2011, Science 103
Massive neutron stars and the equation of state of matter at high densities
Dr. Ang Li
Texas A&M University-Commerce
March 23, 2011
Use of light to manipulate the structure and function of proteins
Prof. Lorenzo Brancaleon
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Texas at San Antonio
March 31, 2011
Probing the high density matter in heavy ion collisions
Prof. Che-Ming Ko
Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Cyclotron Institute
Texas A&M University
Professor Ko received a B.Sc. degree from Tunghai University in Taiwan, a M.Sc. degree from McMaster University in Canada, and a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Before joining the Texas A&M faculty in 1980, he did research work at McMaster University, Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Research, Michigan State University, and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. He received the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Distinguished Scientist Award in 1995 and the Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Research Award in 2004, and he is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Currently, his research interests include theoretical studies of 1) nuclear symmetry energy effects in heavy ion collisions with rare isotopes, 2) signals and properties of the quark-gluon plasma in relativistic heavy ion collisions, and 3) particle production in hadronic reactions. His publications can be found in SPIRES <http://www-spires.slac.stanford.edu/spires/find/hep/www?rawcmd=find+author+ko%2C+c+m&FORMAT=WWW&SEQUENCE=> . His research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Robert A. Welch Foundation.