women in physics talks

Women in Physics Talks

Join the Women in Physics at the University of Chicago for biweekly talks over dinner. Everyone from undergraduates to faculty is welcome.
Email azizas_at_uchicago.edu to be added to our e-list.

Past Talks

February 21, 2017
Anita Gaj, Chin lab
In Rydberg atoms the valence electron is excited to a barely bound orbit in which it is far away from the nucleus. The interaction between a slow Rydberg electron and a separate ground state atom can lead to a bound state and the formation of ultralong-range Rydberg molecules. In my talk I will discuss how to create these molecules and why they are so much different than the conventional molecules. Finally, I will talk about recent experiments involving Rydberg molecules and the future of this new direction of research.

January 31, 2017
Prof. Abigail Vieregg
Radio Detection of the Highest Energy Neutrinos
Ultra-high energy neutrino astronomy crosses boundaries between particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.  I’ll discuss the search for these highest energy observable particles in the universe, how we do it, what we know now, and what we hope to learn in the coming years.  I’ll talk about a balloon-borne experiment called ANITA that just completed a successful flight in Antarctica, as well as a ground-based experiment at the South Pole called ARA, and a new idea we’re working on here at Chicago to improve the efficiency of such detectors.

January 10, 2017
Polina Navotnaya, Engel Group
Electronic dynamics in bulk GaAs induced by light with orbital angular momentum
Light with orbital angular momentum, known as twisted light, is a topic of growing interest due to the new opportunities it opens for exploring the interaction of light with matter. Twisted light has been explored in communications, where it was transmitted efficiently over the distance over 100km. In addition to that, entangled states created with twisted light may be important in quantum computing and communications. However, detecting information encoded in twisted light can be a challenge because it requires complicated laser setup and stable conditions. Taking this technology from lab bench to commercial applications requires new detection materials. This inspired me to study interactions of twisted light with matter. Introducing orbital angular momentum to light generates corkscrew-shaped helical wavefront that stirs the sample’s charge density in a way different from planar light-matter interaction. The current density induced in the sample induces terms beyond dipolar in the multipolar expansion. In the interaction Hamiltonian, the presence of the multipolar terms creates new selection rules that are governed by the transition probabilities and the overlap between the light mode and charge density of the sample. The states achieved by these excitations are poorly coupled with the environment. Thus, the lifetime of these states is expected to grow as OAM grows. I have performed pump-probe spectroscopy experiment with twisted light and bulk gallium arsenide at liquid helium temperatures. The results have indeed shown the prolonged lifetime of the excited states, opening up the opportunity to study dynamics of the states beyond dipole moment approximation. 

November 28, 2016
Nicole James, Jaeger Lab
What causes shear jamming of suspensions?
Fluids like water or honey have an intrinsic, constant viscosity at a given temperature. However, concentrated suspensions of solid particles in a liquid can display a surprising, counterintuitive behavior: the harder they are sheared to flow, the higher the viscosity becomes. In rare cases, the fluid even solidifies, then ‘melts’ when the force is removed! This phenomena is called shear jamming, and is commonly seen in cornstarch/water suspension demonstrations.

Previous understanding of granular flows suggests that shear jamming of suspensions ultimately arises from particles being sheared into direct contact, at which point particle-particle friction prevents the flow of particles past each other, and the suspension jams. However, that raises the question: Why do some systems (most notably cornstarch) display prominent shear jamming, while practically no other systems do?

In this talk I will present a new synthetic particle system that displays shear jamming and allows us to pinpoint and characterize the chemical contributions to particle-particle friction that we believe are necessary for shear jamming. This understanding opens the door to designing and optimizing these materials for applications such as stab-resistant liquid armor.

November 14, 2016
Margaret Gardel

October 31, 2016
Menglu Chen, Guyot-Sionnest Lab

Electronic states in mercury chalcogneide colloidal quantum dots
In the past few years, colloidal quantum dots based on the zinc-blend mercury chalcogenides, Hg(S, Se, Te), have become leaders in efforts to transform mid-IR technologies with solutions based materials.   Understanding the electronic states, the doping, and the relative band positions of the three materials and the colloidal dots is essential for current and future investigations.
I use spectroscopy and electrochemistry to monitor the electronic states, the mobility of electrons in films, the origin of the spontaneous doping in several of the systems, and the effects of the surface.
I will describe how a single cyclic voltammetry curve on one particular sample of quantum dots already reveals much novel information, such as predicting if the system is spontaneously doped, the Fermi level, the electron injection energies, the degree of reversibility, the presence of surface states, and the mobility of electrons hopping from different states.
I will then present our complete set of electrochemical and spectroscopic data collected on the three different chalcogenides, with a systematic range of sizes and surface chemistry, and these unveil an unprecedented view on the materials and of their properties as quantum dots.

October 3, 2016
Chen He Heinrich, Hu Lab
Complete Reionization Constraints from Planck 2015 Polarization
I will present a recent analysis of the 2015 cosmic microwave background data from the Planck satellite that is complete in the reionization observables using principal components (PCs). By allowing for an arbitrary ionization history, the PC technique probes a larger space of physical models than in the standard analysis (which assume stantaneous reionization) and tests the robustness of the inferred optical depth. A reliable measurement of the total optical depth is important for the interpretation of many other cosmological parameters such as the dark energy and neutrino mass. We found that Planck 2015 data not only allow a high redshift z>15 component to the optical depth but prefer it at the 2σ level, contributing to a higher total optical depth than in the standard analysis. I will further demonstrate the power of the PC method to efficiently constrain models given predictions of ionization history by applying our effective likelihood code.

October 17, 2016
Nora Shipp
Exploring the Effect of Dark Matter Self-Interactions on the Subhalo Distribution of Galaxy Clusters

Observations of galaxy clusters indicate that the splashback radius, a density caustic corresponding to the first orbital apocenter of satellite galaxies after accretion, is smaller than predicted by simulations. This decrease in radius could be due to an effective drag force on the dark matter subhalos resulting from scattering between dark matter particles. In order to explore this possibility and place preliminary constraints on the self-interaction cross section, I integrated dark matter subhalo orbits though evolving galaxy cluster potentials and examined the effect of self-interactions on the subhalo distribution.

August 7, 2016
Lipi Gupta, Innovations in Bright Beam Science group
Synchotrons and Free Electron Lasers
Light sources such as synchrotrons and FELs generate bright, high-energy radiation. These sources can be used to probe extremely small structures due to the ultra-short (order Angstrom) wavelength light they produce. Currntly operating machines include APS at Argonne National Lab and LCLS at SLAC National Lab, as well as many international facilities sucha as SACLA in Japan. Protein imaging, material surface studies, and more are driving the demand for higher energy photons and higher luminosity. By creating high-energy radiation at increased fluxes, scientists hope to be able to construct "movies" of chemical reactions taking place; which could become possible at future light sources. This talk will discuss the basic physics of these machines, as well as some of the challenges faced by current accelerator physicists designing 4th generation light sources. 

August 10, 2016
Rebecca Cheng, Jaegar Group
Shear thicknening flow curves and viscosity fluctuations in synthetic pMMA suspensions
Under impact or shear, cornstarch and water suspensions have shown to thicken and solidify, allowing a ball to bounce or a person to run across its surface. However, most observations of shear jamming have been on starch suspensions, which are prone to rotting, making practical application of this phenomenon difficult. Here, we study viscosity fluctuations at regions of shear thickening and jamming of synthetic pMMA suspensions. By learning more about the limits of shear thickening and jamming in synthetic suspensions, we can begin to harness this behavior for further application in engineering and industry. 

August 10, 2016
Analis Lawrence, Gandi Group
Gain calibration of the Hamamatsu R11410 PMT
Hamamatsu R11410 3" photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) are aligned in liquid xenon detectors designed for dark matter searches. The detectors are two-phase xenon time projection chambers to determine detection of a WIMP particle or a dark matter candidate. The role of the PMTs is to amplify photon signals from xenon scintillation light. In this study, a 470 nm blue laser light pulse signal was sent to the Hamamatsu R11410 through a dark box. A single photoelectron peak gain curve was analyzed at varying voltages. Calibration of the PMT helps ensure accurate detection of interaction events as well as rejection of background. 

August 3, 2016
Marina David, Robert M. Wald Group
Deformation of the Event Horizon of a Schwarzschild Black Hole Induced by Gravitational Waves

Gravitational waves are fluctuations of spacetime curvature generated in gravitational interactions. We study the effects of gravitational radiation on the event horizon of a Schwarzschild black hole. We find that gravitational waves cause a deviation in the horizon generators, which in turn cause a deformation in the black hole. We first consider the metric perturbation and how it propagates through Schwarzschild spacetime, by which we then calculate the curvature perturbation and use the geodesic deviation equation to determine the deviation in the null generators.

July 27, 2016
Niharika Sravan, Kalogera Group
Preparing for the Era of Time-Domain Big-Data Astronomy: Supernovae and The Transient Sky
In this talk I will present an overview of the advent of time-domain big-data astronomy, its implications, challenges, and connections to my research. I will give a broad summary of my current research interests aimed at helping prepare for this new era in astronomy. Finally, I will present results from my most recent work on supernovae and describe how they fit in context of my broader research goals. 

July 20, 2016
Ariel Sommer, Simon Lab
Quantum Anomaly in Pair Dissociation of 2D Fermions

Symmetries present in classical systems can in some cases break in their quantum counterparts. These so-called quantum anomalies appear in a wide range of interacting quantum systems, from particle physics to condensed matter. In two-dimensional gases of fermions with contact interactions, the classically expected scale invariance breaks due to regularization in the quantum system. I will present measurements of the excitation spectra in a two-dimensional gas of ultracold lithium-6 atoms in which the quantum anomaly has a strong effect and discuss how these observations fit in with our understand of 2D Fermi gases. 

July 13, 2016
Rui Zou, Young-Kee Kim lab
FastTracKer (FTK) system and VBF Higgs to Invisible analysis
I will briefly talk about the ATLAS trigger system, with an emphasis on the structure of FastTracKer (FTK), part of the trigger system update, and how FTK can help confront the challenges due to high luminosity in Run II. I will then proceed to give a brief overview of the Vector Boson Fusion produced Higgs to Invisible decay analysis using the ATLAS detector in Run II.

July 6, 2016
Kim Wirich, Gardel lab

Cytoskeletal droplets: a fluids perspective on structural biomaterials
Living cells dynamically change shape as they routinely divide, migrate, and exert forces on their environment. Driving these enormous deformations is a protein-based structural material, the cytoskeleton. This material has fascinating mechanical properties, primarily derived from semi-flexible filaments, called F-actin, which cross-link into bundles and networks traditionally described as elastic solids. In this talk, I will discuss my recent research that suggests these structures can also behave like liquid crystal droplets, as well as possible biological implications of describing this essential material from a fluids perspective.

June 29, 2016
Danielle Scheff, Gardel lab
Material Properties of the Actin Skeleton
Actin filaments are an essential protein that creates the skeleton of animal cells. They display a wide range of material properties depending on factors such as surrounding proteins. I will talk about the material properties of actin with one such protein, called fascin, as well as the bulk rheology techniques used.

June 22, 2016
Kaitlin McLean, Clark lab
Control of Antibody Selection in the Immune System

Every day, our immune system has to deal with multiple assaults from a wide host of different pathogens. To help recognize and fight these pathogens, B cells in the immune system use a process called VDJ recombination to create their repertoire of millions of unique antibodies. It is a tightly controlled process, which when gone awry can lead to lymphoma, immunodeficiency and autoimmune disorders. Our lab recently discovered a new epigenetic modifier, Brwd1, which plays a crucial role in chromatin remodeling during VDJ recombination. I will focus on our lab’s use of different sequencing and genome editing techniques to learn more about the role Brwd1 is playing in this process.

June 14, 2016
Lisa Nash, Irvine Lab
Topological gyroscopic metamaterials
Mechanical metamaterials can have topologically protected states, much like their electronic and optical counterparts. We recently demonstrated an example of this in experiment by building a metamaterial composed of coupled gyroscopes on a honeycomb lattice. This system breaks time-reversal symmetry and exhibits topologically protected one-way edge modes. In this talk I will discuss our theoretical understanding and experimental demonstration of this metamaterial.

June 7, 2016
Sofia Magkiriadou, Irvine lab
Color and Disorder: Colloidal Photonic Glasses and the Case of Red

When a material has inhomogeneities at a length scale comparable to the wavelength of light, interference can give rise to structural colors: colors that originate from the interaction of the material's microstructure with light and do not require absorbing dyes. A familiar example are opals, whose crystalline microstructure gives rise to Bragg scattering and iridescent structural colors. However, long-ranged order is not necessary for structural color: glasses, which have only short-ranged order, can also be colorful. Unlike those of crystals, the structural colors of photonic glasses are independent of the viewing angle since glasses are isotropic. Nature has been employing this coloration mechanism for millions of years. However, to the best of our knowledge, there is no natural example of a red photonic glass. What is special about red? In this talk, I will share some insights into the absence of red photonic glasses in nature, derived from experiments with colloidal glasses combined with scattering theory. I will further describe experimental methods that we have developed in order to make non-iridescent, structural red color. Finally, I will discuss the color gamut that could potentially be achieved with analogous techniques, and I will entertain the prospect of using photonic glasses as a new type of long-lasting, non-toxic, and dynamically tunable pigment.

May 17, 2016
Lesya Horyn, Young-Kee Kim lab
Jets in the ATLAS Detector

This talk will give a brief overview of jets and how we study them at the LHC.

May 3, 2016
Prof. Young-Kee Kim
An Atom as an Onion

Subatomic-particle research has made enormous progress in the 20th Century by looking inside matter at deeper and deeper levels. It is as if we were peeling the layers of an onion in the hopes of finding more basic rules for the structure of nature. Although the concept of the ultimate building blocks of matter has been modified in several essential respects in the last century, Democritus's idea remains at the foundation of modern science. Great experiments of the 20th century have led to the discovery of ever-smaller entities that make up what were once thought to be indivisible particles. Starting with the atom, they uncovered the nucleus, which was made of smaller particles such as protons and neutrons. These have themselves been dissected into even smaller particles. Moreover, this theory of the very small has been shown to be intimately connected to the largest scales imaginable - cosmology and the beginnings of the universe. Despite these considerable successes, this current theory nevertheless has within it the seeds of its own demise and is predicted to break down when probed at even smaller scales. By using our increased understanding we continue to peel away at the more hidden layers of truth with the hope of discovering a more elegant and complete theory. But as is the case with the onion, we must wonder whether there will ever emerge an ultimate layer where the peeling must stop.

May 3, 2016
Nidhi Pashine, Nagel lab
Designing Networks with unusual responses

Amorphous materials are structurally very different from crystalline materials. Here, we use jamming as a method to create anisotropic spring networks. By selectively removing a small percentage of bonds/springs from such a network, we can tune the network to have a desired response. It could be a change in the global elastic properties of the material, or a localized output corresponding to a local input strain at a distant site. The latter response is similar to the allosteric regulation in proteins where a reaction at one site activates another site of the protein molecule. Experimentally, we have been able to show these properties in 2D and 3D networks.

April 26, 2016
Lipi Gupta
Raman Spectroscopy
Raman scattering is used to identify the vibrational modes of molecues, and has been used to characterize molecules since 1930 when C.V. Raman won the Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering this method. When light is scattered though a sample, the molecule can be polarized to certain modes, called Raman active modes, which emit light at specific energies. In order to excite these transitions, polarized light from a known frequency laser is scattered through a liquid sample, causing the emission of light from Raman active modes in the molecule. The light is collected and filtered through a monochromator in order to measure the intensity of the light at frequencies near the laser frequency, then amplified in a photomultiplier tube to be detected. By determining the polarization of the scattered light by using a polarizer, the symmetry of the vibrational modes can be determined. In our experiment, we studied the vibrational modes for CCl4, CS2, CHCl3, C6H6, and C6D6, and compared our results to literature values. We were able to determine the transition energies of the Raman active modes, the symmetry of the modes, and the temperature of the CS2 sample. The optical alignment and amplification of the signal from the Raman modes were optimized in order to study these samples. However, in a future study both could be improved to obtain higher resolution spectra.

April 19, 2016
Aziza Suleymanzade, Simon lab, Schuster lab
Engineering interactions between optical and microwave photons/
In this talk I will describe the motivation and current progress on the experimental effort to engineer effective strong interaction between optical and microwave photons. In particular, I will give some theoretical background for quantum mechanics behind single photon interactions using Rydberg atoms as a mediator. I will go over the experimental setup for our hybrid optical cryogenic system necessary for the science. And, finally, comment on the importance of this project for the fundamental science as well as its potential applications.