Texas Tech University

2016 Departmental News

  • Dr. Robert Morehead was accepted as an Ambassador of Astronomy by the American Astonomical Society.
  • Alessandra Corsi, assistant professor in Physics and Astronomy, was welcomed to her honorary position as ad junct assistant professor in the Mathematics & Statistics Department.
  • Scott Acton (PhD'90) gave a public lecture on October 14 about his bicycling tour around the world to teach others about the James Webb Space Telescope. He can be followed at http://www.jwstwbt.com/
  • Ginger Kerrick (BS'91, MS'93) was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame. She serves as division chief of the Flight Operations Directorate Integration Division at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Ginger also received TTU's College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Alumni award earlier this year.
  • Chris Britt, Denija Crnojevic, Tom Maccarone, and David Sand are scheduled for telescope time this year at National Optical Astronomy Observatory-coordinated facilities, which include Kitt Peak National Observatory, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, and Gemini Observatory.
  • Searching for Dark Matter (DM) via dijet resonance performed by TTU High Energy Physicists, Dr. Sung-Won Lee, Dr. Shuichi Kunori, and Tyler Wang, Ph.D. student in the High Energy Physics group, and other physicists at CMS experiment, has been highlighted in the top news on the Oct. issue (Volume 56, Issue 8) of the CERN Courier, entitled 'Probing dark matter with CMS'. CMS has recently updated several of DM searches and placed stringent constraints on interesting DM parameter space. Particularly, dijet constraints placed significant bounds on the simplified DM model. The preliminary results on 95% CL exclusion regions in the mass plane of the mediator and DM candidate for dijet searches and mono-X searches.
  • Faculty members in astrophysics, Denija Crnojevic, David Sand, and Tom Maccarone, were awarded observing time at the Hubble Space Telescope for research on "An Extremely Asymmetric Dwarf Satellite Distribution around M101," "Two New Local Volume Dwarfs Associated with Compact High Velocity Clouds," and "Finding AM CVn Stars in 47 Tuc."
  • The HELADO (High Energy Llano Estecado Detector) group, an undergraduate research team led by Nural Akchurin investigates Cherenkov radiation from high-energy gamma ray sources, was recognized at the 56th Annual Homecoming Dinner on October 14. The Texas Tech Alumni Association awarded a $10K Excellence Grant for this research.
  • The Society of Physics Students (SPS) organized a Welcome Back Picnic on September 1 to welcome new graduate and undergraduate students.
  • In 2010-2012, our department was among the top physics departments in the US in terms of granting degrees to women: 43% of our graduates were women.
  • Tom Jones (BS'85, MS'91) says that since his graduation from Tech he has been working in the area of  nuclear safety, both at the Pantex plants and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • Jennifer Doak (BS'02) says in a Christmas card to the department that she works from home in New Hampshire for the USPTO, examining patents, and also enjoys kayaking and singing.
  • The Bucy Distinguished Lecture was delivered by Shrinivas R. Kulkarni, McArthur Professor of Astronomy and Professor of Planetary Sciences, at the California Institute of Technology on April 26 at the McKenzie Merket Alumni Center. His public lecture was titled "Cosmic Fireworks (The Dynamic Universe)."
  • Thomas Hayes IV (BS'16) and Zachary Brown (BS'17) made an oral presentation, "Measuring the Beam Current of a Van de Graaff Electron Accelerator," at TTU's Undergraduate Research Conference held on March 29-31. Daniel Ballinger, Casey Mills, Logan Smith, and Max Zhelyeznyakov, all physics majors, had posters at the  same conference.
  • Debra Boyce, Academic Analyst in our department, was nominated again for the "Distinguished Staff Award," and the "Chancellor's Award of Excellence," and, for a second time, the "President's Excellence in Academic Advising Award."
  • The National Physics Honor Society, Sigma Pi Sigma, held a reception and induction ceremony on May 11 for its new members in the department: Maged Alotaibi, Omar Alsalmi, Kavitha Arur, Paul Bennet, Juan Dominguez, Roberto Espinoza, Mark A. Marsalis, Brandon M. Matthews, and Millind Pattanayak. This is a lifetime honor that recognizes dedication to the field of physics.
  • Jordan Damgov, a high energy physics postdoc, was awarded the LPC Distinguished Researcher Fellowship in 2017 for his analysis work on search for heavy resonances in semileptonic di-boson final states in CMS. The 21 colleagues selected as CMS LPC Distinguished Researcher are accomplished individuals at different stages of their career. This program provides resources to help strengthen and expand their research programs. Funding for the program is made possible by the CMS Center at Fermilab, the USCMS Research Program, and a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Congratulations Jordan. Learn More
  • Elizabeth Eckert (BS'18), a sophomore physics major, was a student volunteer at SC16, The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis, in Salt Lake City in November.
  • George Laity (BS'08, PhD'12) is employed as an experimental physicist at the "Z" Accelerator at Sandia National Laboratory where he focuses on multiple aspects of high energy density physics. He is a principle investigator in both inertial confinement fusion and bright X-ray radiation source programs.
  • Tom Maccarone developed the idea that some black holes could be found by searching for radio waves, rather than relying only on conventional searches by X-rays. These results appear in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal. The article went on to say that astronomers combined data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and concluded that peculiar source of radio waves, dubbed VLA J2130+12, is a binary star system in the Milky Way that contains a low-mass star and a black hole. Learn More in a Texas Tech Today article.
  • Allison Hughes, a graduate student in astrophysics, received a Texas Space Grant Fellowship. Congrats Allie!
  • Nural Akchurin spoke about quarks and the cosmos at the screening of Stephen Hawking's "Genius," a documentary shown by KTTZ Public TV, at the Science Spec- trum on May 31.
  • Chris Britt, Postdoctoral Researcher, and Tom Maccarone, Associate Professor, both of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, have published a study on CX330 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The two headed a research team in identifying what lead author Britt says is likely a rapidly growing young star. The object, called CX330, is unusual for its middle-of-nowhere location in the universe; young stars typically form from gas- and dust-rich regions in star-forming clouds, according to a July 27 Texas Tech Today story about CX330. However, the story said, it is possible that other stars may be near CX330 but have yet to be detected.
  • Max Zhelyeznyakov (BS'17) was nominated for the Gold water Scholarship and received an Honorable Mention. He is a physics major who plans to earn a doctorate in applied physics and to  pursue research in optics while teaching at a university. 
  • Frank Chlebana, senior research scientist from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, was "Faculty in Residence in Global Scholar Academy," sponsored by the Honors College, College of Arts & Sciences, and high-energy particle physics group.
  • The"Special Break through Prize in Fundamental Physics" was awarded for the detection of gravitational waves. The $3M prize will be shared among LIGO founders Ronald W. P. Drever, Kip S. Thorne, and Rainer Weiss and also with 1,012 contributors to the discovery, including our own Benjamin Owen, Alessandra Corsi, Santiago Caride, Robert Coyne, Ra Inta, and Nipuni Palliyaguru.
  • Six Department of Physics & Astronomy researchers were members of the team that discovered gravitational waves, thus confirming one of Einstein's theories. Physics team members: Professor Benjamin Owen, Assistant Professor Alessandra Corsi, and Postdoctoral Researchers Santiago Caride, Robert Coyne, Ra Inta, and Nipuni Palliyaguru.
  • Sung-Won Lee, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, and his research group have published the first search to come from the 2015 re-start of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Findings, published in the Feb. 18, 2016, Physics Review Letters, were based on data resulting from collisions conducted at the record-breaking energy of 13 TeV (13 trillion electron volts), an energy level 60 percent higher than collisions conducted during the previous run between 2010 and 2012. According to an article in Fermilab News, Lee's group looked at events where collisions resulted in two energetic jets, so-called "dijet" events, and the mass of the particles produced. While their goal of finding new physics remains elusive, Lee's group was able to put one of the most stringent limits yet on the reigning theory of particle physics. That paves the way for predicting, and eventually proving, the existence of new particles.
  • Richard Wigmans received the "Volta Medal" from the University of Pavia (Italy). The medal is awarded annually to a physicist who has made substantial contributions to the development of experimental techniques for phys- ics research. The recipient is also asked to deliver the annual "Volta Lecture." On January 28, following the award ceremony, Professor Wigmans delivered a lecture titled "Some Practical Applications of Calorimetry."
  • David Sand received funding from NASA for his pro- posal, "Explosion Physics and Progenitors from a One Day Cadence Supernovae Search," for participation in the Swift Cycle 12 Guest Investigator Program.
  • The work performed by TTU High Energy Physicists, Dr. Sung-Won Lee, Dr. Igor Volobouev, and Terence Libeiro, Ph.D. student in the High Energy Physics group have an article featured in the top news on the Mar. issue (Volume 56, Issue 2) of the CERN Courier, on their important measurement of the inclusive jet cross section in pp collisions at √s=2.76 TeV, entitled 'CMS bridges the gap in jet measurements'. These cross section measurements test and confirm the predictions of QCD and extend the kinematic range compared to previous studies. The final result has been published in May 2016, the European Physical Journal C.
  • TTU physicists, Dr. Nural Akchurin, Dr. Sung-Won Lee, Dr. Cosmin Dragoiu, a high energy physics postdoc, along with other US physicists, have been featured in Feb 26th edition of the Fermilab. This Week concerning their work on the forward–backward asymmetry (Afb) of Drell–Yan lepton pairs in pp collisions at √s=8 TeV. This work has been published in Eur. Phys. J. C 76 (2016)325. Afb has been previously measured by our group (Dr. Efe Yazgan & Youn Roh) using 7 TeV data and published in Phys. Lets. B 718 (2013) 752 . Right after 7 TeV paper, the team worked on improving forward electron identification & energy scale and successfully extended the Afb measurement to larger rapidity (up to |y| = 5) by including electrons in the HF. This is the first-ever CMS measurement, under the high PU environment, using the HF electrons in CMS.
  • An image from TTU postdoc Paul Sell's research has been included in TIME Magazine's list of the Best Space Photos of 2015. This image focused on the large ring features created by scattered X-rays from Circinus X-1 and was made from observations with very different telescopes that help tell a more complete story. It shows all three main features he helped discover. Paul took a new post in Europe during the summer.
  • The next-next generation space telescope will be the Wide Field Near Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), which will utilize a gifted 2.4 m mirror from the National Re-connaissance Office to conduct an array of infrared stud- ies of dark energy, exoplanets, and general astrophysics. Dr. Sand is on the WFIRST Nearby Galaxies (WINGS) Science Investigation Team, which is tasked with simulating observations of nearby galaxies with a putative WFIRST telescope to provide feedback to NASA about the basic parameters of the mission (cryo temperature, field of view, filter set, pixel scale, etc). David Sand is the lead of the dwarf galaxy sub-team and is busy preparing to discover ultrafaint dwarf galaxy satellites around some of our nearest neighbors in about 10 years.
  • The high-energy particle physics group hosted a national workshop at TTU on the next generation endcap calorimeter for the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at the High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider. Over 20 physicists presented their work in this two-day event in October that also included a field trip to ELJEN and ADIT in Sweetwater, TX, where they manufacture high quality plastic scintillators and photomultier tubes.
  • Charles Ramey, a graduate student in physics education research, presented his work "A Pedagogical Method for Advanced Laboratory Writing: Letters Home Project" at the AAPT Summer Meeting in July 2016. He was also awarded a Scholar-in-Residence Grant by AAPT PER Topical Group (PERTG) for the same work.
  • Beth Thacker presented an invited talk titled, "Large-scale Assessment Yields Evidence of Minimal Use of Reasoning Skills in Traditionally Taught Classes" at the Joint Meeting of the Four Corners and Texas Sections of the American Physical Society in Las Cruces, NM in October 2016.
  • The County of Lubbock paved the road to the Preston M. Gott Observatory, making access much easier and safer after rainfall. Special thanks go to Commissioner Jones.
  • The National Science Foundation awarded a grant of $25K to support the "USA-Pakistan International Conference on Renewable Energy" under the direction of M.A.K. Lodhi. After his retirement, Professor Lodhi continues to hold a research professorship in the depart- ment and focuses on energy problems.

 

Department of Physics and Astronomy