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NSBP and SAIP Members on LHC Lead-Lead Collisions November 16, 2010

Posted by ASTRO Section Chair in : Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), Cosmology, Gravitation, and Relativity (CGR), Mathematical and Computational Physics (MCP) , 2comments

LHC Achieves Heavy Ion Collisions
On Sunday November 7 at 1 am local time the first heavy ion collisions were observed in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland.  By the following Monday morning the heavy ion beam was stably producing a steady stream of collisions such that the physics analysis could start in earnest.  By the end of the week a sufficient number of events had been observed to reach the first conclusions.

Witnessing this historic event was Dr. Zinhle Buthelezi from South Africa’s iThemba LABS who was on duty in the control room of the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) detector at the time of the first collisions.  Other members of the iThemba LABS team, Deon Steyn, Siegie Foertsch, and Zeblon Vilakazi, as well as the team from the University of Cape Town led by Jean Cleymans have also been participating in the ALICE experiment.  More

ALICE, Quark-Gluon Plasmas and the Origin of the Universe
The goal of ALICE is to observe the so-called Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP).  This plasma is partially analogous to the more well-known electronic plasma that results when a gas is so hot that its electrons are liberated from their atomic nuclei.  Like electrons are constituents of atoms, quarks and gluons are constituents of nucleons – protons and neutrons.  They can likewise be “deconfined” from nucleons at high energy densities like those that existed at the very moment of the Big Bang, or can be reproduced in high energy accelerators like the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) or the LHC.  Thus the results gained from ALICE and RHIC give insights into the state of energy and matter in the first microseconds of the universe, before condensation into neutrons, protons, and subsequently atoms.   More

NSBP Members Clifford Johnson and Stephon Alexander on the ALICE collisions
Experimental Excitement
ALICE – A Cosmologist’s Point of View

Theoretical physicists have studied QGPs using a variety of techniques.  Perhaps the most successful method is due to Dr. Juan Maldacena, a plenary speaker at the 2005 Joint Annual Conference of the National Society of Black Physicists and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists.  The so-called “AdS/CFT correspondence” relates string theory to gauge theories like quantum chromodynamics (QCD) which describes the interactions between quarks and gluons. Professor Jim Gates has commented, “So, the next time someone tells you that string theory is not testable, remind them of the AdS/CFT connection…”  Since then experimental, observational, and theoretical evidence has expanded from particle theory to condensed matter physics.

South African Participation at CERN
In addition to the ALICE experiment, South African physicists are participates in the ATLAS experiment.  Dr. Simon Connell, President-elect of the South African Institute of Physics leads the ATLAS Team at the University of Johannesburg.  “ATLAS is designed to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, like how and why particles have mass,” he explains.

This past summer South Africa hosted the first biennial African school on fundamental subatomic physics and its applications. More

2010 African Physics School

Courtesy of Brookhaven National Lab

South African participation in particle physics brings many benefits to the country and continent, most notably in information and computing technology (ICT).  SANReN, the grid computing network that allows physicists in South Africa to receive results from the LHC is used by many others in science and business, and this network will by design be extended to everyday consumers and learners.  More

Cosmology on the Beach! September 1, 2010

Posted by CGR Section Chair in : Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), Cosmology, Gravitation, and Relativity (CGR), Mathematical and Computational Physics (MCP), Nuclear and Particle Physics (NPP) , add a comment

Applications are now open for the Essential Cosmology for the Next Generation (aka Cosmology on the Beach) winter school/research conference! The organizers strongly encourage a diverse group of advanced graduate students and postdoc to participate. Instructors include NSBP member Edmund Bertschinger of MIT’s Department of Physics. Here is the full announcement:

(also known as Cosmology on the Beach)

January 10−14, 2011 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The Conference website and Participant Application form is now available at the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics website.

This meeting is the 3rd annual edition, following the very successful and popular 2009 and 2010 conferences. It is a combination of winter school and research conference, with course lectures, blended with recent research advances in plenary talks, and student/postdoc participation. We encourage a diverse group of advanced graduate students and postdocs interested in attending to apply. The deadline for application is OCTOBER 15, 2010.

Ed Bertschinger, Gravity on Cosmic Scales
Neal Katz, Galaxy Formation
Mark Trodden, Particle Physics, LHC, and Cosmology
Licia Verde, Statistical and Numerical Methods in Cosmology
Martin White, Nonlinear Structure in the Universe

to be announced

Organized by the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics and Instituto Avanzado de Cosmologia, Mexico.

Keep Garching on your Radar June 30, 2009

Posted by ASTRO Section Chair in : Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), Mathematical and Computational Physics (MCP) , add a comment

Astronomy, Cultural Astronomy, and NSBP at Garching, Germany
by Jarita C. Holbrook

Garching, which is outside of Munich, Germany, is the home of several institutes focused on astronomy and astrophysics.  There is the European Space Organization (ESO), the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA).  Each of these Institutes have graduate students working on their Ph.D.s under the direction of their scientists, postdoctoral fellowships, and junior scientist positions.  In these ways they function like universities but without the classes and without the undergraduates.

The structure of each Max Planck Institute in terms of scientists is the following, there are usually three or four directors that are permanently employed and are given a number of faculty and postdoctoral positions under them to create their research group.  The director of the institute position rotates among these directors.  It is very difficult to get a permanent faculty position in astronomy, but entirely possible to get a postdoctoral fellowship of up to five years.

I visited Garching for the first time from June 2 – 5, 2009.  I was an official visitor along with my husband of MPE under director Reinhard Genzel who runs the Infrared and Submillimeter Astronomy group.  We arrived by overnight train from Amsterdam early Tuesday morning and wandered around lost in the building searching for Dr.  Genzel’s office.  On the fourth floor, we passed an open door labeled “Visitors Office” and inside was NSBP member Ed Thomas!

Dr. Thomas, who is a professor at Auburn University, was visiting the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics which shares the building with MPE.  He was collaborating on a dusty plasma project and gave a talk on June 3.  While we were together in Garching, we had a long discussion on the development of the field of plasma physics and the way that plasma physics is perceived by the larger physics community.  Studying Plasma Physics, though done in an experimental framework, requires classifying and characterizing behaviors as a means of understanding the physics.

For that last several years I have been doing survey research on the relationship of people to the night sky.  As a cultural astronomer, I am interested in what can be considered common knowledge or lay knowledge of astronomy and the night sky.  By lay knowledge, I mean non-expert knowledge.  I created a survey called “The Sky in Our Lives Survey” to quickly and systematically gather basic information about people’s sky knowledge.  On June 5, I gave a talk about my survey results to the scientists of MPE.

About 30 people attended the talk and Q & A lasted for about fifteen minutes.  From the questions, I realized that perhaps an introduction to cultural astronomy was needed.  It was clear to me from the questions that people thought that I was an astronomy education researcher rather than a cultural astronomer.  What is the difference? An astronomy education researcher researches ways to improve teaching astronomy and conveying astronomy concepts to students and to the public.  As part of their research they often survey people about what they understand about things considered to be fundamental astronomy.  In contrast, cultural astronomers focus on the much broader relationship between people and the sky from ancient times to the present.  We include studying astronomers through anthropology of astronomy and history of astronomy, but most of our work focuses on traditional sky knowledge around the world.  For example, as a postdoc I studied people who use celestial bodies for night navigation on the ocean.

The MPE audience wanted to know if people understood some very difficult astrophysical concepts, whereas my survey was designed for learning what is ‘traditional’ sky knowledge in various populations.  The survey is meant to be a tool for data collection to make cross cultural comparisons among people that have not necessarily been exposed to astrophysics.  This small misunderstanding aside, the MPE audience seemed to enjoy the presentation and the Q & A.

Because of the number of Institutes related to physics and astronomy, Garching is a place that should be on the radar screen for dual career couples.  I met two couples where one was employed by MPE and the other by ESO.  Also, with three astronomy communities in close proximity, there is a lot of circulation, collaboration, and support which makes for a unique astronomy environment.  The town of Garching is small and most of the scientists live in the surrounding area and in Munich.

What about being an African American in Germany?  I had the privilege of being a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin in 2001-2.  I remember thinking, “Germany?”  First, Germany today is not the Germany of WWII, so that myth needs to be let go.  It does still have its discrimination and prejudices but it is unlikely that these will be encountered in the academic communities in which we circulate.  In addition to my postdoc, I spent two summers living in Heidelberg in 2006 and 2007.  I like living in Germany because it is a well kept country (read clean) and things run on time.  They are environmentally conscious and have organic food stores that fit well with my vegetarian “do no harm” lifestyle.  Finally, when I am in Germany, I am there to work!  And, I am able to get amazing amounts of work done because of the fantastic academic support system.  When I am at MPIWG, I have access to every book that I need throughout Europe both digitally and in my hand within a few days.  I have children and the institutes that I have visited have always helped me arrange childcare freeing me to work normal hours without worry.  In addition, there are always small pots of money to travel to other parts of Germany to meet with other scholars for discussions and collaborations and general networking.

What are the down sides?  Sure, my fantasy job is to be a director of my own group at Max Planck Institute (or a Kavli Institute!), but I know it will probably always be a fantasy.  As I mentioned above it is very hard to get a permanent position and there is not a clear route to career advancement, i.e., a permanent position does not lead to being a director one day.  Also, in astronomy there are very few permanent positions and among these women are poorly represented.  Don’t bother to ask about minorities.

Back to the positives, their postdocs are considered very prestigious in the astronomy community as is getting a Ph.D. from one of their institutes.  Keep Garching on your radar.

Dr. Jarita Holbrook is a research scientist in cultural astronomy at the University of Arizona. She received her undergraduate degree in physics from Caltech and the Ph.D. degree in astronomy from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She was a postdoctoral research scholar in history of science at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. She is the co-editor or the recently published volume, African Cultural Astronomy.

Doing Business with DOE February 10, 2009

Posted by NPP Section Chair in : Acoustics (ACOU), Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (AMO), Chemical and Biological Physics (CBP), Condensed Matter and Materials Physics (CMMP), Cosmology, Gravitation, and Relativity (CGR), Earth and Planetary Systems Sciences (EPSS), Fluid and Plasma Physics (FPP), Mathematical and Computational Physics (MCP), Nuclear and Particle Physics (NPP), Photonics and Optics (POP), Physics Education Research (PER) , add a comment



· Paid undergraduate science research internships?

· Summer research positions for faculty and student teams at a national laboratory?

· Careers with the Federal government or national laboratories?

· Graduate fellowships and Post-Doc appointments?

The Department of Energy is looking for you…

Come see us in the DOE Pavilion

Learn how you can work alongside scientists and engineers experienced at mentoring who want to transfer science knowledge by collaborative research. These programs are for undergraduate students from four year institutions, community colleges, or for students who are preparing to become K-12 science, math or technology teachers and for undergraduate faculty. Internships are available at all DOE national labs.

Up to 8 qualified undergraduate students will be considered for placement in the summer of 2009. The laboratories also have graduate and post-doc opportunities. We look forward to seeing you in Nashville! Please come join us at Booth 304 and the other booths in the DOE Pavilion in the Exhibit Hall Thursday and Friday or at any of the following activities and workshops:

Physics Diversity Summit: Discussion with Bill Valdez, Director, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists

Date: Wednesday, February 11

Time: 2:00 PM

Workshop: Brookhaven National Laboratory –On Using Photons

Date: Thursday, February 12

Time: 2:00 – 3:30 PM and 4:00 – 5:30 PM

Workshop: Oakridge National Laboratory—On Using Neutrons

Date: Friday, February 13
Time: 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM; 5:00-6:30 PM

Doing Business with Department of Energy—Research and Grants

Date: Friday, February 13

Time: 3:00 – 4:30 PM

Rwanda Science Minister to be Keynote Speaker at NSBP Conference February 1, 2009

Posted by International.Chair in : History, Policy and Education (HPE), Mathematical and Computational Physics (MCP) , add a comment

Professor Romain Murenzi, Minister in President’s Office in Charge of Science and Technology, Republic of Rwanda, will be the luncheon speaker at the NSBP/NSHP conference in Nashville on Thursday, February 12.

Dr. Murenzi holds a PhD in Physics from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.  He was appointed Chair and Professor of the Department of Physics at Clark Atlanta University, USA. His major research interests include multidimensional continuous wavelet and its applications.

In 2001, he was appointed Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Scientific Research and from March 2006 as Minister in President’s Office in Charge of Science and Technology.   In 2007 he was given the responsibility of ICT.   He is committed to the expansion and modernisation of the Rwanda education system and the aspiration for knowledge-based, technology-led economy by 2020.   He serves on the Board of Directors of Development Gateway Foundation and Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, as Vice President for Africa, TWAS and Advisory Board, Scientists Without Borders.