students and professor

Past Events


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: "Power in Numbers: Developing Pooled Screening Tools to Study Drug Delivery"

Natalie Boehnke, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota, will speak about "Power in Numbers: Developing Pooled Screening Tools to Study Drug Delivery." 

Prof. Natalie Boehnke received her B.S. in chemistry from Purdue University in 2012.  Natalie then obtained her Ph.D. in organic and polymer chemistry from UCLA in 2017, working with Prof. Heather Maynard on the synthesis and characterization of biodegradable hydrogels and nanogels. After graduation, Natalie joined Prof. Paula Hammond’s group at MIT to develop toolsets to integrate biology and engineering approaches for accelerated translation of self-assembled nanomaterials. Natalie has received a Department of Defense Horizon Award and NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award for her work. She joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota in summer 2022, where her group uses high throughput screening and machine learning to understand how biological heterogeneity affects nanoparticle delivery and efficacy.

Refreshments at 3 PM.


Discovering the Mysteries of the Universe-Summer Research Ops for Physics & Astronomy Students

Interested in doing physics and astronomy research in summer 2023? Join us to learn about both on-campus and off-campus summer research opportunities.  We will discuss what options are available and the application procedures.

Find your ideal research project!

Pizza provided.  


Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

The Physics and Astronomy Department invites you to attend senior capstone presentations: 

  • Aurora Hiveley ► "Mapping the Tesseral Field of Saturn"

    • Ryan Davies ► "A High-speed Portable Ground Heat Exchanger Model for use in Framework Development"

    • All are welcome! 

      Refreshments at 3 PM. 


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: Physics Alumni Panel

Four Physics & Astronomy alums will give an overview of their career paths since leaving Macalester and answer your questions about their choices.

William Setterberg, Mac 2020

Sarah Taft, Mac 2019

Dauda Mawanda, Mac 2006

Fitih Mohammed, Mac 2003


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: "Practical Quantum Advantage in Sensing"

Paola Cappellaro, Ford Professor of Engineering at MIT, Quantum Engineering Group, will speak about "Practical Quantum Advantage in Sensing." 

"Quantum sensors exploit the strong sensitivity of quantum systems to external disturbances to measure various signals in their environment with high precision. Nitrogen Vacancy color centers in diamond have in particular emerged as exquisite probes of magnetic fields. These quantum sensors have the potential to be a revolutionary tool in material science, quantum information processing, and bioimaging. For example, they could be used to image single molecules, thus performing MRI at the nanoscale. However, the same strong coupling to the environment also limits their sensitivity due to its decohering effects. Error correction strategies, including  dynamical decoupling, can help in fighting decoherence, but they incur the risk of also canceling the coupling to the signal to be measured.

"Here I will show recent advances in tackling this challenge, including exploiting and improving control and the use of ancillary systems, that achieve an advantageous compromise between noise and signal cancellation. These strategies can not only improve the sensitivity of quantum sensors, but also yield new applications, via the transduction of biological signals of interest into quantum perturbations or the frequency up/down-conversion of signals of interest."

Refreshments at 3 PM. 


Public Observatory Night

Come visit the Macalester Observatory tonight! 7-10 pm in Olin Rice 404, through the Southwest stairs.

It'll probably be cloudy, but it might clear up around 9:00 but you're still welcome to come by, hear about the observatory and astronomy on campus, and have a good time.

Hope to see you there!


Halloween Public Observatory

Come by Olin Rice 404, through the Southwest stairs, 7:00 - 10:00 pm.

Right now, it's expected that there will be clear skies. Jupiter and Saturn will be visible again, and Mars might be sen low in the eastern sky. See the telescope and the astrolab and learn about physics and astronomy at Macalester.

We hope to see you there!


Public Observatory Night

Hi, we're hosting another public observatory night tonight. Unfortunately, it looks like it'll be cloudy. You're still welcome to come by, get a tour of the astronomy lab, the observatory, and the function of the telescope. Find us in Olin Rice 404, through the Southwest stairwell and elevator, 7-10pm.

We hope to see you there, anyway!


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: "JWST and Me: An Early View of JWST Science"

Professor Evan Skillman, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, University of Minnesota, will share his experiences about "JWST and Me: An Early View of JWST Science."

The James Webb Space Telescope has been successfully launched and commissioned, and science observing started this past summer.  I will provide a very personal view of my experiences so far.  I am a member of one of 13 Early Release Science programs, which were prioritized in the first months of the telescope's operations.  I will highlight that program and give an insider's view of what has been happening. I will also be happy to answer questions about the JWST and its science mission, to the best of my ability.


Public Observatory Night

Hello again! There is a Public Observatory Night tonight, 7-10 pm.

Olin Rice 404, reachable through the Southwest stairwell and elevator. Current prediction is clear skies for this entire session again!

Come by to hear about physics and astronomy and look through the telescope. We hope to see you there!


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: Summer Research Report Backs

Summer Researchers presenting:

Uditi Chandrashekhar, "The Hodgkin-Huxley Model of Neuron Action Potentials;"

Ally Hurd, "Measuring Charge Lifetimes in Organic Solar Cells;"

Seth Buesing, "Trinification Symmetry Breaking with a Bi-Adjoint Higgs Field35;"

Sylvia Greene, "The dark matter search with XenonnT: Impurity measurements in liquid Xenon (IMix);"

Siri Erickson-Green, "Investigation of Tantalum Lead Borate Glass using LITOF-MS."

Refreshments at 3 PM. 


Public Observatory Night

Hi all,

Maybe you're used to seeing this pop up, but we've got clear skies, a full moon, and a visible Jupiter and Saturn tonight.

Come by Olin Rice 404, reachable through the Southwest stairwell and elevator (by the Geese). We'll be open 7-10pm to tell you about Physics and Astronomy and show you the telescope and dome.


Astronomy Observatory Public Night

Hi all, if you've come already, thank you! We said a few times that we intended to be open nearly weekly and that we would move the day of the week around in order to meet the demands of more guests.

So, this week, we're open on Thursday! Unfortunately, we've been experiencing fall temperatures and now we are beginning to experience fall skies. That means this week is cloudy. Clouds are hard to predict three and a half days from now, but current expectation is spotty cloudy at best.

Regardless, we'll be up in Olin Rice 404 from 7-10pm to talk about physics and astronomy, space, and our observatory on campus. Reach 404 through the Southwest stairwell.

We hope to see you there!


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: "How Do Galaxies Control Their Growth?"

Jay Gallagher, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Macalester College and Emeritus Professor of Astronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, will speak about "How Do Galaxies Control Their Growth?"

The visible components of galaxies grow as star formation converts gas into stars and a small percentage into black holes. In turn stars and central massive black holes feed mechanical energy into interstellar gas and the surroundings of galaxies thereby modifying conditions for future star formation. These galactic feedback processes, which also are affected by gas inflows, can control evolutionary rates in galaxies and therefore are central to the cycling of baryons through cosmic systems. This talk will review the observational evidence for the important role of feedback in the evolution of stellar bodies of galaxies and discuss why proper observational characterization of galaxy feedback remains an astrophysical challenge.

Refreshments at 3:00 PM


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: Mining Data (& REU Opportunities) in Astronomy

Physics & Astronomy Majors & Minors: Please join us for an informal session led by Dr. Ralf Kotulla (Research Scientist, University of Wisconsin-Madison) and our very own Dr. Jay Gallagher (Distinguished Visiting Professor). Dr. Ralf Kotulla is a Scientist in Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on data mining and analysis to address major problems in astrophysics ranging from stellar variability to galaxy evolution. He manages the Wisconsin NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer program. During the Thursday lunch Dr. Kotulla will discuss applying to REU programs and present some informal perspectives on data-intensive astronomy.

Pizza provided. 


Joint Chemistry/Physics & Astronomy Seminar: "So Much Water in the Atmosphere"

Professor Joseph S. Francisco, University of Pennsylvania and 2022-23 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, Macalester College," will present "So Much Water in the Atmosphere."

Professor Joseph S. Francisco is Macalester College's Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for 2022-23.  He is currently the President's Distinguished Professor and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania.   His research laboratory uses laser spectroscopy and computation to study the properties and chemical reactions of unusual short-lived species in the earth's atmosphere.  His laboratory focuses on chemical reactivity both in the gas phase and at air-water interfaces.  For decades, Professor Francisco has been a leader in atmospheric chemistry research.  His scientific accomplishments were recognized by his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2013.  He has also been a leader in the broader scientific community, serving as President of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers from 2005 to 2007 and as President of the American Chemical Society in 2010.  


Astronomy Observatory Public Night

Join the Physics and Astronomy department in welcoming back Public Observatory Nights!

Learn about the physics and astronomy program here at Mac, learn about the astronomy lab and observatory, and (weather permitting!) take a look through the eyepiece of our 16 inch reflecting telescope!

Olin Rice 404 can be reached through the southwest stairwell and elevator.


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: "Quantum Coherence at Space-Frequency Limit"

Professor Jigang Wang, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Iowa State University and the Ames National Laboratory-U.S. DOE, will speak about "Quantum Coherence at Space-Frequency Limit."

The challenge of pushing the switching speed-limit and integration density of today’s logic and memory devices into the terahertz (THz, 1012 hertz) and sub-20 nanometer regime underlies the entire field of information processing, recording, storage and communication. We approach this challenge via developing an Extreme Quantum Terahertz nanoscope that operate at temperatures down to liquid helium temperature and high magnetic fields. The simultaneous space, energy and time visualization under these extreme conditions breaks new ground for coherent control of quantum matter.


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: "A Random Walk into Optical Signal Processing & Integrated Optofluidic Devices"

Professor Marty Baylor, Carleton College will present "A Random Walk into Optical Signal Processing & Integrated Optofluidic Devices."

"Light not only has the power to help us learn about the physical world, but it can also help us solve problems that are hard to solve in other ways. I fell into optics through what felt like a winding path to me. As I share about my path from my childhood dreams of being a paleontologist to my current work using photopolymers for integrated optofluidic devices, I will periodically pause to describe the varied optics work I have done along the way at Kenyon College, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and CU Boulder. During this talk, I invite the audience to consider the role of power and privilege in helping me arrive at where I am today.


Physics & Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

Alyssa Rauschenberger will present hers honors thesis, "Spectral Fitting Approach for Collective Thomson Scattering Experiments on an Extreme Ultraviolet Plasma Light Source." 

Refreshments at 3 p.m. in the OLRI atrium. Join us for a snack and the presentation! 


Physics & Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

Henry Bell will present his honors thesis, "Custom Calibration and Correction of Photoemission Electron Microscope Images Using Graphine." 

Refreshments at 3 p.m. in the OLRI atrium. Join us for a snack and the presentation! 


Physics & Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

Chinhsan Sieng will present his honors thesis, "Neutrino Oscillations in the Presence of a Magnetic Field." 

Refreshments at 3 p.m. in the OLRI atrium. Join us for a snack and the presentation! 


Physics & Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

Carter J. Swift will present his Honors Thesis, "The Interaction of Topological Defects in Anisotropically-Elastic Nematic Liquid Crystals." 

Refreshments at 3 PM in the OLRI Atrium. Join us for a snack and the presentation! 


Physics and Astronomy Honors Thesis Presentation

Susie Paine will present her Honors Thesis, "Hunting for Fast Radio Bursts from Messier 82: Exploring the FRB-Magnetar Connection."

Members of the community are welcome to attend!


Physics and Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

Alex Li will give her Honors Thesis presentation on "Molecular Line Search in Archival ALMA Imaging of M87."   

Members of the community are welcome to attend!


Physics and Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

The Physics and Astronomy Department invites you to attend senior capstone presentations: 

Lev Serxner ► "The Impact of Structure and Burn Abundances on Weak s-Process Modeling"

Joey Wehrley ► "Electrical Characterization of a PEM Electrolysis Cell"

All are welcome! 


Physics and Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

The Physics and Astronomy Department invites you to attend senior capstone presentations: 

Jack Hempel Costello ► "Lie Algebra and the Poincare Group"

  • A Ma ► "Finite-Difference-Time-Domain simulation on ultrafast experiments"

All are welcome! 


Physics and Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

The Physics and Astronomy Department invites you to attend senior capstone presentations: 

  • Jason Beal ► "Knocking Down NOx: Examining the Impact of Transportation Electrification on Urban Ozone Production"
  • Damen Beverlin ► "Simulating Interactions Between Coronal Mass Ejections"

All are welcome! 


Physics and Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

The Physics and Astronomy Department invites you to attend the Senior Capstone presentations this spring starting with: 

Francesco Pecere, " The Survey of HI in Extremely Low-mass Dwarfs: New Results from VLA Imaging;"
Anogh Zaman, "Smart Grid Control to Reduce Energy Costs in Households."

All  are welcome! 


Physics and Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentation

Join us as the Physics and Astronomy Senior Capstone presentations start off with:

  • Harry Werrell ► "Twisting Lasers with the Faraday Effect."

Snacks at 3 PM in the OLRI Atrium. 


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: "Tracking the Abundances: Chemical History of the Weak S-process"

Macalester Assistant Visiting Professor Christopher West is speaking on “Tracking the Abundances: Chemical History of the Weak S-process.”

Shortly after the Big Bang, all matter was either hydrogen or helium. Now, however, we enjoy a Universe filled with 287 stable isotopic abundances. Just how did that happen? The answer to this question lies at the intersection of galactic evolution, stellar nucleosynthesis, and nuclear astrophysics.  In pursuit of this answer, many interesting stories can be found and written.

Today we will explore one of them: the tale of the weak s-process in massive stars. Within the context of this nucleosynthetic process, we will identify several unfinished narratives that connect seemingly disparate astrophysical story-arcs together into interesting research.

From theoretical tasks in computation, simulations, and analytical equation solving to experimental tools using statistical methods and data analysis, the chemical evolution of our Universe presents a broad path for the curious, with many rewards found in the journey together.

Snacks at 3.


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: “A Tale of 11 Metallicities: The Astronomer’s Lament”

Dr. Jillian M. Scudder '09, Assistant Professor, Oberlin College & Conservatory will present on "A tale of 11 metallicities: the astronomer's lament." 

Much to the dismay of chemists and materials physicists, the astronomer’s definition of a metal is any element heavier than helium. This definition does make a distinction between those elements that came baked in by the Universe, and those elements which are only produced in stars (these latter are our metals). The metal content of a galaxy can tell us quite a lot about its inner workings; the simplest case is that higher the metallicity, the more generations of stars have existed and exploded there. However, attempts to measure this number have resulted in a wide variety of estimations, none of which agree with each other. In this talk I will explore some of the difficulties in comparing different estimations of metallicity, and why we should bother spending so much time and energy doing so.

Students will have time after the presentation to chat with Dr. Scudder and share some snacks (until 5:30). 


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: Understanding the Physics of Organic Light-Emitting Devices & the Factors that Limit Efficiency

Professor Heyman's "Condensed Matter Physics" class will welcome an external speaker to class on Wednesday, November 17. All are welcome to attend the class on Wednesday.  

Professor Russell J. Holmes, the Ronald L. and Janet A. Christenson Chair in Renewable Energy, Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota will present on "Understanding the Physics of Organic Light-Emitting Devices (OLEDs) and the Factors that Limit Efficiency."


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: The Standard Model of Particle Physics and Beyond: A Unified Approach

Join Macalester Visiting Assistant Professor Saki Khan as he speaks on "The Standard Model of Particle Physics and Beyond: A Unified Approach."

The Standard Model (SM) emerged in the early seventies when the particle physics was being struck by a new generation of conundrums, especially the four fermion weak interaction theory encountering incurable divergences and the failure to apply perturbation theory to strong interaction to do any practical calculation. The foundation of SM was based upon the understanding of symmetry, both global (like Lorentz symmetry) and local (like Gauge Symmetry), and renormalizability of quantum field theory. Then for almost three decades the SM was brushed, polished by a great number of theoretical and experimental efforts.

In spite of all the tremendous successes of the SM, recent discoveries and observations like neutrino masses and the existence of dark matter have compelled us to think beyond Standard Model (BSM). In this research presentation, I will primarily discuss the symmetry aspect of SM and beyond. The desire to achieve true unification of the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces under one simple non-abelian gauge group gave birth to the idea of Grand Unified Theories (GUTs). These Grand Unified Theories enlarge the symmetry of SM and address issues like Gauge coupling unification, Proton decay, neutrino mass generation and probable candidate(s) of dark matter.

Snacks at 3 PM


Physics & Astronomy Seminar: Studying the Mysteries of the Universe

Studying the Mysteries of the Universe--Summer Research Opportunities for Students

Interested in doing physics and astronomy research in summer 2022? Join us to learn about both on-campus and off-campus summer research opportunities.  We will discuss what options are available and the application procedures.

Find your ideal research project!

Snacks at 3. 


High-Precision Spectroscopy for Stellar Magnetic Activity and Exoplanet Detection—Physics and Astronomy Talk

Assistant Professor Ryan C. Terrien, Carleton College is presenting: "We now know that exoplanets are common around nearby stars, but the tiny signatures of Earth-like exoplanets remain exceedingly difficult to detect. This is largely due to the magnetic activity on the host stars themselves, which can mask low-level exoplanetary signals. I will discuss our new efforts to leverage the stability and high spectral resolution of new astronomical spectrographs to better measure stellar magnetic activity. These new spectroscopic techniques will help improve the precision and reliability of exoplanet detection, and can also help improve our understanding of magnetic activity in general."


Physics Seminar--Updates on Departmental Initiatives

In the Physics Seminar this Wednesday, John Cannon (Chair) will provide updates on various Departmental initiatives. And, if you are a recently declared major, come select an Aloha Friday shirt and have your picture taken for the Majors Board!


Physics & Astronomy Talk with Professor Petra Rudolf

Come to this week's Physics and Astronomy talk, "Molecular Motors and Switches at Surfaces" with Professor Petra Rudolf of the University of Groningen, via Zoom on the big screen in OLRI 150, on October 6th at 3:30 PM. Refreshments at 3 PM.


Physics & Astronomy Seminar

First In-Person Physics & Astronomy Seminar Lecture since 2019!"Unexpected Transport Phenomena in Composite Amorphous/Nanochrystalline Thin Films"
James Kakalios, Professor, School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Minnesota is presenting.
Composite materials consisting of nanocrystalline semiconductors embedded within a bulk amorphous semiconductor combine the best of both worlds – the thin film large area advantages of disordered semiconductors with the superior opto-electronic properties of crystals, and often display electronic properties not observed in either material separately. Despite 40 years of study – basic questions remain regarding the nature of charge transport in strongly disordered semiconductors. We have found that conduction above room temperature in composite and amorphous semiconductors is best described by anomalous hopping expression σ = σ1 exp[-(To/T)3/4]in contrast to the standard Mott Mobility Gap model which predicts a simple Arrhenius temperature dependence. This conductivity temperature dependence MAY reflect filamentary conduction – though a full theoretical understanding is lacking.Snacks at 3 PM.


Physics & Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

The final Physics & Astronomy Honors Thesis Presentation on Monday, April 19, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

  • Kayla Schang, "Geomorphology and Crater Identification for the Azacca Crater Region on Ceres."