students and professor

Past Events

  • 11/15/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Searching for new Physics with the CMS Experiment

    Julie Hogan, Assistant Professor, Bethel University, Physics & Engineering Department will present.

    The Large Hadron Collider is one of the most powerful machines in the world, accelerating protons to nearly the speed of light to provide 40 million collisions per second at particle detectors such as the Compact Muon Solenoid. The CMS detector is highly versatile, featuring the largest superconducting solenoid ever built and over 100 million detection elements. CMS physicists were instrumental in the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 and are now searching for evidence of new physics, including heavy vector-like quarks. I'll present a recent search for vector-like quarks using W and Higgs boson jet reconstruction algorithms, and introduce a new effort to use computer vision techniques to classify jets at the high luminosity LHC.

    Snacks at 3 PM. 

  • 11/9/2017

    Philosophy/Physics Colloquium

    Join the Philosophy and Physics Departments for a talk by Robert DiSalle, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science Space-Time Theories  at the University of Western Ontario titled “Laws & Necessities: On the Ineffective Reasonableness of Mathematics” All are welcome.

  • 11/9/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Summer Research Information Session

    Studying the Mysteries of the Universe: Summer Research Opportunities for Students.  

    Interested in doing physics and astronomy research in summer 2018? Join us for pizza and learn about both   on-campus and off-campus summer research opportunities.  We will discuss whatoptions are available and the application procedures. Find your ideal research project!

    Pizza lunch provided.

  • 11/8/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Signatures of Particle Physics from Cosmological Inflation

    Professor Marco Peloso, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, University of Minnesota, Physics & Astronomy Department. is presenting.

    There are strong motivations to believe that the so-called "big-bang" cosmology was in reality preceded by a stage of fast and accelerated expansion, known as cosmological inflation. Inflation solves several problems of big-bang cosmology (explaining for example why the primordial universe was so homogeneous), and it provides a natural mechanism for the generation of the primordial perturbations, which seeded the present large structures in the universe (galaxies, and clusters of galaxies). Particle physics processes during inflation can leave an imprint in the primordial density perturbations (leading to characteristic patterns in the temperature anisotropies, and, possibly, to primordial black holes) and in the primordial stochastic background of gravitational waves, both at extra-galactic (thus affecting the Cosmic Microwave Background observations) and at interferometer scales (such as those probed by LIGO, and future related experiments). 

    Snacks at 3 PM.

  • 11/1/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--A Materials Informatics Approach to the Study of van der Waals Materials

    Postdoctoral Fellow Trevor Rhone, Harvard University, Physics Department will present. 

    The explosion in the recent number of proposed van der Waals (vdW) materials has increased the promise of uncovering novel physics and developing new applications for 2D atomic crystals. Though this large number of newly identified vdW materials brings the potential for discovery, immense challenges also emerge. Traditional experimental and theoretical methods for studying a large database of materials are slow and expensive. A novel approach to materials investigation is desirable. With the advent of materials informatics (the combination of statistical tools, computational methods, and materials science), one is able to efficiently screen a large database of materials and make predictions of desirable properties. I will discuss how materials informatics can be used to study 2D atomic crystals and present some initial results.

    Snacks at 3 PM

  • 10/23/2017

    Public Observing Night

    Planets! Stars! Clusters! Nebulae! Galaxies! Hop on the shuttle as we explore the cosmos and ponder the infinite. All are welcome for public observing night! If the sky is cloudy we'll still be around to chat but we won't open the 'scope.

  • 10/18/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Magnetism & Crystal Defects: Joined at the Slip

    Anna Lindquist, Visiting Assistant Professor, Geology Department, Macalester College will present. 

    Magnetite (Fe3O4) is the primary mineral responsible for our understanding of how Earth's magnetic field has changed over time. When sufficiently heated, it can act like a compass needle, aligning with Earth's magnetic field. Once cooled, it locks in a record of Earth's magnetic field that can last hundreds of millions of years or longer. However, like any mineral, magnetite grains vary in size and can be full of defects. These defects can affect the magnetic alignment and remagnetization of magnetite. By collecting nanometer-scale videos and images, we will be able to quantify the interactions between defects and magnetism and discuss the implications of these interactions.

    Snacks at 3 PM

  • 10/18/2017

    Skype with computational astrophysicist Dr. Jennifer Barnes '09

    Dr. Jennifer Barnes will skype with Physics/Astronomy students to talk about the big news in the universe: the first observation of a neutron star merger event! 
    Dr. Barnes is a computational astrophysicist and an expert in compact object mergers. She will join the Macalester faculty after finishing her postdoctoral position at Columbia University. Jenni graduated from Macalester in 2009 with majors in physics and sociology, and she received her PhD degree in physics earlier this year from UC Berkeley.
    Jenni is looking forward to engage with current Macalester students! Please join in an informal discussion about her research and how it relates to yesterday's exciting announcement of the first-ever observation of a neutron star merger. She will also be happy to answer any of your questions!

  • 10/16/2017

    Public Observing Night

    Crystal clear skies are expected for public observing night! Take advantage of a perfectly crisp fall evening and peep the stars. Hop on the shuttle as we explore the cosmos and ponder the infinite. All are welcome!

  • 10/11/2017

    Physics/Astronomy & Chemistry Joint Seminar--Asteroids: Friends or Foes?

    Distinguished Macalester alum, Richard Binzel '80, now Professor of Planetary Sciences and Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT, will present. 

    Asteroids make for popular disaster movies, but is there any real threat?  We will look at the facts and focus on the science results delivered by physical and chemical studies of asteroids and meteorites. Richard Binzel began his forefront scientific studies of asteroids as a student at Macalester College, enabled by the dedicated teaching and the diligent telescope making of Professor Sherman W. Schultz.  This work was recognized by the 1980 Apker Award from the American Physical Society.

    Snacks at 3 PM

  • 10/9/2017

    Public Observing Night

    Did you know that Macalester has its very own 16 inch reflecting rooftop telescope? You're invited to come check it out at public observing night! Hop on the shuttle as we explore the cosmos and ponder the infinite. All are welcome; bring your friends, bring a date, or come alone! If the sky is cloudy we'll still be around to chat but we won't open the 'scope.

  • 10/2/2017

    Public Observing Night

    Join us for public observing night! Hop on the shuttle as we explore the cosmos and ponder the infinite. All are welcome; bring your friends, bring a date, or come alone! If the sky is cloudy we'll still be around to chat but we won't open the 'scope.

  • 9/20/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Career Development Center Resources

    Michele Moylan, head, Employer Relations team, & Amanda Duffy, career counselor, The STEM, Career Development Center, Macalester College are presenting.

    Come spend time talking with the new STEM-specific career counselor and the head of the Career Development Center's Employer Relations team to learn more about what the CDC can offer to Physics majors.  We will cover basic 4-year timelines for thinking about graduate school and jobs; we will talk about some of the major employers in the Physics space; we will talk about how to build a community of alumni to support your path; and we will talk about some of the new initiatives that the CDC is launching this year that can benefit physics majors, including local and national visits to labs and employers!  Bring your questions!

    Snacks at 3 PM.

  • 9/13/2017

    Chemistry & Physics/Astronomy Seminar: Growing 2D Heterostructures and Probing Exciton Dynamics

    James Johns, Asst. Prof., Dept. of Chemistry, U of MN, will present.

    Two Dimensional Materials is a new exciting area of research in chemistry and physics.  From a chemical perspective, how can we make materials that are only a couple of atoms thick but macroscopically large?  Which materials are stable, how can we control the thickness and, how can we interface different 2D materials together are some of the relevant chemical questions.  Physically, the behavior of electrons depends on their dimensionality.   The ability to make truly 2D systems allows us to explore novel electronic and optical behavior in these materials that are relevant for electronic and optical applications.  I discuss my lab’s efforts to grow monolayer transition metal dichalcogenides and to interface different TMDCs together, and the role spin-orbit coupling in the optical properties of these materials explored by ultrafast spectroscopy.

    Snacks at 3 PM. 

  • 9/11/2017

    Public Observing Night

    The Macalester College observatory hosts regular public observing nights on our very own 16-inch rooftop telescope! Hop on the shuttle as we explore the cosmos and ponder the infinite. Weather permitting, potential targets include the Moon, planets, globular clusters, open clusters, galaxies, planetary nebulae, and binary star systems. In the case of bad weather, we can’t open the dome for observing; however, we’ll still be present to show the facility and answer questions.

    All are welcome! We’re obsessed with the cosmos and we could talk about it forever (roughly a Hubble time). Bring your friends, bring a date, or come alone!

    Hope to see you there!

  • 9/6/2017

    High-power Rocketry, Stratospheric Ballooning, & other MnSGC Build Projects at the U of MN

    James Flaten, Ph.D., Associate Director of NASA’s MN Space Grant Consortium, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Department, U of MN, Twin Cities will present at this joint Physics/Astronomy & Geology Seminar.

    In this talk, Dr. Flaten will discuss NASA’s Minnesota Space Grant Consortium (MnSGC), a NASA/aerospace promotion higher education program of which Macalester is a member. In particular, he will discuss MnSGC-sponsored build projects at the U of MN which engage students from many different majors, not just Aerospace Engineering (though that is where the MnSGC is housed on the Minneapolis campus). Dr. Flaten will also talk about two new training initiatives to help people at other schools, possibly Macalester, learn to build and fly high-power rockets and “near-space” craft for stratospheric balloon missions.

    Don't forget to join us beforehand for the first departmental TEA of the semester at 3 PM in the OLRI Atrium.

  • 4/19/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

    Tayeb Zaidi will present his Physics and Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis on "The Wavelet Methods for Photometric Supernova Classification."

    Refreshments at 3 p.m. in Olin-Rice atrium. 

  • 4/12/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    Physics and Astronomy Senior Capstone presentations continue with Gunnar Footh speaking on "Transient Photoconductivity of a Thermoelectric Nanomaterial."

    Refreshments at 3 p.m. in Olin-Rice atrium. 

  • 4/5/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    Physics and Astronomy Senior Capstone presentations continue with:

    • Michaela Koller, "Conductivity Measurements of a Thermoelectric Nanomaterial through THz Spectroscopy"

    • Sophia Wiedmann, "Physical Principles Governing the Accumulation of Microbes during the Formation of a Biofilm"

  • 3/29/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Development of Multifunctional Graphene-Based Nanocomposites for Energy Conversion and Storage

    Dr. Lifeng Dong, Assoc. Prof., Hamline Univ., Physics Dept., will present "Development of Multifunctional Graphene-Based Nanocomposites for Energy Conversion and Storage." 

    Due to their unique structure, chemical, electrical, mechanical, optical, and thermal properties as well as relatively ease of synthesis and functionalization, graphene and graphene-based nanocomposites have been extensively investigated for broad applications, such as in biosensors, catalysis, electronics, energy conversion and storage, and medicine. This talk presents recent progress and general aspects of graphene and graphene-based nanocomposites in renewable energy production and storage, especially dye-sensitized solar cells, organic solar cells, proton exchange membrane fuel cells, supercapacitors, lithium-ion batteries, and lithium-air batteries. In addition, challenges and future perspective in these fields are also discussed.

    Refreshments at 3 p.m.

  • 3/22/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone presentations continue with:

    • Kathleen Fitzgibbon speaking on "A Direct Comparison of Lyman-Alpha and Neutral Hydrogen Morphologies;"

    • Quinton Singer speaking on "Almost Dark Galaxies: The Search For Stellar Counterparts."

     Refreshments at 3 Olin-Rice atrium.

  • 3/8/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    Join Physics & Astronomy for more Senior Capstone presentations.

    Kelsey Harmatta will speak on "Controlling Resistivity: Charge Carrier Density Modulation in Barium Stannate via Ion Gel Gating." Elliot Weiss will speak on "Carrier Lifetime versus Temperature in an Intermediate Band Semiconductor."

    Refreshments at 3 p.m. in Olin-Rice atrium.

  • 3/1/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar -- Nanoscience Research at the University of Minnesota

    James Marti, Ph.D., Senior Scientist & Outreach Coordinator, University of Minnesota Nano Center

    Nanoscience and applied nanotechnology have attracted interest from scientists, engineers, and the general public for decades.  But what is nanotechnology, and why would someone want to do research in the field of nanoscience?  This presentation will offer an introduction to nanoscience and nanotechnology, present a summary of some of the current nanoscience research focus areas at Minnesota, and describe opportunities for faculty and students from other institutions to collaborate with the Nano Center. 

    Refreshments at 3:00 PM

  • 2/23/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar -- Extreme Science! Submillimeter Instrumentation and the Study of Galaxies in the Early Universe

    Dr. Carl Ferkinhoff, Asst. Prof., Physics Dept., Winona State is presenting.

    Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a pretty typical galaxy. There are many galaxies, both in the early universe and nearby, that are not so typical and are quite extreme in their properties. These galaxies, called ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs) can be hundreds to thousands of times brighter than the Milky Way, emit most of their light at infrared wavelengths, and produce many thousands of stars per year. One of the best ways to study these galaxies is by observing spectral lines that are emitted in or redshifted into the submillimeter regime (wavelengths of light  between 0.2 to 1 mm).  My research involves studying the submillimeter radiation from these extreme galaxies in the early universe by using extreme instruments and telescopes like the Atacama Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) or our instrument ZEUS-2. This talk will explore the extreme locations and extreme technologies that are required by submillimeter astronomy. It will provide an overview of what we have learned so far and of new extreme science projects providing key insights into extreme galaxies and their evolution over cosmic time.

  • 2/22/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations kick off with Joshua Rollag speaking on "Intervalley Scattering in Tellurium" and Eli Lilleskov on "The Chiral Magnetic Effect." 

    Refreshments at 3 p.m. in Olin-Rice atrium.

  • 2/1/2017

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Laboratory Astrophysics: Looking Up by Looking Down

    Assistant Professor Michael Wood, University of St. Thomas, Physics Department, will present "Laboratory Astrophysics: Looking Up by Looking Down."

    Astronomical research often includes a combination of observations, theoretical models, and computer simulations.  Laboratory measurements, which help astronomers understand and interpret their data, are a fourth and often forgotten piece of astronomy.  Small-scale laboratory experiments have far-reaching implications in the search for exoplanets, discovering the nature of dark matter, and understanding the origins of life.  In this talk I will discuss the role of laboratory astrophysics by focusing on one particular aspect:  atomic spectroscopy.  Modern astronomical observations demand higher quality and quantity atomic data to, for example, understand the evolution of the chemical elements throughout the history of the Galaxy.

  • 12/7/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--High Precision, Not High Energy: Looking for Exotic Physics Using Atoms and Molecules

    Dr. Chad Orzel, Assoc. Prof., Union College is presenting.

    The Standard Model of particle physics is one of the most successful theories in the history of science, but we know from phenomena like matter-antimatter asymmetry, dark matter and dark energy, and neutrino masses that the Standard Model is not complete. While the best-known searches for physics beyond the Standard Model involve particle accelerators and huge detectors, there are smaller experiments in labs around the world looking for signs of new physics with atoms, molecules, and lasers. While the effects of exotic particles are tiny at the atomic scale, the unparalleled precision of modern spectroscopic techniques makes it possible to detect even such minuscule effects. These measurements provide some of the tightest constraints we know of on physics beyond the Standard Model.

    Snacks at 3 PM in the first floor atrium. 

  • 11/22/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Observational Tests of Stellar Physics

    Dr. Philip Rosenfield, National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics

    Stellar evolution models are fundamental to nearly all studies in astrophysics. They are used to interpret the light from distant galaxies, to derive the star formation histories of nearby galaxies, and to understand fundamental parameters of exoplanets. Despite the success in using stellar evolution models, some important aspects of stellar physics remain poorly constrained and their uncertainties rarely addressed. In this talk, I will discuss how I use Hubble Space Telescope observations of star clusters and nearby galaxies to better understand the physics of stars.

    Lunch will be served. 

  • 11/16/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Tracking the maturation of organelles and signaling cluster with quantitative super-resolution microscopy

    Dr. Elias Puchner, Assistant Professor, Physics & Nanotechnology, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, is presenting.  

    Quantitative Super-Resolution Microscopy is evolving into a powerful biophysical technique to study biological processes below the optical diffraction limit. However, a deeper understanding of the biological structures under investigation is often limited by the inability to quantify their molecular composition while resolving their size and shape. I will present our solution to this challenge, an intracellular calibrated Photoactivated Localization Microscopy (PALM) approach, that can measure the size of individual organelles with 20nm resolution as well as count the absolute numbers of molecules they contain. 

    Using this technique, we simultaneously characterized the size of individual vesicles in the yeast endocytic pathway and the number of accessible PI3P binding sites they contain. The analysis of many steady-state super-resolution snapshots revealed a characteristic vesicle maturation trajectory of composition and size as well as mechanistic information indicating that PI3P production precedes fusion into larger endosomes. Colocalization analysis with known markers of vesicle maturation showed that these regulatory proteins (clathrin, Vps21, Ypt7) associate with different regions of the observed endosome maturation trajectory. I will conclude by presenting ongoing technical developments from my new lab to correct for movement of organelles during PALM imaging in live cells.

    In addition I will present the application of single molecule tracking to study the spatial clustering and change in diffusion of signaling complexes, which presents an additional regulatory layer that actively tunes pathway gain. We demonstrate that clustering of the signaling complex itself activates the pathway bypassing receptor activation and that the degree of clustering correlates with the adaptive output. 

    Snacks at 3 PM, OLRI atrium.

  • 11/10/2016

    Stand Back--I'm going to try Science

    Physics and astronomy majors, You are cordially invited to the annual physics and astronomy summer research information session on Thursday, November 10, from 12 to 1 pm, in Olin-Rice room 350 (please note the unusual location).

    Learn all about interesting, paid summer research opportunities both here at Macalester and at other institutions. Participation in a research project is a transforming experience that is an essential part of your training to become a professional physicist. It is also a graduation requirement.

    So come to the meeting and have some pizza as well!

  • 11/9/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar: First Direct Detections of Gravitational Waves

    Dr. Vuk Mandic, Associate Professor, School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Minnesota will present.

    During their first observation run the Advanced LIGO gravitational-wave detectors recorded signatures of mergers of binary black hole systems. These events mark the beginning of gravitational-wave astrophysics, enabling a new approach to studying various astrophysical phenomena. I will describe the LIGO detectors and the events they recorded, and I will discuss the implications of these observations as well as our expectations for future observations.

  • 11/3/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar: Little Big Bangs at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider

    Prof. Marzia Rosati, Iowa State University, Physics Dept. will speak on 3 November, 4:30 PM, 100 OLRI (Please note: different day, time, place from usual Physics/Astronomy seminars).

    The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, NY collides gold (Au) nuclei at an energy of 200 GeV per colliding nucleon pair with the goal of creating and studying the `quark-gluon plasma' (QGP) in the laboratory. The QGP is a unique state of strongly interacting matter that is predicted to exist at temperatures in excess of 1011 ºK when the protons and neutrons in nuclear matter dissolve, releasing the normally confined quarks and gluons. This deconfined phase of matter is similar to conditions in the early universe when it was only a few microseconds old.  In this talk I will  review the remarkable and unexpected results from RHIC and what they may tell us about the properties of hot, strongly interacting nuclear matter.

  • 10/27/2016

    Extra Public Observing Night

    This week there will be an extra Public Observing Night due to the Fall Sampler! Same time, same place: 8:30 to 10:30 pm in Olin-Rice 404 (use southwest staircase). Bring a pf, bring friends, bring yourself.

  • 10/14/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--Non-Equilibrium Quantum Phenomena: Rydberg Bosons, Dirac Fermions and Beyond

    Dr. Jigang Wang, Assoc. Professor, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, Ames Lab, Iowa State U. will speak.

    The challenge to push the gigahertz switching speed-limit of today’s electronic devices into the terahertz regime underlies the entire field of information processing, storage, communication as well as integrated multi-functional systems. One key fundamental issue is how photoexcitations evolve in time into Coulomb-bound, collective excitations and unbound charge carrier transport. Up to now, the initial quantum dynamics following photoexcitation remains inaccessible in many newly–discovered, exotic materials despite of their significant potential for photovoltaic, quantum and optoelectronic technologies. In this talk, I will discuss to implement an emerging theme: use ultrashort and low-energy laser pulses to both probe and control non-equilibrium quantum dynamics under salient conditions of femtosecond in time and milli-electron volts (terahertz) in energy. I will elaborate two recent examples in our program, from the quantum formation pathways in the birth of Rydberg bosons in the hybrid perovskites to control coherent Dirac fermion transport in topological insulators. Finally I will briefly discuss long-term vision and far-reaching consequence of this cross-cutting theme in future science and technology.

  • 10/13/2016

    Extra Public Observing Night

    This week there will be an extra Public Observing Night -  OLRI 404 (use southwest staircase). Bring a pf, bring friends, bring yourself!

  • 10/10/2016

    Public Observing Night

    Love to look at the stars? Come to Public Observing Night! Check out Macalester's very own 16 inch telescope and gaze at such varied objects as Neptune, the Owl Cluster, the Albireo binary system, and more (weather permitting). (Take the southwest stairs). 

  • 10/7/2016

    Distinguished Alumni Lecture: Biniyam Taddese

    Biniyam Taddese, PhD, '06 majored in Physics, Math and Computer Science and will be speaking in Libby Shoops' Computer Systems Organization class

  • 10/7/2016

    Distinguished Alumni Lecture: Biniyam Taddese

    Biniyam Taddese, PhD, '06 majored in Physics, Math and Computer Science and will be speaking in James Heyman's Modern Physics class 

  • 10/5/2016

    Joint Physics & Chemistry Seminar--Quantum Dot Photocatalysis

    Dr. Emily Weiss, Chemical Physicist, Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University will speak. 

    This talk, based on the research by Stephen C. Jensen, Stephanie Bettis Homan, and Emily Weiss, will describe the use of cadmium sulfide quantum dots (CdS QDs) – single crystals of CdS with diameters of ~3 nm – as visible-light photocatalysts for the reduction of nitrobenzene to aniline through six sequential photoinduced, proton-coupled electron transfers in water. Transient absorption spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) are used to analyze the mechanisms of molecular adsorption to the QD, and to show us how the environment at the surface of the QD promotes chemical transformations.

    Snacks at 3:00 PM.

  • 9/19/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--The Visible-to-Shortwave-Infrared Spectrum of Atmospheric Polarization: Modeling, Applications, and Future Growth

    Laura M. Dahl & Wataru Nakagawa, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Montana State 

    Environmental remote sensing and military sensing use optical polarization imaging to retrieve atmospheric properties for climate studies and to identify man-made objects in space, in the air, or on the ground. Knowledge of the polarization state of natural skylight is important to growing applications using polarimetric sensing. Polarization adds an additional dimension beyond basic image intensity and color for enhanced target detection. Skylight becomes partially polarized when sunlight is scattered in the atmosphere and our research focuses on how skylight polarization changes from the visible-to-shortwave-infrared. We have studied how skylight polarization can be used to detect poorly resolved airplanes in flight during daytime partly cloudy and smoky conditions and in other conditions. 

  • 9/12/2016

    Public Observing Nights

    Did you know that Macalester has an observatory? And that we open it to the public? Come check out the night sky with Physics and Astronomy! We hold Public Observing Nights on alternate Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 pm until 10:30 pm. So come up tonight to Olin-Rice 404 (use the southwest stairwell) and admire the stars!

  • 9/1/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Informational Session

    The force is strong with us. And weak. And gravitational. And electromagnetic. 

    Join the Department of Physics & Astronomy for an informational session about the physics major. Faculty members, students, and the Physics and Astronomy Club will provide a wealth of information about the power of physics. Pizza and pop provided.

  • 6/3/2016

    Professor Sung Kyu Kim Retirement Celebration

    A special invitation only retirement dinner and celebration honoring the career of physics and astronomy Professor Sung Kyu Kim will be held Friday, June 3. Invitations for the event were mailed in March. Contact Lisa Ziemba, reunion assistant, at for more information.

    6 p.m.
    Reception, Dinner & Program, followed by a Dessert Social

    Cost: $30 per person
    Beef will be served as the entrée. Please include any dietary restrictions with your response.

    Register online here by Friday, May 13

    Share your memories. Contribute to our memory book to thank Professor Kim for his dedicated service to the college by sharing your stories, photos, tributes, and well wishes. To be included, email or mail your contributions to Kristine Spangard by April 15, 2016. or Macalester College Physics/Astronomy, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105-1899

  • 4/13/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

    Noah Lupu-Gladstein will present his honors thesis, "Converting Heat into Electricity: Characterization of a Thermoelectric Nanomaterial."

    Thermoelectric devices are an emerging green technology that turn heat into electricity or vice versa without any moving parts. They have not yet seen widespread use outside of niche applications because thermoelectric materials are either too costly or too inefficient. Copper Selenide (Cu2Se) has one of the highest thermoelectric efficiencies of any bulk material and it can be synthesized inexpensively via solution-deposition. I characterized thin-films of solution-deposited Cu2Se nanoparticles and found that when the material is annealed at a high enough temperature, it transforms from a nanomaterial into a thin metal film.

  • 4/4/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Honors Thesis Presentation

    Hannah Johlas will present her Honors Thesis, "The Effects of Foundation Damping on Structural Demands in Yaw-Misaligned Offshore Wind Turbines."

    Large offshore wind turbines (OWTs) offer an attractive renewable energy option for the coastal U.S., but their support structures’ high costs remain a concern. Current OWT designs largely ignore damping from foundation-soil interactions, although small increases in damping can significantly reduce the materials cost for OWT support structures. I examine how incorporating foundation damping into turbine models affects structural demands in the monopile-supported NREL 5 MW OWT, using simulations in the aeroelastic code FAST for various yaw errors, wind and wave loads, and levels of foundation damping. I find that including foundation damping in OWT design guidelines could moderately reduce the maximum structural demands required of designs, consequently lowering the cost of OWTs.

  • 3/31/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar--The Thirty Meter Telescope: Entering the "Giant Telescope" Era

    Dr. Warren Skidmore of the Thirty Meter Telescope Consortium will speak about the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project: the exciting scientific questions that drive the building of a giant telescope; how the observatory is designed to support a range of scientific studies; and the engineering solutions that have been developed to overcome the problems of constructing and operating a giant diffraction limited observatory.

    Refreshments at 4:15. 

  • 3/31/2016

    EnviroThursday - "The Sun Doesn't Always Shine and the Wind Doesn't Always Blow: Managing Intermittent Renewable Energy on the Grid"

    Speaker:  Jim Doyle, Professor, Physics and Astronomy Dept., Macalester College

    Climate change mitigation will require dramatic reduction of fossil fuel use in favor of renewable energy technologies.  Because of their relatively low and decreasing costs, the most viable renewable energy options for the near term are solar and wind power.  Current electric grid technology requires that energy production is closely matched to energy demand.  However, both wind and solar are intermittent as well as unpredictable, making large scale integration of these technologies with the electric grid problematic.  In this talk we will review proposals to solve this “load balancing” problem, such as energy storage and geographical expansion of the grid, and the technological and economic issues associated with these proposals.  Preliminary results of our own modeling efforts will also be presented.

    Refreshments provided.

  • 3/23/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations resume with Ari Weiland speaking on "Protein Adsorption using a Lattice Toy Model" and Kovas Zygas on "Photovoltaic applications of ZnO thin films generated by thermal oxidation of metallic Zn." 

    Refreshments at 3 p.m. in Olin-Rice atrium.

  • 3/9/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations continue with Christian Stewart speaking on "The Effects of Hydrazine Surface Doping on CVD Graphene Films" and Ian Wyse on "Rotational and Hyperfine Analysis of AuS." 

    Refreshments at 3 p.m. in Olin-Rice atrium.

  • 3/4/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar: Dark Matter Search with CALET

    Dr. Holger Motz, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, will present. 

    "The CALET (Calorimetric Electron Telescope) cosmic-ray detector was installed on the International Space Station in August 2015. Its primary objective is the direct measurement of the electron+positron flux in the TeV-region. With an excellent proton rejection capability and a large aperture, it will provide good statistics even well above one TeV, while also featuring an energy resolution of 2%, which enables it to detect fine structures in the spectrum. Such structures may originate from Dark Matter annihilation or decay, making indirect Dark Matter search one of CALET's main science objectives among others, such as identification of signatures from nearby supernova remnants by observation of TeV electrons, and measurement of the heavy nuclei spectra to study the cosmic ray acceleration and diffusion mechanisms. The increase of the positron fraction above 10 GeV discovered by the PAMELA mission and measured in detail by AMS-02 could be explained by an extra source emitting equal amounts of electrons and positrons, with Dark Matter and nearby pulsar wind nebulae the prime candidates for this source. Current data is in agreement with a wide range of scenarios with either type of extra source or a combination. In which way the CALET measurement is expected to constrain these, and the potential to identify a Dark Matter signature if it should exist in the spectrum are going to be explained."

  • 3/2/2016

    Colloquium: On the Alleged Incommensurability of Newtonian and Relativistic Mass

    Join the Physics and Philosophy Departments as they welcome Professor Samuel Fletcher, University of Minnesota as he presents his talk titled: "On the Alleged Incommensurability of Newtonian and Relativistic Mass."

  • 2/24/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    This week's Physics & Astronomy senior capstone presentations feature Asra Nizami speaking on "Adding functionality to Astropy: a community Python library for astronomers" and Beni Jonathan Pazár speaking on "Increasing the acceptance of H4e- events without losing statistical significance."

    Refreshments at 3 p.m. in Olin-Rice atrium.

  • 2/17/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    John Carlson will speak on "Dissociative Excitation of H2 in an RF Plasma" and Alexander Stowell will speak on "Langmuir Probe Measurements of an H2 RF Plasma." 

    Refreshments at 3 PM, OLRI atrium. 

  • 2/10/2016

    Physics & Astronomy Senior Capstone Presentations

    Liam DiZio will speak on "Elastic Block Modeling of Fault Slip Rates across Southern California," and Chris Bisbee will speak on "Energetic Behavior of Resistive Random-Access Memory Cells." 

    Refreshments at 3 PM, OLRI first floor atrium.

  • 2/5/2016

    Physics Seminar-Towards Quantum Computing

    Vlad Pribiag, assistant professor of Physics, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is speaking on: 

    As computers become more and more powerful, the dimensions of their electronic components are rapidly shrinking. As a result, understanding and harnessing quantum mechanical phenomena at the nanoscale is becoming increasingly important. In this talk, I will discuss novel quantum materials and devices that could become the basis for future electronics, including possible quantum computers.

  • 11/30/2015

    Physics & Astronomy Seminar-Nuclear Fusion: Building A Star On Earth

    Ted Strait of General Atomics is presenting. 

    Nuclear fusion powers the stars, and is a potential future energy source here on earth.  One approach to realizing this potential makes use of magnetic fields to confine the fuel, a plasma with a temperature of 100,000,000 K.  This talk will discuss the scientific challenges of magnetic confinement fusion, with results from recent research at DIII-D, the largest tokamak fusion experiment in the US.

  • 11/23/2015

    The Arch and the Scaffold: How Einstein Found the Field Equations of General Relativity

    The Philosophy and Physics Departments join together to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the landmark first presentation of "Einstein's field equations" in a seminar by Professor Michel Janssen, History of Science, University of Minnesota: “The Arch and the Scaffold: How Einstein Found the Field Equations of General Relativity.”

    November 25, 2015 marks the centenary of Einstein’s first presentation of the so-called Einstein field equations. These equations form the capstone on Einstein’s general theory of relativity. General relativity makes gravity part of the structure of space-time and the Einstein field equations govern how matter curves space-time. In his later years, Einstein often claimed that he had found the field equations in November 1915 simply by choosing the mathematically most natural candidate. In 1912-13, he had already considered equations close to the ones he published three years later. He had given up on them back then because of difficulties with their physical interpretation. He had settled for equations constructed specifically to avoid such difficulties. In Einstein’s later recollections, the ensuing three years of work on these physically sensible but mathematically inelegant equations had largely been a waste of time. Progress, as he saw it, had resumed only when he had abandoned these equations and once again put his trust in the mathematics. Einstein’s writings at the time, we argue, tell a different story. In our reconstruction of events, the inelegant equations of 1913 served as the scaffold for the magnificent arch erected in November 1915. 

    Refreshments will be served at 3 PM in the OLRI Atrium. All are welcome!