Friday, November 20, 2015

Turning Heads in 11 Dimensions

Nearly half a year ago, Dr. Ilarion Melnikov came to James Madison and was interviewed by students and faculty alike.  Not long after leaving the University with great first impressions, he was asked to join our team, and was "incredibly thrilled they decided to choose me."

A few months later, Dr. Melnikov became part of our Department, and has since made waves.  In our interview, Dr. Melnikov said that he spent his first weeks here "figuring out exactly where I fit into the scheme of things," much of which dealt with his transition from full-time research to teaching.  Melnikov said a lot of advice came from the the faculty, noting their welcoming and helpful nature.

However, it was our impressive student body who made the greatest impact on him.  While Dr. Melnikov said that he wasn't sure what kind of reaction he would receive from students of a primarily experimental Physics Department, he he was "really amazed at the response of students wanting to do theoretical things." Students were stopping by his office so regularly that Dr. Melnikov decided to start up a series of informal meetings on the subject.  He stressed that these meetings are "open for everyone," and will be pushed primarily by students, with him only guiding discussion.

When asked how he sees the theoretical seminars evolving, Dr. Melnikov said that the only additions that he finds beneficial would be increasing student involvement and introducing planned readings, saying that he'd rather "keep it fluid" and stress-free.  Dr. Melnikov is also very interested in increasing interactions with the Math Department, not only because it is closely related to his field of study, but also because it is "important to keep [a] dynamic nature" for interdepartmental work.

If you want talk with Dr. Melnikov either about his research, joining in his research, or just why String Theory is cool, stop by his office or go to his informal seminars Saturday mornings.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Updates from Infrared Power Generation

Justin Kaczmar, undergraduate student in Physics at JMU, presented a poster entitledCorrelation between the sinusoidal instability in radiation power and the hyperbolic instability in the voltage in infrared power generation” at the International Symposium on Clusters and Nanomaterials held in Richmond (VA), October 26-29 2015.  Justin came back very excited: many people stopped at his poster and asked him many questions!  Great job Justin!  Justin's poster is pictured below.
Dr. Scarel presented a poster on The nano-power generator fabricated with thin atomic layer deposited films” at the AVS 62nd International Symposium held in San José (CA), October 18-23 2015.  Dr. Scarel was the Program chair of the Thin Films Division for this year's edition of the Symposium and will is the chair of the Thin Films Division for the 2015-2016 social year.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather Visits

Our Department had the distinct pleasure of welcoming the esteemed Dr. John Mather to our University this past Thursday.  Our own Shanil Virani introduced Dr. Mather to us all in an HHS lecture hall packed with people of a variety of majors in attendance.  I've been at rock concerts less dense, but those bands do not compare to this rockstar of astrophysics.

After Mr. Virani recited the the Nobel Laureate's long list of projects and achievements, Dr. Mather began his presentation by talking about the history of observational astronomy, which has always carried two main themes; a theory, no matter how peculiar, can only be disproved by observation, and astronomers always need a better telescope.

Dr. Mather then went on to describe how he grew up with the advances in astro-based radiation detection in the 20th century.  These advances culminated in Dr. Mather's 1989 project to send the NASA Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) into space to observe the background radiation (an experiment which initially failed on Earth).  The results of the COBE observations produced both a background map of the night sky (which is still under investigation today) and a graph that fit the theoretical blackbody radiation from the Big Bang with an error of only a few parts per million.  This experiment, which won Dr. Mather and his colleague Dr. Smoot the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006, gave a true backbone to the theory of the Big Bang, and has been heralded as "The most important scientific discovery of the century, if not of all time" by physicists like Dr. Steven Hawking.

Dr. Mather then discussed his new project, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is set to launch into orbit in three years.  Dr. Mather emphasized that the JWST is not designed to replace Hubble, but rather study the infrared sources in our sky, which Hubble is unable to do.  We are very excited to see what sort of data JWST can provide for us, and will be sure to watch it launch into the night sky.  In the meantime, you can watch the JWST being built as it prepares for its voyage.  Thanks again to Dr. Mather for coming to our University!