Seminars in Spring 2018

All seminars are held at 4:10 PM in Bio 19, unless otherwise noted.
Refreshments will be served at 4:00 PM.

Jan 24

Alison Saunders, UC Berkeley
High Energy Density Physics and its Applications: Why Matter at Extreme Conditions Could Matter to You

High energy density physics (HEDP) is an exciting new area of physics that arose from the development of several high-power laser facilities. HEPD combines research techniques from plasma and condensed matter physics to understand the effects of compression on materials at extreme conditions, such as exist in the center of the sun.  In this talk, I will describe the field of HEDP and talk about its applications, such as planetary interior models and inertial confinement fusion. I will also give a brief introduction to the high-power laser facilities at which this work occurs. Finally, I will talk about my path into this field of research, and describe the work I’ve been doing to measure the conditions in matter at extreme densities.

Jan 31

Danica Roth, University of Oregon
Deconvolving the signal of sediment transport in rivers and on hills

In view of modern anthropogenic impacts, forecasted changes in climate, and resulting shifts in surface processes such as wildfires, landslides and large floods, reliable models are needed to monitor and predict the short-term regional evolution of Earth surface systems. Models generally consider climate and tectonics to be the primary controls on landscape evolution over large areas and long timescales, but applying these models to real landscapes over timescales relevant to humans remains a major challenge in geomorphology. This is largely because sediment transport at small scales is nonlinear, stochastic, often heavily influenced by heterogeneous secondary parameters such as biota and soil characteristics, and hence difficult to measure in situ or model through laboratory experiments. I will discuss two novel approaches to studying sediment transport in rivers and on hills: (1) using seismometers to monitor the elastic waves generated by mobile river sediment impacting its bed, and (2) a theoretical convolution model that statistically accounts for long-distance particle motion over real surfaces of varying roughness (e.g., due to vegetation or wildfire).

Feb 7

Ryan Lau, CalTech
Investigating Our Dusty and Dynamic Infrared Universe

The field of time-domain astronomy, the study of time-varying astrophysical phenomena, is quite literally exploding. Traditionally, time-domain studies were conducted at optical wavelength. However, such optical surveys would miss transient events/explosions that are intrinsically "red" or occurred in deeply embedded clouds of gas and dust. Recently, surveys have expanded to the infrared (IR) wavelength regime. These IR surveys can penetrate through the shrouds of dust and gas and are now pioneering the exploration of our dusty and dynamic Universe. In this talk I will discuss two time-domain studies that both deal with interacting binary stars but at different stages of their evolution. The first is a morphological IR study of mass-loss dust production from a massive and evolved binary star system whose orbital motion is thought to drive the formation of elegant spiral plumes that expand over time--our observations however challenge this theory. The second study is on recent the binary neutron star merger, EM170817, which is the electromagnetic and gravitational wave transient that ushered us into the era of multi-messenger astronomy.

Feb 14

Mohamed Anber, Lewis & Clark College
Information, dualities, and deconfinement

Understanding the confinement (binding) of quarks inside the hadrons (e.g., protons and neutrons) is one of the most difficult problems in theoretical physics. This difficulty is attributed to the notoriously complex mathematics of quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of the strong nuclear force. The deconfinement (unbinding) of quarks at high enough temperatures, which happens during the early Universe or in terrestrial high energy experiments like the Large Hadron Collider, is also poorly understood for the same reason. Over the past decade, it has been realized that we can overcome the complexity of QCD by compactifing (curling) our world over a circle. In this talk, I review this construction and how it is used to map QCD to a much simpler system. Then, I show that we can exploit dualities (different facets of the same theory) and techniques from information theory in order to study the deconfinement of quarks from a new perspective. Our simulations indicate that information theory provides us with excellent probes to study the deconfinement phenomenon.

Feb 21

Rebecca Miller, Beyond Meat
Climate Change: It’s What’s for Dinner

When you hear “Climate Change”, what do you think of? Smokestacks, traffic jams, and clear-cut forests are typical images that come to mind. It’s easy to think of climate change as an abstract geopolitical issue whose solution is simply a matter of implementing today’s existing technologies such as solar panels and electric cars. But what do we do when no alternatives exist for one of our biggest polluters? 


Animal farming is a trillion-dollar industry responsible for 1/7 of the world’s net greenhouse gas emissions, over 1/4 of all freshwater consumption, and occupies 1/3 of the Earth’s land. The livestock industry is also the main driver of species extinction through deforestation, resource competition, and eradication of competing species.


Beyond Meat’s goal is to out-compete animal meat on the free market by creating delicious, affordable, nutritious, and sustainable meat directly from plants. Backed by investors spanning from Bill Gates to Tyson Foods, the scientists at Beyond Meat seek to understand what makes meat “meat” from a materials science perspective down to a molecular level. This information is then applied in a thorough search of the plant kingdom to identify biomolecules that deliver the same textures, flavors, and cooking experiences as meat. By creating meat directly from plants, we can deliver all of the joys of eating meat using a fraction of the resources. This seminar focuses on how one scientist has applied her physics background to accelerate discovery in fields ranging from opioid addiction to plant-based meats, and what lessons she has learned along the way.

Feb 28

Matthew Geske, Gonzaga University
Cosmic Rays: Probing the universe via high energy particles

Every second of every day, the Earth is being bombarded by charged particles known as cosmic rays. These cosmic rays are born in cataclysmic cosmic events such as supernovae, traveling through the Galaxy for thousands of years before reaching the Earth. First discovered in 1912, the field of cosmic ray science is a relatively young branch of astrophysics, and there is much that is still uncertain about their origins. 
The study of cosmic rays opens an entirely new window into the universe, but detecting them is very difficult. To study them requires experiments that include some of the largest detectors ever constructed, as well as satellites and balloon borne detectors. These experiments have led scientists to all corners of the globe in search of new discoveries. Recent developments in the field include hints at the origin of the most energetic particles in the universe, and the operation of a world-wide network of detectors looking for early detections of supernovae. Examples of two recent experiments are the Cosmic Ray Electron Synchrotron Telescope (CREST) and the Helium and Lead Observatory (HALO). CREST is an example of a high altitude balloon experiment, which searched for the highest energy electrons. The HALO 1-kt project is a proposed neutrino detector intended to serve as part of the Supernova Early Warning System (SNEWs). The intent is to detect nearby supernovae before their light arrives at the Earth.

Mar 7

Senior Thesis Talks

Sarah Racz

Giovanni Corti

Davis Kusnick

Mar 14

No Talk - Spring Break

Mar 21

Senior Thesis Talks

Aja Procita

Daniel Timbie

Ian Fries

Mar 28

Senior Thesis Talks

Matt Chau

Anthony Loya

Andrew Ryder

Apr 4

Senior Thesis Talks

Amanda Swanson

Noah Shofer

Andrew Simler

Apr 11

Student Thesis Talks

Matyas Szabo

Elias Friedman

Ion Wood-Thanan

Apr 18

Senior Thesis Talks

Ribby Suh

Farhanul Hasan

Kenji Arai

Apr 25

Senior Thesis Talks

Chris Hale

Helen Zhang

Ali Cox