Seminars in Spring 2019

All seminars are held at 4:10 PM in Phys 123, unless otherwise noted.
Refreshments will be served at 4:00 PM.

Upcoming Seminar

February 20, 2019, 4:10 PM
Andrew Dawes, Pacific University

Jan 31

Spyridon Michalakis, CalTech
The Shape of the Quantum Realm

Time Change: 4:30 PM
Location Change: Vollum Lecture Hall

Joint Math/Physics Seminar

 At the turn of the century, a list of thirteen significant open problems at the intersection of math and physics was posted online by the president of the International Association of Mathematical Physics. But with problems such as Navier-Stokes on the list, quick progress seemed unreasonable. Indeed, a decade later, with only one problem partially solved and despite the progress yielding two Fields Medals, the list was all but forgotten. Then, in 2008, as a young mathematician at Los Alamos National Lab, I was tasked with solving the second problem on the list, which asked for a rigorous explanation of the Quantum Hall effect, an important phenomenon in physics with applications to quantum computing and beyond. The solution, which would involve a deep connection between topology and quantum physics, would come a year later. I want to share that journey with you, focusing on insights gained along the way about the relationship of mathematics to physics.

Feb 6

Kater Murch ('02), Washington University in St. Louis
Realizing a quantum Maxwell's demon with superconducting circuits

Thermodynamics is a field of physics that describes quantities such as heat and work and their relationship to entropy and temperature. Originally developed as a theory to optimize the efficiency of heat engines, two extensions of thermodynamics in the last century advanced the theory to the point at which quantum mechanics should be incorporated. First, the role of information in thermodynamics, given by Shannon, Jaynes, and Landauer, makes strong connections between heat, entropy and information. Second, extensions of thermodynamics to the realm of microscopic systems in which fluctuations are significant allow the application of thermodynamics at the level of single trajectories of classical particles. Quantum mechanics requires both of these features as information and fluctuations are central to the behavior of quantum systems. The experimental control over single quantum systems that has been achieved in this century places us in a unique position to extend thermodynamics into the quantum regime. I will describe recent experiments where we harness tools from quantum information processing with superconducting qubits to quantify the role of information in a quantum realization of Maxwell?s demon.


Bio: Kater received his B.A. in physics from Reed College in 2002. After that, he spent a long year slacking off, working as a bee keeper, honing his guitar skills, and studying the cello before finally starting his Ph.D. work at UC Berkeley with Prof. Dan Stamper-Kurn. After some time studying Bose-Einstein condensation in multiply connected geometries, Kater focused his interests on general problems in quantum measurement, and performed some of the first studies of position measurement quantum backaction. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2008, Kater continued work in the Stamper-Kurn group studying a possible super-solid phase of matter which occurs in spinor-Bose-Einsten condensates, and constructing a state of the art BEC apparatus. After a short postdoc in the Stamper-Kurn Group, Kater joined Irfan Siddiqi's group to study superconducting quantum circuits, where he continued to study basic questions in quantum measurement and quantum noise. In 2014, Kater joined the faculty at Washington University.  Kater has received several awards including the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in Physics (2015), The St. Louis Academy of Sciences Innovation Award (2017), the Cottrell Scholar Award (2018) and an NSF CAREER Award (2018).

Feb 13


Andrea Kunder, St. Martin's University
Our home the Milky Way Galaxy: peering into it’s center

We live in the Milky Way Galaxy — a spiral Galaxy so large, it takes 100,000 years for light to travel from one side to the other.  This light can be captured by astronomers, such as myself, using various instruments mounted to telescopes, to study the matter and structure of the stars it comes from.  We see that our Galaxy is composed of stars that are not randomly assorted, instead, they display an elegant structure that shows both order and complexity.  Here I show how we are beginning to order the stars in the deep center of the Galaxy, with the goal of piecing together the formation history of the entire Milky Way Galaxy.  I show how we have recently discovered of a separate population of stars co-existing within the inner Galaxy, possibly being one of the oldest stellar populations of the Milky Way.  This “fossil” is one of the pieces of the Galactic jigsaw puzzle.  I will conclude by showing other pieces of the Galactic puzzle being put into its proper place thanks to SMU students working within the physics group.


Bio: Professor Kunder received her bachelor’s degree from Willamette University and her Ph.D. from Dartmouth College. Her area of expertise is astrophysics, with more than 60 refereed scientific publications, including being an editor of an Astronomy Society of the Pacific Conference Series.  Upon completion of her PhD in 2009, she moved to Chile to work at the US National Observatory in the Southern Hemisphere, the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.  While a postdoctoral fellow at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, she worked on improving and supporting the optical and infrared CCD imagers on the Blanco 4m telescope, as well as playing a significant role in commissioning the Dark Energy Camera (DECam).  After 4 years in Chile, she moved to the Leibniz Institute of Astrophysics (AIP) in Germany, which was previously called the Berlin Observatory, and is where Neptune was discovered.  Her work there concentrated on spectroscopic observations of Milky Way stars, and she released stellar parameters of half-a-million stars in the solar vicinity (RAVE DR5), which is the 18th highest cited paper in 2017 (out of ~24,000 refereed astronomy papers that year). Professor Kunder has been teaching at Saint Martin's University since 2017.

Feb 20

Andrew Dawes, Pacific University

Feb 27

Nancy Forde, Simon Fraser University

Mar 6

Yudan Guo ('15), Stanford University

Mar 13

Moira Gresham ('04), Whitman College

Mar 20

Brian Smith, University of Oregon

Apr 3

Thesis Talks

Apr 10

Thesis Talks

Apr 17

Thesis Talks

Apr 24

Thesis Talks

May 1

Thesis Talks