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Physics Department News

Gail McLaughlin Elected APS Councilor - 2014.7.11

The 2014 APS general election has ended and the results are in: NC State Physics Professor Gail McLaughlin has been elected General Councilor of the American Physical Society. Dr. McLaughlin currently serves on the Editorial Board for Journal of Physics G, chairs the Advisory Committee for the Institute of Nuclear Theory, and has served on various APS committees. Her two-year term on the Council, the main governing body of the APS, begins January 1, 2015.


PY Major named Astronaut Scholar - 2014.5.25

Mia de los Reyes, a rising third-year physics major, has received a scholarship for 2014-2015 from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. She is one of 22 students in the country majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to receive $10,000 each to support their studies.

The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to undergraduate STEM students based solely on merit. The chosen scholars exhibit motivation, imagination and exceptional performance in these fields.

The Foundation was created in 1984 by the six surviving members of America's Mercury 7 astronauts to aid the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships for college students who exhibit motivation, imagination, and exceptional performance in the science or engineering field of their major. What began as seven $1,000 scholarships in ASF's first year has now grown to nearly $3.5 million in scholarships total awarded. Astronauts from every phase of American space exploration now participate in this endeavor and, so far, have supported more than 300 students.


NC State work highlighted by AVS - 2014.5.5

A recent publication by NC State Physics graduate student Jiuyang Wang and his advisor, Professor Dan Dougherty, was selected for the Publications Highlights by the American Vacuum Society.

Their paper, Extrinsic origins of electronic disorder in 2D organic crystals published in JVSTB describes their use of an STM to examine the electronic states of individual molecules in organic semiconductors.

Jiuyang Wang received his Ph.D. at the May 2014 graduation ceremony.


Hubble Fellow Coming to NC State- 2014.5.2

Evan O'Connor has received one of 17 Hubble Fellowships from NASA, and will be bringing his fellowship to NC State to work with faculty in the astrophysics group on core-collapse supernovae. Evan will be coming to Raleigh from the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (coincidently he is a native of Prince Edward Island). He obtained his Ph.D. from CalTech in 2012 where he developed computational methods for relativistic astrophysical systems.

Complementary to observations of the exteriors of progenitors of core-collapse supernovae are observations that probe the interior of massive stars at the end of their lives. One potential channel available to probe the interior structure of stars at the epoch of core collapse is direct observations of core-collapse supernova neutrinos, gravitational waves, and nucleosynthetic yields. At NC State, Evan will use the results of multi-dimensional neutrino-radiation-hydrodynamic simulations of core collapse to explore the connection between these observables and the interior structure of core collapse progenitors with the goal of constraining stellar evolution with the next galactic core-collapse supernova.

The Hubble Fellowship Program supports outstanding postdoctoral scientists whose research is broadly related to NASA Cosmic Origins scientific goals as addressed by any of the missions in that program: the Herschel Space Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope (HST), James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and the Spitzer Space Telescope.


Physics Majors Win UGRS Poster Competition- 2014.4.19

Physics majors Mia de los Reyes and Alex Mauney were recognized for their outstanding poster presentations at the 2014 NC State Undergraduate Research Symposium held on April 14 at the McKimmon Center. Other physics students presenting their research included Robert Younts, Michael Kerley, Ken Sellers, Yang Ho, Seven Corley, Nathan Sherrill, Sara Berry, and Josh McKenney.

Alex Mauney won for his poster describing his research on The Effect of Particle Shape on the Density of Acoustic Modes in Granular Materials. Alex worked this past year in Professor Karen Daniels Research lab after spending last summer doing similar research in Germany through the DAAD RISE program.

Mia de los Reyes won for two different posters (and she won last year)! Her poster on The Relationship Between Stellar Mass, Gas Metallicity, and Star Formation Rate for Halpha-Selected Galaxies at z = 0.8 describes her research last summer at the Space Telescope Science Institute working with Chun Ly and Janice Lee. Her poster on Investigating the Dynamics of a Folded Polymer Tube describes her work over the past year in Professor Karen Daniels lab.


Ade Group Publishes in Nature Photonics - 2014.4.7

Former NC State postdoc John Tumbleston and collaborators from the Ade research group and from UNC-Chapel Hill published a paper April 6 in Nature Photonics, The influence of molecular orientation on organic bulk heterojunction solar cells.

New research from North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill reveals that energy is transferred more efficiently inside of complex, three-dimensional organic solar cells when the donor molecules align face-on, rather than edge-on, relative to the acceptor. This finding may aid in the design and manufacture of more efficient and economically viable organic solar cell technology.

Organic solar cell efficiency depends upon the ease with which an exciton – the energy particle created when light is absorbed by the material – can find the interface between the donor and acceptor molecules within the cell. At the interface, the exciton is converted into charges that travel to the electrodes, creating power. While this sounds straightforward enough, the reality is that molecules within the donor and acceptor layers can mix, cluster into domains, or both, leading to variances in domain purity and size which can affect the power conversion process. Moreover, the donor and acceptor molecules have different shapes, and the way they are oriented relative to one another matters. This complexity makes it very difficult to measure the important characteristics of their structure.

NC State physicist Harald Ade, UNC-Chapel Hill chemist Wei You and collaborators from both institutions studied the molecular composition of solar cells in order to determine what aspects of the structures have the most impact on efficiency. In this project the team used advanced soft X-ray techniques to describe the orientation of molecules within the donor and acceptor materials. By manipulating this orientation in different solar cell polymers, they were able to show that a face-on alignment between donor and acceptor was much more efficient in generating power than an edge-on alignment.

"A face-on orientation is thought to allow favorable interactions for charge transfer and inhibit recombination, or charge loss, in organic solar cells," Ade says, "though precisely what happens on the molecular level is still unclear."


NuSTAR Satellite Reveals Supernova Structure - 2014.4.2

A new and powerful satellite has given researchers a way to see into the dark interiors of supernovae. Their observations of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A shed more light on the mechanics of these explosions.

"The new Cas A images give us new information about not only the elements that are created in a supernova, but the structure of these giant explosions," says Stephen Reynolds, NC State astrophysicist, member of a team of scientists helping interpret data collected by the NuSTAR satellite and co-author of a paper describing the research. "These data will help us refine our models of these explosions to be more consistent with what actually happens when a star explodes."

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology developed NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope ARray), the first X-ray satellite capable of making true images of more energetic, or "harder" X-rays, including those produced by radioactive titanium. Unlike the X-rays described above, which show material that is hot, radioactive titanium glows in X-rays no matter what, making it visible wherever it is. In a paper published today in Nature, CalTech and Berkeley researchers detail their findings from Cas A.


Physics majors awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships- 2014.4.2

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced this year's recipients of Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF), which includes three students from the NC State Physics program: Khalida Hendricks, Alex Mauney, and Anne Watson. The 2013 GRF class included NC State Physics alumni Mary Burkey and Adam Keith.

Since 1952 (Wes Doggett received a GRF in that first year!), NSF has provided fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. With its emphasis on support of individuals, GRFP offers fellowship awards directly to graduate students selected through a national competition. The GRFP provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period for graduate study that leads to a research-based master's or doctoral degree.


Ade Group Publishes in Advanced Materials- 2014.3.28

Research from Harald Ade's group reveals that solar cell efficiency is based upon a delicate balance between the size and purity of the interior layers, or domains. These findings may lead to better designs and improved performance in organic solar cells.

Polymer-based solar cells are intended to have two domains, consisting of an electron acceptor and an electron donor material. Solar cell efficiency is based upon several factors: the ease with which excitons (the energy particles created by solar cells when light is absorbed) can travel to the interface of the donor and acceptor domains while retaining as much of the light’s energy as possible; and, once the charges are separated from the excitons, how efficiently separated charges travel to the device electrodes for collection.

In reality, however, these domains are not separate and pure, and there can end up being many more than two. Current processing methods create a complex, multi-domain structure, which impacts all of the factors involved in the solar cell’s efficiency.

NC State physicist Harald Ade and collaborators wanted to find out exactly how the solar cell’s complex structure impacts its performance. Using advanced soft X-ray techniques, Ade and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the domains mixed in unusual and sometimes contradictory ways.

The paper, titled "Quantification of Nano- and Mesoscale Phase Separation and Relation to Donor and Acceptor Quantum Efficiency, Jsc, and FF in Polymer:Fullerene Solar Cells," appears in Advanced Materials.


Aspnes named Fellow of NAI- 2014.3.28

Professor David Aspnes was named to the 2013 class of Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors.

Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.


Mia de los Reyes named Goldwater Scholar - 2014.3.21

Mia de los Reyes, a physics and mathematics double major at NC State University, was named a 2014 Goldwater Scholar. She is one of three Goldwater Scholars from NC State this year.

Alwin Mao was also named a Goldwater Scholar. Alwin is a UC-Berkely student who participated with Mia in the NC State Undergraduate Research in Computational Astrophysics program during the summer of 2012.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate.

The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields. This year's Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,166 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Each institution is allowed to submit up to four nominations.

Previous NC State Physics majors who have received the Goldwater Scholarship include Cody Melton, Derek Justice, Justin Brockman, and Patrick Bowen.


Dean Lee describes shape of oxygen 16 - 2014.3.13

Oxygen-16, one of the key elements of life on earth, is produced by a series of reactions inside of red giant stars. Now a team of physicists, including one from North Carolina State University, has revealed how the element’s nuclear shape changes depending on its state, even though other attributes such as spin and parity don’t appear to differ. Their findings may shed light on how oxygen is produced.

Carbon and oxygen are formed when helium burns inside of red giant stars. Carbon-12 forms when three helium-4 nuclei combine in a very specific way (called the triple alpha process), and oxygen-16 is the combination of a carbon-12 and another helium-4 nucleus.

Although physicists knew what oxygen-16 was made of, they were still puzzled by the fact that both the ground and first excited states of the element had zero spin and positive parity. A similar situation occurs in carbon-12 with the ground state and second zero-spin state known as the Hoyle state. At room temperature, only the ground state of oxygen-16 is seen due to the very cold temperature compared to nuclear energies. But the excited states of oxygen-16 become important for the helium-burning reactions inside stars.

Lee, with colleagues Evgeny Epelbaum, Hermann Krebs, Timo Laehde, and Ulf-G. Meissner, had previously developed a new method for describing all the possible ways that protons and neutrons can bind with one another inside nuclei such as carbon-12 and the Hoyle state. They used an approach called “effective field theory” formulated on a complex numerical lattice that allows the researchers to run simulations that show how particles interact, and so reveal the structure of the nuclei.

In this work, the same team plus Mississippi State physicist Gautam Rupak, found their lattice revealed that although both the ground and first excited states of oxygen-16 “look” the same in terms of spin and parity, they are in fact quite different structurally. In the ground state, the protons and neutrons are arranged in a tetrahedral configuration of four alpha clusters containing two protons and two neutrons each. For the first excited state, the alpha clusters are arranged in a square.

The results appear online March 12 in Physical Review Letters.


Carla Frölich named Cottrell Scholar - 2014.2.28

Dr. Carla Fröhlich, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, has been named a 2014 Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement (RCSA) for her proposal, “The Origin of the Heaviest Nuclei in the Universe.”

The Cottrell Scholar program only accepts 10 percent of applicants; its award winners are elite chemists and physicists from around the country. The main goal of the program is to promote and support the university scholar model in which faculty members consistently demonstrate excellent research programs and innovative approaches to student learning at the undergraduate level.

Fröhlich’s research interests lie in theoretical nuclear astrophysics, focusing on the origin of the elements. Her work includes studying core collapse supernovae as nucleosynthesis site, identifying critical nuclear and neutrino physics for nucleosynthesis, abundances in metal-poor halo stars, and the origin of the elements heavier than iron. Her main contributions are the discovery of a new nucleosynthesis process, the Neutrino p-Process, which for the first time allows explanation for the observed abundances in the most metal-poor stars, and the prediction of neutron star mass and nickel yields from core collapse supernova simulations.

Fröhlich received her PhD in physics in 2007 from the University of Basel in Switzerland. She spent three years as an Enrico Fermi Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago before joining the NC State faculty in 2010.

The Cottrell Scholar Awards began in 1994 in honor of Frederick Gardner Cottrell, a scientist, inventor and philanthropist. Cottrell founded the RCSA to provide support for scientific research and experimentation at scholarly institutions.


Wes Doggett : 1931.1.24 - 2013.12.22

Wes Doggett passed away Sunday morning, December 22, 2013. He was at home with his wife Lenor, battling a second round of lymphoma.

Wes was a central figure in the Department of Physics for the entire second half of the 20th century. He was an undergraduate in our department from 1949 to 1952, finishing with the first graduating class in the world's first Bachelor of Nuclear Engineering program. He was awarded the first pre-doctoral fellowship offered by the newly created National Science Foundation to attend graduate school at UC-Berkeley. He obtained his PhD in 1957 and came back to NC State to join the physics faculty in 1958. He served as Assistant Dean of the new School of Physical Sciences and Applied Mathematics from 1964 to 1968. Wes was a member of the NC State Academy of Outstanding Teachers, and was known for his rigorous physics courses - at one point having taught every course offered by the department. He retired in 1993, but continued his interaction with the Physics Department, including serving as associate editor of the Lanczos Papers. In 2011 the Wesley Doggett Award for Scholarly Achievement was endowed to recognize and inspire the top graduating seniors.


Gundogdu group publishes in NanoLetters- 2013.12.21

Physics Assistant Professor Kenan Gundogdu's research group, including graduate students Cong Mai and Andy Barrette and collaborators in the NCSU departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, have published a paper in NanoLetters on Many-Body Effects in Valleytronics: Direct Measurement of Valley Lifetimes in Single-Layer MoS2: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl403742j.


Celeste Sagui Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society- 2013.12.11

Physics Professor Celeste Sagui has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. She was cited for her fundamental contributions to the field of computational biophysics and statistical mechanics, her development of algorithms for simulating long-range electrostatic forces and free energies, and her insights into the understanding of biomolecular structure and nanoscale growth phenomena. She was nominated by the Division of Computational Physics.

The criterion for election is exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise; e.g., outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education. Fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one's professional peers.


Karen Daniels named University Faculty Scholar - 2013.11.18

Physics Professor Karen Daniels is a member of the second class of University Faculty Scholars. Chancellor Randy Woodson announced the 2013–14 University Faculty Scholars, top NC State early- and mid-career faculty who will receive $10,000 in donated funds for each of the next five years to support their academic endeavors.

The recognition and reward program is part of the university’s strategic initiative to invest in and retain top faculty. It is funded by generous gifts totaling $5.7 million: $3 million from Jim and Ann Goodnight and $2.7 million from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust.

Faculty members are nominated by their colleges and selected by a committee of senior faculty. Forty-two faculty were nominated for the award this year. Physics Professor Keith Weninger was named to the first class of University Faculty Scholars last year.


Carla Fröhlich recognized by The Financial Times - 2013.10.21

Carla Fröhlich was named one of "The next big names in physics" by The Financial Times.


Harald Ade honored with ALS Shirley Award - 2013.10.08

Professor Harald Ade was presented with the David A. Shirley Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement at the ALS at the 2013 Advance Light Source User Meeting on October 8. The award recognizes Harald's "achievements in polymer science and in particular the elucidation of the chemical nano-morphology of complex materials used in polymer electronics and energy conversion devices."

David A. Shirley was a Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley and Director of LBNL from 1980 to 1989, and was instrumental in having the Advanced Light Source built. Prof. Shirley is now retired from the lab.


Katie Foote hightlighted in APS News - 2013.09.30

Physics graduate student Katie Foote's article about her experience in the US-Brazil student exchange program was published in the September issue of APS News. Her article is available online. Katie is a graduate student in the Physics Education Research group.


Hammock named to 2013 Astronaut Class - 2013.06.18

Physics alumna Christina Hammock (BS '02) has been selected as a member of NASA's 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class. She will report to Houston in August to begin two years of Astronaut Training.

The following is from a NASA website: After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system. Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees. The 2013 astronaut candidate class comes from the second largest number of applications NASA ever has received -- more than 6,100. The group will receive a wide array of technical training at space centers around the globe to prepare for missions to low-Earth orbit, an asteroid and Mars.


Frohlich receives DOE Early Career Award - 2013.05.07

Assistant Professor Carla Fröhlich received an Early Career Research Award from the DOE Office of Science. Her proposal is title is The Origin of Chemical Elements: Connecting Laboratory Nuclear Astrophysics with Astronomical Observations through Nucleosynthesis Modeling.

The DOE Early Career Research Program supports the development of individual research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulates research careers in the disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science.


Dougherty receives DOE Early Career Award - 2013.05.07

Assistant Professor Dan Dougherty received an Early Career Research Award from the DOE Office of Science. His proposal is title is The Nature of the Spin Dependent Surface Chemical Bond: Spin Polarized STM Studies of Metal-Organic Interfaces.

The DOE Early Career Research Program supports the development of individual research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulates research careers in the disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science.


Gundogdu named ONR Young Investigator - 2013.05.04

Assistant Professor Kenan Gundogdu received a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research. His proposal is title is Diffusion, Relaxation, and Charge Separation Dynamics of Photoexcitations in Semiconductor Polymers.

The ONR Young Investigator Program seeks to identify and support academic scientists and engineers who are in their first tenure-track academic appointment, and who show exceptional promise for doing creative research. Prof. Gundogdu is one of only 16 faculty nationwide to receive this prestigious award in 2013.


Cody Melton named 2013 Goldwater Scholar - 2013.04.28

Physics major Cody Melton has been named a 2013 Goldwater Scholar. The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,107 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 118 Marshall Awards, 110 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on November 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.


Ade receives Outstanding Research Award - 2013.05.02

Professor Harald Ade received the Outstanding Research Award from the NC State Alumni Association at the annual Alumni Association Faculty Awards Ceremony on May 2, 2013. The award recognizes research accomplishments during the period between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, which included the discovery of a novel scattering method described in a Nature Materials paper. The impact of Ade's research is evidenced by the illustration of work done by the Ade group that appears on the January 2013 cover of Advanced Energy Materials.

The North Carolina State Alumni Association makes three awards each year for outstanding research achievements, in recognition of the importance of research as an integral function of NC State. The awards are in the amount of $4,000 each, in addition to recognition as a distinguished NC State research person. The awards will be announced each year at the spring commencement.


Mary Burkey receives NSF Graduate Fellowship - 2013.06.20

Mary Burkey has been awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Mary graduated in May 2013 with a BS in Physics, and will be attending graduate school at the University of Chicago.