Distinguished SPS Chapter

The University of Pittsburgh Chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) has received national recognition, and has been named a “Distinguished SPS Chapter for 2014-2015.” The selection is based on an assessment of the depth and breadth of the activities conducted by our chapter.

The University of Pittsburgh Chapter of SPS is a student-led group started by Pitt's physics majors to encourage and assist students interested in physics to develop the knowledge, competence, enthusiasm, and social responsibility that are essential to the advancement of science. The group's goals include stimulating interest in advanced studies and research in physics, helping the department to connect physics students with faculty members and research opportunities, and promoting public interest in and awareness of physics and natural sciences in general. Membership is open to any interested undergraduate student, faculty member or staff. The members of the group meet every Tuesday at 5:00 pm in 102 Thaw Hall over pizza (and they occasionally have cookies too, so you are very welcome to join)!

Pitt Astronomers Helping to Design Next Space Telescope

Professors Jeffrey Newman and Michael Wood-Vasey are part of a team that has been selected to help prepare for the upcoming WFIRST space telescope. Professor Saul Perlmutter (2011 Nobel Prize winner) leads this Science Investigation Team.

The team’s work will focus on developing methods to study the mysterious Dark Energy using observations of Type Ia Supernovae, cataclysmic explosions of white dwarf stars whose apparent brightness allows us to determine their distances, and hence how the Universe has grown over time.  Scientifically, the WFIRST supernova program is unique in the broad range of cosmic time it will cover, reaching up to 10 billion years into the past.  This Science Investigation Team is helping to develop the Integral Field Unit (IFU) spectrograph on WFIRST, which will allow in-depth studies of the supernovae WFIRST will discover, with only minimal contamination from their host galaxies’ light.  Professor Newman will also use this instrument to explore galaxies themselves, helping to improve other probes of Dark Energy.  NASA recently announced that WFIRST will be NASA’s next major space telescope after the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018; it should begin operations in the first half of the next decade.


Dr. W. Vincent Liu Receives Grant to Investigate Condensed Matter and Atomic-Optical Physics

Dr. Wensheng Vincent Liu has received a five-year $1.42 million grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to predict and understand topological phases of quantum atomic matter (i.e., a cold ensemble of interacting atoms) under novel conditions, well beyond the standard regimes. Read More

PhD Defense--Mark Steger

Research Advisor: Dr. David Snoke


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Allen Hall, Room 219 at 11:00am

Diane Turnshek Receives Dark Sky Defender Award

Diane Turnshek, part-time lecturer in our department and special lecturer in the Department of Physics, received a Dark Sky Defender Award from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). The award is given in appreciation of the recipients’ efforts to further the IDA's mission to preserve the night skies by promoting quality outdoor nighttime lighting. Turnshek was recognized for her outreach efforts against the spread of light pollution in Pittsburgh. Along with Astro Club presidents Alex Gurvich, a senior physics major, and Matthew Finlay, a 2013 CMU graduate, Turnshek created, which features an interactive map with stars marking all the points of astronomical interest in Pittsburgh and an art contest that asks the question, "What is our Pittsburgh constellation?" She also coordinates the Astronomy Enthusiasts list, sending monthly emails with astronomy-related activities to hundreds of Pittsburghers who love the dark, star-filled sky. Turnshek collaborates with CMU’s Remaking Cities Institute, International Earth Hour, the Pittsburgh Mayor’s Office of Sustainability (Department of Innovation and Performance) and the Green Building Alliance.

PhD Defense--Kevin Sapp

Research Advisor: Dr. James

"From Bottom to Top: Identification to Precision Measurement of 3rd generation Quarks produced at √s = 7 TeV and recorded by the ATLAS Detector"

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Allen Hall, Room 321 at 4:00pm

PhD Defense--Chitra Gautham

Research Advisor: Dr. David Snoke

"Time-resolved Two-photon Absorption of Quantum Dots and Polaritons"

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Allen Hall, Room 321 at 10:00am

T2K Group Shares Breakthrough Prize

The T2K collaboration, which include members from the University of Pittsburgh (Faculty: Steve Dytman, Donna Naples, Vittorio Paolone, Research Physicist: Istvan Danko, and Graduate Student: Damon Hansen), have been awarded the prestigious Breakthrough Prize for Fundamental Physics, for their role in the discovery and study of neutrino oscillation.

The prize, presented by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, was awarded “for the fundamental discovery of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics”. The prize is valued at 3 million USD, and is shared with four other international experimental collaborations studying neutrino oscillation: The Daya Bay, KamLAND, SNO, and Super-Kamiokande scientific collaborations.  The T2K collaboration is named together with the K2K collaboration for its share of the prize. 

The award was presented at a ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California. The ceremony was broadcast live in the U.S. on the National Geographic Channel, and was hosted by comedian Seth Macfarlane. A one-hour version of the broadcast is scheduled for Fox on Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. ET.

T2K is an accelerator-based long-baseline neutrino experiment in Japan.  It uses the J-PARC Main Ring proton accelerator to create an intense beam of muon neutrinos.  The neutrinos are directed to the Super-Kamiokande detector in the Kamioka mine deep inside Mt Ikeno, 295 km away from J-PARC. T2K's citation for the prize was given for the observation of electron neutrino appearance in the muon neutrino beam, which is the first observation of the appearance of a neutrino flavour. This discovery sets the stage for the study of differences in the neutrino oscillation process relative to their antiparticles (antineutrinos), called CP violation, that may elucidate how the universe came to be matter dominated. T2K has recently started data-taking with an antineutrino beam to study antineutrino oscillations.

Further information can be found at:

PhD Defense--Shicheng Lu

Research Advisor: Dr Jeremy Levy
"Quantum Transport in Semi-Conductor Nano Structures"
Thursday, November 4, 2015
Allen Hall, Room 419, 12:00pm

U.S. Dept. of Energy approves Dr. Jeff Newman and Dr. Andrew Zentner's collaborative project on Dark Energy

Two hundred physicists and astronomers, including Jeffrey Newman and Andrew Zentner of the University of Pittsburgh, are one step closer to a deeper understanding of “dark energy,” the unknown phenomenon causing the expansion of the Universe to accelerate rather than slow down because of gravity.

Astronomers at the University of Pittsburgh have been working on developing a new project known as DESI, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument. Today, the U.S. Department of Energy approved the project’s scientific scope, schedule, and funding profile, enabling work on DESI to begin. Read More>

PhD Defense--Gangqiang Liu

Research Advisor: Dr. David Snoke

"Bose-Einstein Condensation and Quantized Flow of Microcavity Polaritons with Long Lifetime"

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Allen Hall, Room 321 at 10:30am


Jeremy Levy Earns $3 Million Grant to Create New Nanoelectronics

The U.S. Department of Defense recently selected University of Pittsburgh Distinguished professor and Director of the Pittsburgh Quantum Institute Dr. Jeremy Levy as one of seven distinguished university faculty scientists and engineers forming the next new class of National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows (NSSEFF). Levy was awarded up to $3 million for up to five years which will enable Levy to pursue an ambitious program that aims to merge two existing fields: semiconductor nanoelectronics and complex oxides. Learn More

Dr. Jeremy Levy's Group Proves Pairs of Electrons can “Swing-Dance”

A research team led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Jeremy Levy has discovered electrons that can “swing dance.” This unique electronic behavior can potentially lead to new families of quantum devices.  Learn More

PhD Defense--Emily Marshman

Research Advisor: Dr. Chandralekha Singh

"Improving Graduate Students' Content and Pedagogical Content Knowledge"

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Allen Hall, Room 321 5:00pm


PhD Defense--Ben Brown

Research Advisor: Dr. Chandralekha Singh

"Developing and Assessing Research-Based Tools for Teaching Quantum Mechanics and Thermodynamics"

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Allen Hall, Room 321 10:00am