Tag: physics

Nobel inspiration: Lawrence scientists, economists embrace new momentum

Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, stands beside a whiteboard showing some of her astrophysics research in Lawrence University’s Youngchild Hall of Science. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

If you sensed a surge of excitement in recent days coming from the halls of Lawrence University’s Youngchild, Steitz, and Briggs halls, you were not mistaken.

When the Nobel Prizes for chemistry and physics were announced earlier this month, the news hit close to home for a couple of science faculty members and their students, creating momentum for the research they’ve been working on here at Lawrence.

The same can be said for a pair of economics faculty members who have focused their research on topics tied to the groundbreaking Poor Economics, a book that’s been a mandatory read in Lawrence’s Freshman Studies since 2016. More on that later.

The win in chemistry went to three chemists — Stanley Whittingham, John Goodenough, and Akira Yoshino — who were instrumental 30 years ago in the development of the lithium-ion battery, which now powers many of our wireless electronics, most notably cell phones. That’s a subject near and dear to Allison Fleshman, an associate professor of chemistry who has dedicated much of her research over the past two decades to ion mobility, work that could potentially improve the next generation of those lithium batteries.

The win in physics, meanwhile, went to two astronomers — Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz (they split the prize with a cosmologist on a separate project) — who in the mid-1990s discovered a fiery, uninhabitable planet orbiting a distant sun-like star, a breakthrough that set the course for the discovery of thousands of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy. Megan Pickett, an associate professor of physics, was fresh off her Ph.D. and working for NASA when word of the discovery came through. She has since spent much of her career studying the formation of those stars and planets, simulating how solar systems are formed.

Both Fleshman and Pickett drew inspiration early in their careers from the groundbreaking work these scientists were doing. To see them now honored with Nobels, well, there were celebrations in recent days to rival those of football fans on a Sunday afternoon.

“As soon as the Nobels were announced, my Facebook was a flutter with all of my old colleagues from graduate school and my post-doctoral work,” Fleshman said. “We were all very, very excited. There’s a subgroup of scientists, and we were just going absolutely bonkers when we heard. And I may have run through the hallway shouting, ‘lithium for the win.’”

Pickett had a similar response when the physics award was announced, not just because she was happy for Mayor and Queloz but also because of the momentum and validation it provides for the science she and her students are doing in Youngchild.

“I was wondering when this group would get the Nobel Prize,” she said.

How solar systems form

It was in 1995 when Mayor and Queloz first announced the discovery of the Jupiter-like planet, having tracked a periodic wobble in the colors of light from the star that indicated a planet was circling. They determined it to be a four-day orbit. Scientists at the time already believed there were planets other than Earth that were orbiting sun-like stars. But they had no proof. And then they did.

“The scientific community was skeptical, as it ought to be with new discoveries like this,” Pickett said. “There had been a lot of false discoveries and false alarms in the past. But this stood the test of time. And as people started using this method, more and more solar systems were found. We now know of 4,000 planets that orbit stars.”

Learn more about Physics at Lawrence here.

Pickett had just finished her Ph.D. at Indiana University earlier that year and was working at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. She remembers hearing the news of the discovery like it was yesterday.

“I was in the space science research laboratory,” she said. “The entire floor that I was on, mostly theoretical astrophysicists, were running down the halls excited about this. Everyone at first was trying to show that it was wrong, but they were really excited. They were either excited one way or the other. If it was right, we would finally have proof that there were planets outside our solar system. And it turned out to be right.

“And it turned out to be the kind of stuff I was interested in studying. So, I was very lucky in terms of my career, being in the right place at the right time studying the right thing.”

Scientists now believe that the number of planets in our galaxy could number in the billions.

“Twenty years ago, or 25 years ago, you would have been laughed off the stage if you had said something like that,” Pickett said. “Now people are taking it very seriously based on the statistics we’ve seen.

Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry, stands for a portrait in her lab in Lawrence University’s Steitz Hall of Science. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

The study of ions

Meanwhile, over in the Steitz chemistry labs, Fleshman and her students are busy talking about the charge that the Nobel announcement has given their work. They aren’t necessarily doing lithium battery research per se, but they’re studying a piece of the process that could affect the ongoing development of the battery technology. Fleshman has been doing research in and around that topic since her doctoral studies at the University of Oklahoma.

“Part of my Ph.D. was in developing a new way of describing ion transport, which is what this field of research is called,” Fleshman said. “Ion transport is how well the ions can move, or their mobility between two electrodes. If you have an electric field, how well can the ion adjust to responses in that electric field?”

Learn more about Chemistry at Lawrence here.

Keeping that and related research alive could one day lead to changing the electrolyte — the chemical medium that carries the positively charged lithium ions — from a liquid to a solid, eliminating potential issues related to leakage or expansion in the battery.

“That would be kind of like the Holy Grail,” Fleshman said. “That’s the next big thing. Until then, the idea is to improve the material that carries the charge. My students and I apply a new model to describing that transport.”

The Nobel for the lithium-ion battery is a momentum changer in part because it’s something people can relate to. They may not understand the science behind it, but they appreciate the rapid advances in the cell phone and other electronic tools that they can hold in their hands. The message from Fleshman is simple — we’re not done yet.

“Once it gets to the consumer’s hands I think people assume there is no more innovation to be made,” she said. Not true. While the Nobel award acknowledges that the work of Whittingham, Goodenough, and Yoshino was cutting edge, there are a lot of questions yet to be answered.

“If you’re in the field, you know these questions,” Fleshman said. “You know there are limitations with the electrolyte. There’s a misunderstanding about why lithium moves. There are misunderstandings of how lithium interacts with the electrolyte as a whole.”

The possibilities for the next generation of lithium batteries are just now being explored, and it’s more than just making our electronic toys run faster. The prospect of communities redirecting some of their energy usage in more sustainable ways is in play.

“The Nobel puts those questions on the international stage,” Fleshman said of the continued study of lithium technology. “I think it gets more people interested, people who thought the technology was basically at its end. We’ve made a lithium battery. It works great. My cell phone stays charged for forever. But there is so much more innovation to be had.

“There are really good scientists out there trying to answer the question of how can we redirect our energy demands to energies that are sustainable, and rewarding those scientists with a Nobel is yet another way of saying we need a global conversation about renewable energy sources,” Fleshman said.

The book on development economics

When the winner of the Nobel in economics was announced, you might have heard a smattering of applause across campus. The work of development economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of M.I.T. and Michael Kremer of Harvard is plenty familiar to students and faculty here. The 2011 book from Banarjee and Duflo, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, has been part of Freshman Studies since 2016, meaning most every current Lawrence student has dissected the book at some point over the past four years, or will next term.

Dylan Fitz
Hillary Caruthers

The book — and now the Nobel – has shined a light on the growing field of development economics. In this case, it’s the work of economists who zero in at the micro level in the study of poverty and other economic issues in developing countries, gathering and using specific on-the-ground data to analyze outcomes. Instead of taking a big picture view, they run real-world trials of local groups or communities to test how certain factors — be it in the areas of education, health care, food, family planning or others — are affecting the economics of a region.

Nowhere on the Lawrence campus was the applause for the Nobel louder than in the offices of Hillary Caruthers and Dylan Fitz, both assistant professors of economics who specialize in the micro approach to development economics. Both have counted the Poor Economics authors and Kremer as role models since their graduate school days a decade ago, even before the book was published.

“I do find it extremely validating,” Caruthers said of the Nobel announcement. “It’s exciting that when you look at all of the Nobel laureates going back through time, this is by far the closest to our research. So, it’s exciting to see people be honored who we have admired and who have inspired us in our field of study and have really shaped the field so much. It’s like seeing our idols rewarded for their work.”

Learn more about Economics at Lawrence here.

Caruthers and Fitz said they both were driven to pursue development economics on the micro level because it is so tightly tied to the people affected. It is analysis of open-ended micro data from individuals and households with an expectation that it’ll add to the larger economics conversation, and, in the end, help improve living conditions.

It’s not that the more macro approach to development economics isn’t valuable, Fitz said. It’s just the micro approach and what it can bring to the table is another important piece, and it’s what drew him to the field.

“The type of work in Poor Economics is why I’m an economist,” he said.

Some of the research done by Caruthers, for example, has focused on how poor nutrition in utero can affect someone through life. That touches on the same themes explored in Poor Economics, studying how early health care, or lack thereof, can have ramifications that affect one’s ability to ever escape poverty.

“Economics is a social science, of course, but often it’s easy to forget that we are ultimately interested in people and the well-being of humans,” Caruthers said. “So, de-emphasizing systems and instead emphasizing that micro impact is very appealing to me as a scholar.”

Poor Economics has been a great fit for Freshman Studies, introducing non-economics students to a part of the economics curriculum many don’t know exists.

“A lot of freshmen come in and they don’t know what economics is,” Fitz said. “Some of them think it is just business or just defending free markets, which is not at all the case. Economics is something that can help us make the world a better place — to try to understand the world first of all, and then to improve it for people.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Emerging field of trapped ions explored in physics colloquium

Experimental physicist Jonathan Mizrahi presents “Trapped Ion Quantum Computing” Thursday, May 10 at 11:10 a.m. in a Lawrence University physics colloquium. The presentation, in Youngchild Hall 115, is free and open to the public.

Jonathan Mizrahi
Jonathan Mizrahi

Mizrahi, a senior engineer at Maryland-based IonQ, Inc., one of the world’s leading developers of quantum computers, will explain how ion traps work, how one manipulates ions with lasers, how ions can serve as qubits in a quantum computer, and the prospects for a large ion-based quantum computer.

Trapped atomic ions are among the most pristine quantum systems one can create. Through a combination of electric levitation of atomic ions and laser pulses to then cool them to ultra-cold temperatures, scientists can employ the ions for a variety of precision-sensing uses such as atomic clocks and quantum engineering.

Prior to joining IonQ, Mizrahi served as a postdoctoral fellow at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, a National Nuclear Security Administration research and development laboratory. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Brandeis University and Ph.D. in atomic/molecular physics from the University of Maryland.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

James Evans 1941-2018: Chemistry scholar, computing pioneer

Former Lawrence University chemistry and computer science professor James S. Evans died Monday, April 23 at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah. He was 77 years old.

James Evans
James Evans

Among the longest-serving faculty members in the history of the university, Professor Evans’ tenure spanned 45 years before his retirement in 2011.

A native of Bridgton, Maine, Jim joined the Lawrence faculty in 1966 as a 25-year-old with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bates College and a Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry and physics from Princeton University. Jim arrived in Appleton with a three-year tenure track offer from then-Lawrence President Curtis Tarr.

Early in his career, Jim taught introductory chemistry courses, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry and Freshman Studies. He later added regular involvement with a distinctive honors-level Principles of Physics and Chemistry sequence. An active and engaged researcher, Jim’s research and scholarship focused on proteins, protein fragments and peptides.

Blaming an inability “to convincingly say no,” Jim began a 15-year stint of multitasking in 1979 when he traded some of his chemistry teaching duties for responsibilities as director of Lawrence’s emerging computer center. He provided leadership in bringing the power of computing into both the academic and administrative areas of the university.

Jim was a natural choice for the role, having already helped usher in the first computer-related teaching to the Lawrence curriculum and collaborating with members of the physics department on a laboratory computing course.

James Evans at 2011 commencement ceremonies
Jim Evans was recognized with an honorary master of arts degree at Lawrence’s 2011 commencement.

An interest in using computers beyond numerical work or signal processing also led Jim to write a text formatting program. With a physics colleague, he co-directed a multi-year (1979-82) National Science Foundation-funded project that focused on acquainting faculty members throughout the sciences and social sciences with computation. He also helped establish today’s interdisciplinary mathematics-computer science major and taught several courses in that major.

Among many professional accomplishments, Jim wrote two books, “Itanium Architecture for Programmers” and “Alpha RISC Architecture for Programmers.”

Beyond teaching chemistry and computer science, Jim served as an institutional “sidewalk superintendent,” assisting with the planning and execution of a variety of campus building projects, including the construction of Thomas Steitz Hall of Science and Hiett Hall and major remodeling projects in Main Hall and Youngchild Hall.

Late in his career, Jim served in an advisory capacity to the dean of the faculty, the vice president for business affairs and other offices and departments, helping develop institutional strategies involving technology.

Plans for a memorial service are still pending at this time.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence Physicist Receiving National Service Honor

David-Cook_newsblog
David Cook

David Cook, Philetus E. Sawyer Professor of Science and professor emeritus of physics, will be honored Jan. 3-5, 2015 during the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) national conference in San Diego, Calif.

The ATTP will recognize Cook with its Homer L. Dodge Citation for Distinguished Service. He has served as AAPT vice president (2008), president-elect (2009), president (2010) and past president (2011). He currently serves as chair of the AAPT’s meetings committee. He is the only Lawrence faculty member to serve as president of the AAPT, the country’s premier national organization and authority on physics and physical science education.

“I am both honored and humbled to be chosen for this recognition by the professional organization that has contributed substantially to my own growth since the beginning of my teaching career in the late 1960s,” Cook said of his distinguished service award.

Cook retired in 2008 after 43 years of teaching in the Lawrence physics department. He was elected a Fellow in the American Physical Society for his contributions to physics education in America in 2013, joining his long-time department colleague Professor Emeritus John Brandenberger as the only two physicists at Lawrence ever recognized as a Fellow by the APS.

“Professor Cook is a pioneer in developing an effective physics curriculum for liberal learning students,” said David Burrows, provost and dean of the faculty at Lawrence. “His methods have helped build an extremely strong physics program that has prepared many students for success in graduate programs and helped start them on distinguished careers. His work provides a wonderful model for colleagues at other institutions. We are extremely proud of his accomplishments.”

Cook’s AAPT service includes more than 40 years of meeting attendance and leadership on at least eight committees. While serving on the AAPT Executive Board, he generated detailed manuals for members of the presidential chain, and he took on the task of formatting and indexing the 250-page Executive Board Handbook compiled over several years by the Governance Review Committee.

One of his most important service legacies is PAC Tools. Cook was the impetus and leader of the advisory group that worked with staff to develop AAPT’s online program for planning meetings from abstract submission through the paper sort, to export into the final meeting program.

During his four-plus decade teaching career at Lawrence, Cook taught nearly every undergraduate physics course while leading the development and incorporation of computers into the physics curriculum. Beginning in 1985, he designed and built Lawrence’s computational physics laboratory with the support of more than $1 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation, the W. M. Keck Foundation and other sources.

He is the author of two textbooks, “The Theory of the Electromagnetic Field,” one of the first to introduce computer-based numerical approaches alongside traditional approaches and “Computation and Problem Solving in Undergraduate Physics.”

He was recognized with Lawrence’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1990.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Research Road Trip: Lawrence Students Enjoy Rare Opportunity to Study at Argonne National Laboratory

A team of three Lawrence University students recently completed a rare research opportunity at one of the nation’s premier laboratories in an effort to shed new light on how liquids can solidify.

Students-at-Argonne_newsblog
Lawrence physics students Erika Roedl (l.), Leo Sussman (c.) and Ben Clark (r.) recently had the rare opportunity to conduct a five-day experiment at the prestigious Argonne National Laboratory.

Senior Leo Sussman and juniors Ben Clark and Erika Roedl, under the direction of Nick Mauro, visiting assistant professor of physics, conducted a five-day-long experiment at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago.

The project involved collaborations with students working with Lawrence Assistant Professor of Chemistry Allison Fleshman and a research group at Washington University in St. Louis.

The research project focuses on the underlying governing principles that dictate how a liquid forms into a particular kind of solid — glass. Almost any liquid can be formed into a type of glass if cooled quickly enough.

“Physicists are primarily interested in the discovery of new knowledge and new technology and the field of condensed matter physics is an area where we realize both at Lawrence,” said Mauro. “Materials known as metallic glasses have very unique physical, electrical, thermal and mechanical properties. In our lab, we use advanced experimental techniques to try and understand how and why these unique materials form.”

The student researchers heated samples of liquids and glasses in advanced furnaces that generate temperatures of nearly 1300 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing them to examine the samples’ atomic structure using extremely bright X-ray beams.

“The work we conducted will help us to better understand how liquid atomic
structure evolves and how to tailor metallic alloys for particular applications.
These students are helping make these advances possible.”

              — Assistant Professor of Physics Nick Mauro

Leo-Sussman_newsblog
Leo Sussman ’15

“My week at Argonne gave me a fantastic glimpse into life as a professional scientist, complete with triumphs and tribulations alike and inspired additional work when we returned,” said Sussman, a physics and flute performance major from San Francisco, Calif. “It was exhilarating when the moment finally came to see the data we’d been preparing to collect for months start to appear on a monitor right before our eyes.

“I came away from the experience with a profound sense of awe for the amount of collective human knowledge, expertise and talent that went into building the facility,” Sussman added. “One of the most thrilling aspects was working among dozens of other research groups, all striving toward the same overall goal of better understanding the world.”

The experiments were carried out 24 hours a day with the team working in shifts over the course of five days. More than 60 different experiments using 35 various liquids and glasses were performed.

Ben-Clark_newsblog
Ben Clark ’16

Clark called the opportunity to conduct work at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source “an incredible experience.”

“Before working at the APS, I was both terrified and exhilarated, but being able to assist in the experimentation and sometimes even running parts by myself, with some supervision, gave me a sense of confidence I’ve never felt before,” said Clark, a physics major from St. Louis, Mo. “This was by far one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life.”

The APS is a state-of-the-art facility that accelerates electrons to nearly the speed of light, creating very intense and highly energetic X-rays. The APS is one of the brightest X-ray sources in the world and researchers from across the globe go there to conduct research in many different fields.

Ericka-Roedl_newsblog
Erika Roedl ’16

“As a student participating in the engineering track at Lawrence, I was looking forward to seeing what the experimental side of physics was really like,” said Roedl, a physics major from Minneapolis, Minn. “At the lab I could feel the dedication the countless graduate students, professors and professional experimentalists have for their respective fields. Being in that atmosphere, as well as seeing Professor Mauro so enthused about the research we were conducting, was so inspiring.”

Mauro, a 2005 Lawrence graduate who returned to his alma mater last fall, said the trip to Argonne was “a unique study experience for the entire research team.”

“It is extremely difficult to get access to Argonne since the competition for beam time is very high. Our students had the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research at a world-renown institution. The work we conducted will help us to better understand how liquid atomic structure evolves and how to tailor metallic alloys for particular applications. These students are helping make these advances possible.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Retired Lawrence University Physicist Receives National Recognition for Contributions to Science Education

David Cook, professor emeritus of physics at Lawrence University, has been elected a Fellow in the American Physical Society for his contributions to physics education in America.

The fellowship program recognizes members who have made “exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise through outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics or significant contributions to physics education.”  Fellow selection represents significant recognition by one’s professional peers and is highly selective, limited to no more than one-half of one percent of the organization’s more than 50,000 members.

Professor Emeritus David Cook

Cook, who retired as Philetus E. Sawyer Professor of Science in 2008 after 43 years of teaching in the Lawrence physics department, joins his long-time colleague Professor Emeritus John Brandenberger as the only two physicists at Lawrence ever honored as a Fellow by the APS.

In announcing his Fellow status, the APS cited Cook for “the prominent roles he has played in developing and disseminating outstanding computational elements for undergraduate physics courses, in building an exemplary undergraduate physics program and in executive leadership of the American Association of Physics Teachers.”

“Professor Cook has long been a leader in physics education,” said David Burrows, provost and dean of the faculty. “He combines a friendly supportive manner with an insistence on high standards of achievement and tireless energy. He helped build the physics department at Lawrence into an outstanding model for scholarship and teaching at liberal learning institutions.”

Cook served as president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the country’s premier national organization and authority on physics and physical science education, in 2010, becoming the first Lawrence faculty member ever to serve in that capacity and the first from any Wisconsin college or university since 1955.

During his more-than-four decade teaching career at Lawrence, Cook taught nearly every undergraduate physics course while leading the development and incorporation of computers into the physics curriculum. Beginning in 1985, he designed and built Lawrence’s computational physics laboratory with the support of more than $1 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation, the W. M. Keck Foundation and other sources.

Cook is the author of two textbooks, “The Theory of the Electromagnetic Field,” one of the first to introduce computer-based numerical approaches alongside traditional approaches and “Computation and Problem Solving in Undergraduate Physics.” He was recognized with Lawrence’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1990.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Former Lawrence University Scientist Assumes Leadership of National Physics Association

Former Lawrence University Professor of Physics David Cook has assumed the role of president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the country’s premier national organization and authority on physics and physical science education with more than 10,000 members in 30 countries.

David-Cook_webCook, who retired as Philetus E. Sawyer Professor of Science in 2008 after 43 years of teaching in the Lawrence physics department, will serve as AAPT’s president in 2010 and past president in 2011. First elected to the association’s executive board in 2007, Cook is the first Lawrence faculty member ever to serve as AAPT president and the first from any Wisconsin college or university since 1955.

The AAPT, says Cook, faces challenges in keeping the United States competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.

“Both the future of the United States as a leader in science and technology and the strength of the U.S. economy are at risk because too few of our most able young people are preparing for careers in science and engineering,” said Cook.  “The AAPT is already playing an important role in addressing this growing crisis.  The current efforts, however, need to be expanded in both intensity and scope.

“We need to assess whether the current AAPT structure and content of our offerings for prospective scientists are as strong as they can be in preparing students for productive 50-year careers in the 21st century and whether they are as appealing as they must be to compete successfully with the students’ alternatives.”

During his four-plus-decades career at Lawrence, Cook has taught nearly every undergraduate physics course while leading the development and incorporation of computers into the physics curriculum.  Beginning in 1985, he built Lawrence’s computational physics laboratory with the support of more than $1 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation, the W. M. Keck Foundation and other sources.

Cook is the author of two textbooks, “The Theory of the Electromagnetic Field,” one of the first to introduce computer-based numerical approaches alongside traditional approaches and “Computation and Problem Solving in Undergraduate Physics.”  He was the recipient of Lawrence’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1990.

Founded in 1930, the AAPT is headquartered in the American Center for Physics in College Park, Md.

Latest Research on High Temperature Superconductors Focus of Two Lawrence University Lectures

Physicist Laura Greene, a leading experimentalist in the physics of novel materials, discusses her research on high temperature superconductors in a pair of lectures at Lawrence University.

Greene, the Swanlund Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois’ Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory, presents “High Temperature Superconductors: From Broken Symmetries to Cell Phones” Monday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Youngchild Hall, Room 121. On Tuesday, May 23, Greene will deliver a more advanced follow-up talk entitled “High Temperature Superconductors: Playgrounds for Broken Symmetries,” at 11:10 a.m. in Youngchild Hall, Room 115. Both presentations are free and open to the public.

Superconductivity, the ability of certain materials to conduct electricity without any loss of energy, was first discovered in 1911. To obtain superconductivity, however, materials needed to be cooled to extremely low temperatures, as cold as four degrees above absolute zero. In the mid-1980s, a scientific breakthrough resulted in a new class of superconducting materials that, while still extremely cold, could operate in more accessible environments (produced by the use of more abundant liquid nitrogen rather than liquid helium) of approximately 25 degrees above absolute zero.

Greene will discuss her research on the “mechanisms” that allow superconductivity to occur at the relatively higher temperatures, specifically the way these new materials break certain fundamental symmetries of nature by enabling electrons to be paired or bound together rather than repelling each other as they typically do. She also will address the possibilities of practical applications for superconductors, from high-speed switching devices to computers based on superconducting junction technology.

Elected a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences last month, Greene began her career as a researcher for Bell Laboratories, where she studied thin-film growth and tunneling of metallic multilayers, superconductor-semiconductor hybrid structures and high-temperature superconductors. A Fellow of the Amerian Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Greene joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1992.

She earned a bachelor and master’s degree from Ohio State University and her Ph. D. in physics from Cornell University.