As our society is trying to adjust to a post-cold war economy, scientists everywhere are finding that it is necessary to learn new approaches to better prepare our students for these difficult times. Despite these challenging times for the University, as well as Physics and Astronomy in particular, we have developed several programs which will greatly enhance our teaching and research capabilities. Since, this is our first newsletter, I will briefly summarize some of the significant accomplishments of the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the last few years.
In the past decade, our department has been able to significantly expand its efforts in theoretical physics with the addition of a major new research group in high energy theory. The appointments in high energy theory include Professors Itzhak Bars, Dennis Nemeshansky, and Krzysztof Pilch, who has recently been promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. More recently, Professors Nicholas Warner and Hubert Saleur have joined the high energy theory group. The appointment of a theorist, Professor Nelson E. Bickers, has added strength to our efforts in condensed matter physics.
Our most recent appointment is an experimentalist, Dr. Vitaly Kresin, a new tenure track Assistant Professor. Dr. Kresin comes to us from UC Berkeley where he has been a postdoctoral fellow working with Professor Walter Knight of UCB. He is starting a new laboratory here to study the physics of small clusters.
A substantial change in our department has been the merging of physics and astronomy. This merger came about as a result of a thorough review of the futures of both departments. The conclusion reached was that increased growth could be better accomplished by combining the interests of the two departments that overlapped. An example of this new direction actually occurred before the merger with the hiring of Professor Werner Däppen who works in the area of solar oscillations.
We are also interested in learning more about what our alumni are doing, and I would like to invite you to send any information about your recent activities and to share with us some of your thoughts.
Hans Bozler, Chairman
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Professor Reaves was also a recipient of the USC Associates Award for teaching excellence (1974). In 1968, Gibson Reaves and Craig Stern (an undergraduate astronomy major) used elementary methods to show that the statistical analysis of catalogs of clusters of galaxies contained major errors. Their work called into question the existence of the so-called clusters of clusters of galaxies.
A reception in Gibson Reaves' honor with his many friends and former students at USC was held in the Faculty Center on July 14 of this year. Among the former students present were Mrs. Linda Morabito-Hyder and Dr. Barry Madore. Linda is already famous in the history of astronomy for her discovery of the active volcano on Jupiter's moon, Io. Barry went from USC to the University of Toronto where he earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy, and he was later made Professor of Astronomy there. He is now on the staff of Caltech's IPAC in Pasadena.
We all wish Professor Reaves excellent productivity and health in his retirement. We are sure that this event will be the start of continued contributions to astronomy by this distinguished member of our faculty. He has already started working on the dynamics of asteroids in collaboration with Professor Darrell Judge from the Space Sciences group, and Dr. Klaus Scherer, a visitor from the University of Bonn, Germany.
Professor and Dean emeritus William Spitzer had successful heart bypass surgery on May 26, 1994, and he is recovering satisfactorily at home. We all extend our warmest regards to him and hope for his speediest possible recovery.
The international conference in astronomy called GONG (Global Oscillation Network Group) was organized by Professor Edward J. Rhodes. The conference discussed helioseismological research.
Meanwhile, the high energy theory group, Professors Itzhak Bars, Dennis Nemeschansky, Krzysztof Pilch, Nicholas Warner, and Hubert Saleur, organized a conference on quantum field theory and statistical mechanics. The conference focused on the interdisciplinary relationship of field theory to physical systems in condensed matter physics.
Professor Chris Gould presented an invited talk in the plenary session at the triennial International Conference on Low Temperature Physics (LT-20) held in Eugene, Oregon in August 1993. LT-20 was a major international conference attended by over 1200 participants.
Other awards received by the faculty in the recent past include
The trick is to separate the unscattered visible (ballistic) light from the deluge of scattered light as it traverses through a medium. The technique takes advantage of the fact that the unscattered light, which takes a straight path through the medium, emerges a few picoseconds before the scattered light. Drs. Feinberg and Rebane create a time-resolved hologram in a plastic polymer containing dye molecules cooled to 2 degrees Kelvin. The dye captures the emerging light and a reference laser beam, creating a hologram. Depending upon which side of the hologram is later illuminated, the hologram recreates either the early, ballistic light or the later, more scattered components of the light beam.
The application to medical imaging could be important, especially for patients where the more penetrating radiation from x rays could be harmful. Before clinical application, questions of resolution and visibility of detail have to be addressed. Nevertheless, the basic ingredients of the technique are very elegant from a physics point of view.
In June 1993, two members of the staff, Dolores Shaffer and Diane Thompson retired. Dolores Shaffer was senior secretary in the atomic physics group, and Diane Thompson was administrative assistant for the astronomy group.
Michael Banks, an undergraduate majoring in Physics and East Asian Languages was selected to receive the University Trustees' Award at the 13th Annual Academic Honors Convocation on March 8, 1994. The University Trustees' award is given to outstanding seniors who have achieved the highest scholarship average in their four years of undergraduate study. Michael will receive a decorative citation and $250 for his accomplishment. We extend our heartiest congratulations to Michael.
Two of our graduate students, Tetsu Takekoshi and Alex Rotaru, are recipients of Dean's fellowships. Yunsong Huang is an all University predoctoral fellow, and Lizhi Zhu won a USC dissertation fellowship.
At this year's commencement, eight baccalaureate degrees were awarded in physics and astronomy. One of our students, Jason Trotter, graduated magna cum laude. Our congratulations go to Jason for his outstanding performance as an undergraduate.
This past year has been one of considerable activity by the high energy theory group. Their research ranges from particle physics to applications of quantum field theory to condensed matter physics. Some of the topics addressed include superstring theory (a candidate theory for the unification of all forces - including gravity - in elementary particle physics), integrable quantum field theories, supersymmetry, exactly solvable lattice models, two dimensional phase transitions, and Kondo type problems. Particularly interesting results have recently been obtained regarding strings in curved space-time and conduction in the fractional quantum Hall effect.
Another topic of great international as well as local interest is high temperature superconductivity which may have great potential impact on the design of electronic devices. Professors Bickers and Maki of the condensed matter theory group have been investigating the possibility that a D state (angular momentum two) is the relevant electron pairing configuration.
Professor Bickers has obtained promising results on the understanding of the superconducting ground state in the two dimensional Hubbard model. Professor Maki has helped clarify the analysis of neutron scattering experiments, which also seem consistent with D state pairing.
Physics and Astronomy at USC / Editor: Dr. Ivan Muzinich.