Department of Physics

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Colloquia & Seminars, Spring 2011

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Life and Scientific Contributions of S. Chandrasekhar

Speaker: Professor Kishor T. Kapale
Date: March 4, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
In this talk I will discuss my early encounter with the story of S. Chandrasekhar and his scientific legacy as I was just beginning my scientific career back in India in 1997. One of the prominent question I had at the time was how can an Indian--in 1929 during the British control of India and at the tender age of 19--create Nobel prize winning work. My interest in the question resurfaced as I recently attended a conference in Chicago on the occasion of Chandra's birth centennial. I found my answer to the question through some of the talks at the conference and after reading Chandra's biography. It was an exhilarating and motivating experience for me. The primary aim behind this talk is to share this experience with the audience, especially the students, with the hope that it will be motivating and educational. You will also hear a bit about the history of pre-independence India, state of physics at the time and Chandra's scientific contributions and his legacy.

About the speaker:
Professor Kishor Kapale is a physics professor from the Department of Physics, Western Illinois University. Professor Kapale is a theoretical physicist whose research focuses on quantum optics, atomic optics, quantum information theory and applied quantum physics.

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Astronomy in the Age of Space Telescopes

Speaker: Professor Massimo Marengo
Date: March 25, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
Since Galileo first pointed a "spyscope" to the sky, there has been a race to build ever larger and more sensitive telescopes. A limitation to the effective power of these new instruments, however, became readily apparent: we live at the bottom of an ocean of turbulent gas, the atmosphere, that blurs our images and restrict our sensitivity to light in a narrow wavelength range. With the launch of NASA's Great Observatories, space astronomy entered its golden age. In this talk I will review the unprecedented possibilities that have been opened by placing large telescopes outside Earth's atmosphere. I will give special emphasis on the infrared space telescopes (Spitzer, Herschel and the future JWST telescopes) that have opened new windows on the processes, until now invisible, of star and planetary system formation, and stellar death.

About the speaker:
Professor Massimo Marengo is a physics professor from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Iowa State University. Professor Marengo is an observational astrophysicist who studies evolved stars and young planetary systems. He specializes in Infrared astronomy where the data are obtained from large aperture ground-based telescopes and space observatories like the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hubble Telescope and the Herschel Space Telescope.

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Where's the Antimatter?

Speaker:Professor Michael R Fortner
Date: April 8, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
The fact that we live in a matter-dominated universe is not consistent with the Standard Model of particle physics. In 1967 Sakharov suggested anomalous CP-violating decays as a condition to explain the asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the universe. Recent results from the Dzero experiment at Fermilab show an anomalously high asymmetry in the production of two like sign muons from b-quark decays in proton-antiproton collisions. This asymmetry is a measure of CP violation in neutral B-mesons and is inconsistent with the Standard Model.

About the speaker:
Professor Michael Fortner is a physics professor from the Department of Physics, Northern Illinois University. Professor Fortner is an experimental particle physicist who develops high-speed and real-time electronics for particle identification and data acquisition. His current research actively involves work with the D0 detector at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

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Realizing Feynman's dream with the computational microscope

Speaker:Dr. J C Gumbart
Date: April 15, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
Much as physical microscopes allow us to glimpse the inner workings of biological and physical systems, a computational microscope also provides unique insight into the complexity of the world at the nanoscale. By combining the classical equations of motion derived by Newton, the laws of electromagnetism from Maxwell, and the statistical mechanics of Boltzmann, we can simulate biological processes in full atomic detail. These so-called molecular dynamics simulations provide tremendous power to visualize the workings of individual proteins and protein complexes, although they require also tremendous amounts of computing resources, including public-sector commodity supercomputers as well as private special-purpose ones. I will highlight the application of simulations and related methodologies to questions of protein synthesis by the ribosome, a large, dynamic molecular machine whose structure led to a Nobel Prize in 2009, and the subsequent extrusion and trafficking of the nascent protein through the membrane-bound protein-conducting channel. The results presented are the modern-day realization of Feynman's belief that "everything that living things do can be reduced to wiggling and jiggling of atoms."

About the speaker: Dr. James (JC) Gumbart is currently a Director's Postdoctoral Fellow at Argonne National Laboratory. A physicist by training and a biophysicist by trade, his work focuses on understanding the biological functions of proteins at the atomic level using large-scale molecular dynamics simulations.

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Bio-Physics: A Natural Transition for Today's Physicist

Speaker:Dr. Michael Baxa
Date: April 22, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 10 a.m.
Room: 336 Currens Hall

Abstract
This presentation will provide insight on how a physics and/or mathematics undergraduate can become well-prepared to enter the exciting field of bio-physics. The speaker will pull from his own personal experiences to share how his undergraduate education and student research experience provided the foundation he required for graduate school and his subsequent postdoctoral fellowships. Bio-physics is currently a popular field with a multitude of exciting research problems that physicists are actively pursuing. By nature, bio-physics is an interdisciplinary science that integrates experimental, theoretical, and computational methods, all of which are accessible to those with a more traditional physics background. During the presentation the speaker will present a brief overview of his own research, but the primary focus of this talk will be to provide a more general overview of the bio-physics field today, and the acquaint the listeners with opportunities that are available to young physicists who are currently considering engaging in undergraduate research opportunities.

About the speaker: Michael C. Baxa, Ph.D, a recent WIU Physics alumnus with highest honors (suma cum laude--Honors Scholar--BS in Physics & Mathematics 2002, Physics Department Scholar and Outstanding Senior Award), will visit the WIU campus on Friday, April 22nd, 2011, and present a seminar in Currens Hall 336 at 10 a.m. During his time as an undergraduate in the WIU Physics Department, Michael actively conducted student research with Dr. Mark S. Boley (currently department chair) studying the properties of high-temperature superconductors, widening the scope of his research by summer internships at Argonne National Laboratory, and presenting his research results at numerous regional and national scientific conferences. In 2001, under Dr. Boley's mentorship, and in recognition of his outstanding undergraduate scientific research achievements, he became WIU's first recipient of the prestigious national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, followed by the award of a national Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship in 2002. After graduating from WIU, he entered the graduate physics program at The University of Chicago (UC), where he conducted research in the area of protein folding and dynamics, receiving his Ph.D. in bio-physics in the fall of 2009. After continuing in a brief post-doctoral position at UC, Michael joined the Georgia Institute of Technology where he is currently a second-year post-doctoral fellow in the Center for the Study of Systems Biology, where he performs research on structure and function conservation. Michael currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Sybil (Doran) Baxa, whom he met at WIU (she is also a WIU alumnus of 2002), and their 13-month-old daughter Josie.

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General Principles of Protein Folding

Speaker:Dr. Michael Baxa
Date: April 22, 2011 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
TBA

About the speaker: Michael C. Baxa, Ph.D, a recent WIU Physics alumnus with highest honors (suma cum laude--Honors Scholar--BS in Physics & Mathematics 2002, Physics Department Scholar and Outstanding Senior Award), will visit the WIU campus on Friday, April 22nd, 2011, and present a seminar in Currens Hall 336 at 10 a.m. During his time as an undergraduate in the WIU Physics Department, Michael actively conducted student research with Dr. Mark S. Boley (currently department chair) studying the properties of high-temperature superconductors, widening the scope of his research by summer internships at Argonne National Laboratory, and presenting his research results at numerous regional and national scientific conferences. In 2001, under Dr. Boley's mentorship, and in recognition of his outstanding undergraduate scientific research achievements, he became WIU's first recipient of the prestigious national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, followed by the award of a national Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship in 2002. After graduating from WIU, he entered the graduate physics program at The University of Chicago (UC), where he conducted research in the area of protein folding and dynamics, receiving his Ph.D. in bio-physics in the fall of 2009. After continuing in a brief post-doctoral position at UC, Michael joined the Georgia Institute of Technology where he is currently a second-year post-doctoral fellow in the Center for the Study of Systems Biology, where he performs research on structure and function conservation. Michael currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Sybil (Doran) Baxa, whom he met at WIU (she is also a WIU alumnus of 2002), and their 13-month-old daughter Josie.

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