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Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah

Inese Ivans Receives CoS Award for Fostering Undergraduate Research Excellence

Dr. Inese Ivans

Assistant Professor Inese Ivans has received the the 2016 College of Science Award for Fostering Undergraduate Research Excellence, for her ongoing contributions as a research mentor to undergraduate students. This special award recognizes a tenure-line faculty member for excellence in fostering undergraduate research and promoting experiential learning. The winner of this award receives $20,000 to fund the awardee’s research project. These funds include support for enrolled undergraduate research assistants pursuing a degree in Science or Math. Professor Ivans has been instrumental in setting up the Astronomy and Astrophysics program here at the University of Utah. Her dynamic research group consistently engages a large number of undergraduates, several of whom have won research presentation awards, and have gone on to graduate school. Her effort on behalf of the University of Utah's undergraduate students is outstanding.

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Frontiers of Science with Eugenia Kalnay

Thursday, September 15, 2016 @ 6:00 p.m. - Frontiers of Science with Dr. Eugenia Kalnay! "Population and Climate Change: Coupling Earth and Human Systems" in room 220 of the Aline Wilmot Skaggs Building (ASB) on the U of U Campus!


with Dr. Dr. Eugenia Kalnay,
Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland

Population and Climate Change: Coupling Earth and Human Systems

Image Credit: Univ. of Maryland

Date & Time: Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 6:00pm

Location: 220 Aline Skaggs Building at the University of Utah
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The Human System now dominates the Earth System, and since 1950 the population and GDP per capita have been both growing at about 2% per year, indicating that the total use of Earth resources is doubling every 20 years, a clearly unsustainable path. We point out that the IPCC Earth System models (and Integrated Assessment models) are not bi-directionally coupled with Human System. Without fully coupling the Earth and Human Systems it is not possible to model the positive and negative feedbacks and delays needed to represent climate change and sustainability, in the same way that without a fully coupled ocean-atmosphere model it is impossible to simulate El Niño, since it is the result of two-way feedbacks and delays between the ocean and the atmosphere. We describe a prototype of a fully coupled Earth System model, including government policies. 

A simple coupled Human and Nature Dynamical Model (HANDY) with Elites and Commoners allows performing “thought experiments”. It shows that an egalitarian society can reach equilibrium with nature, whereas the presence of either large inequality or excessive use of natural resources both lead to societal collapse, as has happened with many civilizations in the last 5000 years. Introducing non-renewable resources into the HANDY model results in an explosive population growth similar to that observed since the use of fossil fuels triggered the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s and the Green Revolution in the 1950’s.  


Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas, Eugenia Kalnay, 2014: Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): Modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies.  Ecological Economics101, 90-102.

Frontiers of Science is free and open to the public. Please arrive early, as seating and parking will be limited. Click here to learn more about the Frontiers of Science lecture series.


New Academic Leadership Effective July 1, 2016

Henry White, the Dean of the College of Science has announced that Dr. Ben Bromley will serve as the next Chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, and Dr. Jordan Gerton will serve as Associate Chair, effective July 1st. Both are very excited to take on these new roles and help usher in the next phase of growth in the department.

Ben Bromley

Dr. Bromley, received his Masters in Physics at the University of Vermont and his Ph.D. in Physics from Dartmouth University. He was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Harvard University. He began at the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah in August 1998. He has won multiple awards throughout his career, including "Best Undergraduate Seminar Presentation" in 2010, 2014, and 2016. His research focuses on theoretical astrophysics, and on the formation of structure in the Universe.


Jordan Gerton

Dr. Gerton, a biophysicist, received both his Masters and his Ph.D. in Physics from Rice University. After a series of fellowships at Rice University, and the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Gerton joined the faculty at the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah in 2004. The core of his research focuses on nano-optics and molecular biophysics, as well as educational focus on classroom issues such as teaching assignments, and teaching methods. In addition to his role in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, Dr. Gerton is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Bioengineering Department, as well as the Director of the Center for Science and Math Education (CSME).


Announcing New Physics BS/BA with Astronomy/Astrophysics Emphasis

It's Official!

The Utah State Board of Regents, as well as the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities have just approved a new Astronomy/Astrophysics emphasis within the undergraduate Physics BS/BA degree in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Undergraduate Physics majors may now complete their Physics BS or BA degree with this emphasis and have it be noted on their transcript.

All interested should contact Tamara Young, the undergraduate advisor, to discuss the requirements for the program, how the classes they have already taken will fit into those requirements, and to declare the new emphasis.

See her drop-in schedule or make an appointment here.


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