Chairman's Welcome Message

Hello Friends,

It has been one year since I took up the reins as chair of this department. Our former chair, Dave Kieda, is now Dean of the Graduate School. It’s been an honor to work with such a superb and congenial faculty, skilled staff, and dedicated students. But it is also a big job. Thanks to the addition of our astronomy component, we have grown to almost forty faculty members, nearly 100 graduate students, and 300 undergraduate majors. As a consequence, we are bursting at the seams in both lab and office space and in budget. The department chair’s job naturally has its high and low points and its trials. A favorite high point is giving a deserving student a scholarship check - thanks to our donors, we are able to do this on occasion. Then there was a “trial by ice” Halloween 2013 when a liquid helium container in one of our James Fletcher Building labs began to malfunction - the pressure was rising out of control, so we had to evacuate for several hours until the vendor’s experts could deal with it safely.

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Department “Quarks”

The Ups, Downs, Tops, Bottoms, Charms & Strangeness of the Department

North West Garage




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Researchers Get Most Accurate Measure of the Universe

This article was originally published on January 8, 2014 in the Salt Lake Tribune. Reprinted with permission from Sheena McFarland & the Salt Lake Tribune.

Courtesy of Zosia Rostomian, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. An artist’s conception of the measurement scale of the universe. Baryon acoustic oscillations are the tendency of galaxies and other matter to cluster in spheres, which originated as density waves traveling through the plasma of the early universe. The clustering is greatly exaggerated in this illustration. The radius of the spheres (white line) is the scale of a “standard ruler” allowing astronomers to determine, within one percent accuracy, the large-scale structure of the universe and how it has evolved.

Scale • The new understanding likely will shed light on the nature of dark energy - the force that is causing the universe to expand.

Full press release here

Astronomers have defined the scale of the universe to within one percent accuracy, allowing them to better understand the enigmatic nature of dark energy and its ability to accelerate the expansion of the cosmos.

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A Hotspot for Powerful Cosmic Rays

In this time-lapse photo, stars appear to rotate above the Middle Drum facility of the Telescope Array, a $25 million cosmic ray observatory that sprawls across the desert west of Delta, Utah. Physicists from the University of Utah, University of Tokyo and elsewhere report the observatory has detected a “hotspot” in the northern sky emitting a disproportionate number of ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, which are the most energetic particles in the universe. The discovery of a hotspot is a step in the long quest to discover the source or sources of the most powerful cosmic rays. Photo Credit: Ben Stokes, University of Utah

Physicists a Step Closer to Finding Mysterious Sources

Full press release here

July 8, 2014 – An observatory run by the University of Utah found a “hotspot” beneath the Big Dipper emitting a disproportionate number of the highest-energy cosmic rays. The discovery moves physics another step toward identifying the mysterious sources of the most energetic particles in the universe.

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The Rocky Mountain Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

by Alexis Lagan, student

This year has had a unique energy to it. Maybe it was due to the exciting things happening on campus. Perhaps it began in January, when the University of Utah had a surge of Women from all over the nation meeting together for the National Undergraduate Women in Physics Conference. The University of Utah was this year’s host for the Rocky Mountain region. The conference was filled with great speakers and inspiring discussion panels from familiar faces and from women across the country.

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