Department “Quarks”

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


From left to right: Can Liao, Daniel Painter, Lyman Owen, Chris Dances, Gregory Moffitt, Samuel Brown, Stefan Badza, Joseph Santora

Undergraduate Stefan Badza was awarded Best Paper in Environmental Sciences track at the American Nuclear Society Student Conference for his paper, “Neutron Activation Analysis of Californian & Japanese Rice.“ The conference was organized by MIT student chapter and held in Boston between the 4th and 6th of April. “What caught my attention the most about this conference is the diversity of application of nuclear technology. From fundamental research in reactor physics to applications in medicine“ stated Badza. Over 300 graduate and undergraduate students from over 40 universities from 10 countries participated.

Dr. Pearl Sandick, presented her talk, “Particle Smashers, Higgs Hunters and the Fundamental Theory of Nature” at the November 2012 College of Science Frontiers of Science Lecture Series.

Dr. Linda Strubbe, a post-doctoral researcher at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) presented her talk, “Snack Time for Hungry Black Holes” at a free public astronomy lecture at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort as a part of the 5th annual Snowbird Workshop on Particle Astrophysics, Astronomy, and Cosmology (SnowPAC). Over 100 members of the community attended and more than double that watched it online.

In the middle of May 2013, Physics & Astronomy’s Adam Beehler, Ben Bromley, and Kathrine Skollingsberg, along with Academy of Math Engineering & Science’s Paul Ramsey and members of the Utah Geological Survey explored what was first thought to be the site of a meteor crater near the Salt Lake International Airport. The secure site, immediately to the south of SLC’s active runways, hosted moderately magnetic rocks with signs of high-temperature surface melting--objects that did not appear to be naturally formed here on Earth. These rocks turned out to be mining by-products used to pack a runway drain from back in the late 1950’s.

Dr. Shanti Deemyad has received a research award from the Utah Research Foundation for her proposal “Formation of Hydrocarbons at Extreme Pressures.” The research will focus on the isotope effect in abiotic process’s in transformation of hydrocarbons at extreme pressures and will search for theoretically predicted transformation of Benzene to graphene (hydrogenated graphite).

The Jazan University started in January 2011, offering up to five graduate student fellowships each year to highly-qualified incoming students. This one-year $3000 fellowship occurs during their first year of graduate studies, and it enhances their normal graduate student stipend and provides extra recognition for these highly qualified students.

The University of Utah was host to the 2013 Science Olympiad.

More than 900 local junior high and high school students competed in a battle of the brains Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the University of Utah as part of the Utah Science Olympiad, a state science education competition.

High school and middle school students competed in teams to build helicopters, magnetic trains that levitate, cars made from mousetraps, and much more. Utah students vied for over $100,000 in scholarship prizes.

Nationwide, 6,800 teams participate in Science Olympiad competitions, designed to expose youngsters to science and engineering careers while bringing classroom science to life.

“These challenges test students’ ingenuity and intellect in a fun, academic track meet-type environment,” says Ashley Nicholes, Utah Science Olympiad coordinator.

The Utah Science Olympiad is one of 50 state competitions culminating in the Science Olympiad National Tournament on May 17 and 18, 2013 at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. The winning junior high and high school teams from each state go on to the national competition in Dayton.

The Department of Physics & Astronomy judged four different events and provided scholarships to several of the winning teams:
Astronomy: Paul Ricketts, Mary Harges, & Tim Hutchinson
Reach for the Stars: Tabitha Buehler & Nick Traeden
Sounds of Music: Adam Beehler, Doug Baird, Kathrine Skollingsberg
Technical Problem Solving: Wesley Sanders & Matt DeLong

The department is sad to announce the loss of three important members. Emeritus Professor Jim Ball, Cosmic Ray technician Al Larson, & Staff Member John Viner. The department extends its deepest sympathies to their families

Jim Ball (Emeritus) passed away July 29, 2013. Jim received his undergraduate degree from Caltech in 1956 and his Ph.D from UC Berkeley in 1960. After a postdoctoral appointment at UCSD and a professorship at UCLA, Jim joined the Physics Department at the University of Utah in 1968 as an associate professor, and was promoted to the rank of full professor in 1972.

Jim worked in the field of theoretical particle physics with an emphasis on understanding the strong interactions, and reconciling theoretical models of the strong interaction with experimental observations at accelerators. In recognition of this work, Jim was awarded an A.P. Sloan Fellowship in the 1960’s. Jim was also elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1995 in recognition of his pioneering work in the theory of the strong force. Jim retired from the department in 1997 and spent a good deal of his retirement with his wife Janet in his beautiful mountain home he built near Torrey, Utah.

Al Larsen, a key technician in the early days of the department’s Cosmic Ray research group (Fly’s Eye, HiRes Fly’s Eye, and Casa-MIADice- Blanca arrays), passed away July 22, 2013, the day after his birthday. He was 75 years old. Many of the successes of the Fly’s Eye research directly derived from Al’s hard work and innovation. He was known as a very kind person with a sharp wit and a positive attitude that kept things moving forward even when confronted with gigantic challenges.

Staff member John M. Viner, who was in charge of the undergraduate and graduate labs for more than 20 years, passed away on August 15, 2013.

his Master’s degree in Physics at the University of Michigan in 1980. He was hired by the University of Utah in July 1983 as a research associate professor. In 1990, he became a Senior Research Specialist and later Senior Lab Specialist, developing and teaching the advanced undergraduate and graduate labs. In 2010, he retired to pursue other interests

John was a quiet, devoted, mild-mannered man with an exceptionally brilliant mind. He was extremely talented in the experimental lab. As a teacher, he was very methodical and patient. Having spent time as both a high school physics and math teacher, as well as teaching in the Peace Corps, he was well experienced in pedagogy. John was detail oriented in his approach, making him very rigorous with students. He was good at challenging students without leaving them feeling helpless

His deep interest in science, his off-beat sense of humor, and his gentle way of pursuing excellence were a rare combination. John’s contributions to the teaching and research missions of the Department will be long remembered.

Special thanks to Stefan Badza, Ben Bromley, Carleton DeTar, Dave Kieda, John Matthews, & Harold Simpson