Department “Quarks”

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

North West Garage





Anil Seth

Assistant Professor Anil Seth presented his talk, “Spying on Our Neighbors With the Hubble Space Telescope” at the December 2013 College of Science Frontiers of Science Lecture Series. Astronomers still don’t fully understand how the diverse “zoo” of galaxies, their numerous shapes, colors, and sizes, come to be.  Professor Anil Seth presented the images of Andromeda taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, and how this four year study of our galactic neighbor may reveal some of the secrets of galaxy formation.

Shanti Deemyad

Assistant Professor Shanti Deemyad, presented her talk, “Alchemy at Extreme Pressures” at the February 2014 College of Science Frontiers of Science Lecture Series. Deep within the planets, precious forms of matter such as oils and gems form under extreme conditions of pressure and temperature.  While ash turns to diamond deep within the Earth, theories suggest that life originated in the depth of the proto-ocean of the Hadean Earth, under high hydrostatic pressure.  The lighter elements with simple behavior at ambient pressure, exhibit the most non-trivial and sophisticated behavior at extreme pressures.

On February 24, 2014, legendary alpine climber and highly skilled scientist and engineer, Dr. George Lowe III gave a special talk on alpine climbing and the quest to balance a professional career with recreation. The video of this talk is available here:

Former graduate student, Mark Limes, now a post doc at Princeton University, was awarded the 2014 Springer Thesis prize for scientific excellence. His thesis, {129}Xe Relaxation and Rabi Oscillations,  will be published in the Springer Theses series by Springer publishing.

Lauren Simonsen

In April, Graduate student Lauren Simonsen was awarded a University Teaching Assistantship from the University’s Graduate School.  This award helps improve graduate education programs and training at the University of Utah in the service of undergraduate education through the creative use of graduate teaching assistants.

2014 Science Olympiad

The University of Utah was host to the 2014 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.

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: Tabitha Buehler, Nick Slowey
Solar Systems: Tabitha Buehler, Nick Slowey
Sounds of Music: Adam Beehler, Doug Baird, Kathrine Skollingsberg
Fermi Questions: Pearl Sandick

Anil Seth also delivered a public lecture at the Clark Planetarium’s Night Vision lecture about tiny galaxies and big black holes on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, at the Clark Planetarium’s ATK IMAX Theater in downtown Salt Lake City.

The Department lost four staff members, Chase Adams, Sareah Gardner, Kelly Moulton and Thomas Woodland.  The department hired four new staff members, Jordan Klepzig, Gray Marchese, Josh Tomlin, and Tamara Young.

The North West Garage (Lot 34) parking structure will be built at the Northeast corner of campus on the parking lot between the Sutton Geology Building and Naval Science Building. Construction began on Monday, September 15th, 2014. Until completion, all parking in lot 34 will be closed except for ADA parking in the west side of lot 34 and the visitor pay lot in lot 33 will remain open. Access to all loading docks will also remain open.  The building will be complete in July 2015. Total parking stalls in the structure: 311. Net gain of: 235 parking stalls.

Professor Jordan Gerton was appointed to Interim Director of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education beginning October 2014 until December 2015.

On October 23, 2014, a partial solar eclipse occurred and was visible from the Salt Lake Valley. A Solar Eclipse viewing party was hosted by the Natural Museum of Utah. The Salt Lake Astronomy Society, the RoboUtes, and our own AstronomUrs were also on-hand with community activities and demonstrations.

Charlie Jui

Professor Charlie Jui presented a talk at the Science Movie Night at the Salt Lake City Main Library as part of their Science Movie Night series. The talk followed a screening of the movie “Particle Fever” about the Large Hadron Collider. Professor Charlie Jui gave an overview of the Standard Model of Particles and the history of important discoveries leading up to the LHC and the Higgs’ Boson. He spoke to the high drama in the film from the point of view of a particle experimentalist.

In October, graduate student John Metcalf became a Lifetime Senior Member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

On November 6, 2014, the department offered a special pre-screening of the movie “Interstellar“ at Megaplex 12 at the Gateway. Over 400 members of the community showed up to watch and support the department.

Brian Saam

Professor Brian Saam, presented his talk, “A History of the Second: From Grains of Sand to Atomic Clocks” at the November 19, 2014 College of Science’s Science Night Live Lecture Series. He began a discussion of time with an operational definition: time separates cause from effect; more precisely, time delineates the order of events. Our earliest human ancestors recognized that to measure time, one needs a periodic event that is easily, reliably, and universally observed in exactly the same way. Both the rotation of the Earth on its axis and revolution of the Earth about the Sun satisfy these requirements and have been universally accepted time standards throughout most of recorded history. Every timepiece ever invented prior to 1967 - sundials, water clocks, hourglasses, and mechanical clocks - traced its calibration in some way back to the apparent motion of the sun in the sky. However, as robust and reliable as this standard appears (the Earth’s rate of rotation slows by about one second in 60,000 years), it is inadequate for the modern frontiers of scientific discovery, as well as for the needs of a global telecommunications and geo-positioning infrastructure. A much more stable standard was developed starting in the 1960s that is based on a transition that occurs between two specific energy levels in atomic cesium. These “atomic clocks” are stable to about one second in 30 million years. Work on even more stable clocks (one second in 30 billion years) is at the frontier of modern atomic physics.

The Department also participated in the 26th Annual Science Day at the U, hosted by the College of Science and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences at the University of Utah. Held on Saturday, November 15, 2014. High school students from around the intermountain west are invited to attend a day of science-related workshops. These interactive workshops give high school students a great look at laboratory research and career opportunities in science, math and engineering. •

Special thanks to Clark Planetarium, Commuter Services, Dave Kieda, John Metcalf, Natural History Museum of Utah, Salt Lake City Main Library & Vicki Nielsen.