physics & astronomy

Sturgill Award, Kirwan Prize Given to Outstanding Faculty

Recognizing their outstanding contributions to teaching and scholarship at the University of Kentucky, two UK faculty members were honored with the William B. Sturgill Award and Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize yesterday

The 2015-2016 Outstanding Teaching Award Recipients Announced

There will be an Awards Ceremony to honor the recipients of these and other College awards on Wednesday, April 22 at 4 pm in the WT Young Auditorium. A reception will follow the ceremony.

The Structure and Evolution of Milky Way-Like Galaxies

Matthew Bershady University of Wisconsin

A small fraction of the universe's energy-density is comprised of normal matter. A still smaller fraction is bound into stars and gas that we can see and are responsible for life. This talk examines what we know about the baryon content of, and how stars assembled in, galaxies like the Milky Way (MW). Dynamical measurements from integral-field spectroscopy indicate the baryonic mass of spiral disks is small. Radiative-transfer modeling of dusty, edge-on galaxies reveals super-thin stellar disks previously missed. These findings yield a consistent picture of light disks with young luminosity-weighted stellar ages. A new census from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-IV, now underway, will test how broadly these results apply to the galaxy population as a whole. This advance allows us to better place the MW in context of today's galaxy population, and to leverage the MW's unique archaeological record against observations of distant galaxies. A critical question that can be resolved is whether stellar age and abundance gradients in galaxy disks are the result of a settling process of decreasingly turbulent gas or dynamical heating.

Shining a Light on Connections Between Worlds of Art and Science

The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky is hosting "Looking for Light: Chemistry, Art, Story, and Song," the third annual event of the Math, Arts, and Sciences Coalition (M.A.S.C.).

Topological Insulators 101

 

 

Dr. Ganpathy Murthy University of Kentucky We thought we knew all there was to know about band insulators back in the 1930s. However, in the last 10 years we have learnt that there distinct types of band insulators in 2 and 3 dimensions. The distinction between these types is "topological", a term I will explain. I will introduce the idea of band topology in detail in 2D. I will then use the example of the integer quantum Hall effects to show that a topological insulator has edge states that are robust to disorder. Next I will introduce time-reversal invariance, which puts powerful constraints on band insulators. Once again, edge modes will prove to be extremely useful in characterizing the different types of band insulators. I will end up by talking about 3D topological insulators and some of the phenomenology associated with them.

 

 

Enhancing Exoplanet Discovery and Characterization through Stellar Photometric “Flicker”

 

 

Dr. Fabienne Bastien Pennsylvania State University As a result of the high precision and cadence of surveys like MOST, CoRoT, and Kepler, we may now directly observe the very low-level light variations arising from stellar granulation in cool stars. Here, we discuss how this enables us to more accurately determine the physical properties of Sun-like stars, to understand the nature of surface convection and its connection to activity, and to better determine theproperties of planets around cool stars. Indeed, such sensitive photometric "flicker" variations are now within reach for thousands of stars, and we estimate that upcoming missions like TESS will enable such measurements for ~100 000 stars. We present recent results that tie “flicker” to granulation and enable a simple measurement of stellar surface gravity with a precision of 0.1 dex. We use this, together and solely with two other simple ways of characterizing the stellar photometric variations in a high quality light curve, to construct an evolutionary diagram for Sun-like stars from the Main Sequence on towards the red giant branch. We discuss further work that correlates “flicker” with stellar density, allowing the application of astrodensity profiling techniques used in exoplanet characterizationto many more stars. We also present results suggesting that the granulation of F stars must be magnetically suppressed in order to fit observations. Finally, we show that we may quantitatively predict a star's RV jitter using our evolutionary diagram, permitting the use of discovery light curves to help prioritize follow-up observations of transiting exoplanets.

 

 

UK Students Win Kentucky Academy of Science Research Competitions

Thirteen University of Kentucky students took home top honors at the Kentucky Academy of Science 100th Annual Meeting in November, including eight students in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Undergraduate Research Takes Flight With T.J. Flynn

Physics and mechanical engineering undergraduate T.J. Flynn is taking his research to the next level with graduate school.

Undergraduate Assistants Help Freshmen Transition to Life as STEMCats

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