Physics students win awards

The Physics Department recently held its annual Student Research Symposium in Memory of Professor Stephan Berko. At the symposium, the undergraduate speakers describe their senior thesis honors research as the final step in gaining an honors degree in physics. The graduate student speakers are in the middle of their PhD research, and describe their progress and goals.

The prize winners are nominated and chosen by the faculty for making particularly noteworthy progress in their research. Here are the Berko prize winners for 2015:

Undergraduate Prize Winners:

Adam Wang
Title: “Controlling Coupled Chemical Oscillators: Toward Synchronization Engineering and Chemical Computation”

Jacob Gold
Title: “Inhibitively Coupled Chemical Oscillators as a Substrate for Logic Gates and Larger Circuits”

Graduate Prize Winners:

Lishibanya Mohapatra
Title: “How cells control the size of their organelles?”

Feodor Hilitski
Title: “Measuring mechanics of active microtubule bundles, one filament at a time”

Other Physics Prize winners this year:

Cesar A. Agon Falkoff prize
Hannah Herde Falkoff prize
Matthew Cambria Physics Faculty prize
Stefan Stanojevic Physics Faculty prize

Brandeis IGERT Summer Institute June 16 – June 26, 2014

The second Brandeis IGERT Summer Institute begins this Monday, June 16th in Goldsmith 300 and runs through Thursday, June 26th. This will consist of a variety of talks by faculty and students on subjects in the mathematical sciences. While this is part of the IGERT training program, aimed at graduate students working across the spectrum of the mathematical sciences, we invite the Brandeis community to attend any of the talks that catch their eye. Speakers include:

  • Chris Santangelo (U Mass Amherst)– “Shape and mechanics of origami folding”
  • Matthew Headrick — “Introduction of quantum information theory”
  • Bulbul Chakraborty and Blake Lebaron — “Applications of Statistical Mechanics to Finance”
  • Daniel Ruberman — “Introduction to Knot Theory”
  • Paul Miller — “Feedback control in neural firing”
  • Albion Lawrence — “An introduction to inflation and gravity waves”
  • Eli Putzig — TBA
  • Honi Sanders — TBA
  • Tony Ng — TBA

and a schedule can be found at  or in the Brandeis Science Seminars listings.

We will be having lunch in the Volen bridge; please bring your own and join us!

Michael Kosowsky ’14 receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

KosowskyMichael Kosowsky ’14, who majored in both physics and mathematics at Brandeis, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in astronomy and astrophysics.  The fellowships, which are awarded based on a national competition, provide three full years of support for Ph.D. research and are highly valued by students and institutions. Kosowsky worked with Prof. David Roberts in the Physics Department on analyzing the polarization of the X-ray binary SS 433 with the purpose of figuring out the magnetic field structure of the source.  He will be pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University starting this fall.

Other 2014 NSF Fellowship recipients from Brandeis include:

Alex Dainis  (BS ’11, Biology, Film, Television, Interactive Media), Stanford University
Abby Finkelstein (BS ’13, Neuroscience),  Arizona State University
Lamia Harper (BS ’12, Biology), NYU
Ariel Hyre  (BS ’13,  Chemistry), Boston University
Anatoly Rinberg (BS ’11, Physics, Mathematics), Stanford University
Seth Werfel  (BA ’10, Economics), Stanford University


Professors Seth Fraden and Irv Epstein interviewed on NPR

Professor Seth Fraden (Physics) and Professor Irv Epstein (Chemistry) were interviewed on Radio Boston, WBUR  about their research confirming Alan Turing’s Morphogenesis Theory.

Here’s the story:

Here’s how to listen:

Eisenbud Lectures in Mathematics and Physics, March 11 – 12, 2014


Cumrun Vafa

The Departments of Physics and Mathematics and Brandeis are incredibly excited to announce that this year’s Eisenbud Lectures in Mathematics and Physics will be given by the world-renowned theoretical physicist Prof. Cumrun Vafa, the Donner Professor of Science Harvard University.  Prof. Vafa is one of the leading figures in the fields of string theory and quantum gravity, and he has been on the forefront of the exchange between string theory and geometry that has revolutionized both fields over the last thirty years. He is known for his immense intuition, creativity, and depth of thinking in physics and mathematics.

The Eisenbud Lectures are the result of a bequest by Leonard and Ruth-Jean Eisenbud, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of Leonard Eisenbud’s birth.  Leonard Eisenbud was a mathematical physicist at SUNY-Stony Brook; upon his retirement he moved to the Boston area, as his son David was a member of the Mathematics faculty at Brandeis, and was given a desk here.  The bequest is for an annual lecture series by physicists and mathematicians working on the boundary between the first two fields.

The Eisenbud lectures consist of three lectures.  The first is a colloquium-style lecture meant for a broad scientific audience.  The following two lectures are more technical lectures meant for experts in the field.  The schedule is:

Lecture 1: “String Theory and the Magic of Extra Dimensions”, Tuesday, March 11 at 4PM in Abelson 131.  Tea, coffee, and refreshments will be served at 3:30 outside of the lecture hall. A reception will follow the talk.

Lecture 2: “Recent Progress in Topological Strings I”, Wednesday, March 12 at 11 AM in Abelson 333.

Lecture 3: “Recent Progress in Topological Strings II”, Wednesday March 12 at 4 PM in Abelson 229.

We hope to see you all at what promises to be a very exciting series of talks!

— Albion Lawrence, Dept. of Physics. and Bong Lian, Dept. of Mathematics

New team-taught course offered spring 2014: “Differential geometry in classical and quantum mechanics”

1) Introduction and Motivation

We would like to call attention to a new class offered this winter/spring 2014 quarter, being taught jointly by Prof. Daniel Ruberman in Mathematics and Prof. Albion Lawrence in Physics.  This is being listed jointly as Physics 202a (Quantum Field Theory) and Math 221b (Topics in Topology).  It is being team-taught under the auspices of the Brandeis Geometry and Dynamics IGERT program.

This course aims to introduce basic notions of fiber bundles and connections on them, and their application to basic physical examples in classical and quantum mechanics: especially the mechanics of deformable bodies, and Berry’s phase.  The target audience is mathematics and physics students, and mathematically inclined students in physical chemistry, neuroscience, computer science, and economics.  The essential principles here find applications to chemical and neural oscillators and control theory; there have even been suggestions that it is a useful language for describing currency trading.

The mathematics covered here typically appears in advanced courses on quantum and statistical field theory.  However, it has much broader applicability, and the instructors felt that studying more elementary physics examples better highlighted the essential mathematics and lead to a broader perspective that would better prepare students to find new and creative uses for the mathematics.  Furthermore, they allow us to teach a broader audience, as the essential physics background is straightforward and can be explained without the student needing two years of graduate-level physics courses.

This course is essentially a graduate course, but it is certainly appropriate for senior undergraduates with a solid mathematical background (math and physics majors especially).  The modern mathematical language of manifolds and vector bundles will be introduced and used throughout, but with reference to physical and geometric notions.  This will provide physics students with an appropriate vocabulary for further study, while mathematics students can try to grasp the intuition behind the formalism.  Note that the course satisfies one of the IGERT course requirements; however, we strongly encourage non-IGERT students to enroll.

The course is scheduled to take place Mondays and Wednesdays from 2-3:20pm. [Read more…]

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