News & Events

Department News Archives

American Physical Society Names Alexander Vilenkin Outstanding Referee for 2019
February 2019

Professor Alexander Vilenkin is amongst 143 Outstanding Referees selected by the American Physical Society (APS) for 2019. Instituted in 2008, the Outstanding Referee program recognizes the invaluable work of anonymous peer reviewers. Each year, a small percentage of the 71,000 active referees are selected and honored with this lifetime award. Selections are made based on the number, quality, and timeliness of referee reports as collected in a database over the last 30 years. The efforts of these individuals not only keep the standards of the journals high, but in many cases also help authors improve the quality and readability of their articles. The Outstanding Referees are to be congratulated and thanked for their outstanding service to the physics community. A complete list of Outstanding Referees and more details are available at Physical Review Journals website.

Recently tenured faculty with Tufts president Anthony Monaco

Four Physics and Astronomy Faculty Honored at Special Event
February 2018

On February 9, 2018 Tufts President Anthony Monaco (right) congratulates recently tenured physics and astronomy faculty (left to right) Hugo Beauchemin, Peter Love, Anna Sajina and Tim Atherton whose success was celebrated at a special Board of Trustees Dinner, together with faculty and senior administrators from across the university. Congratulations to our wonderful faculty members!

Tufts Physics Alumna Wins AIP Science Writing Award
December 2017

The American Institute of Physics has announced the winners of its 2017 Science Communication Awards for Books, Articles, Writing for Children, and Broadcast and New Media. The Articles prize was awarded to Natalie Wolchover for "What No New Particles Means for Physics," published in August 2016 in Quanta Magazine. Natalie studied physics as an undergraduate at Tufts and is currently a senior writer at Quanta Magazine specializing in physical sciences. The judges found Wolchover's article to be "well-crafted," in which she undertakes "a clear explanation of nuclear and high energy physics' Standard Model crisis." Her article took a creative and bold stance on scientific exploration, and "her voice is confident as she develops a solid narrative throughout her article. "[Wolchover] does a beautiful job of creating drama and intrigue from what amounts, essentially, to no new findings and bravely and simply states the crux of the crisis," the committee noted. This brewing crisis of particle physics — a lack of new particle discovery — inspired the article. Read the announcement from the AIP website and check out Natalie's alumni bio.

Jordan Kemp

Jordan Kemp Awarded the Carl A. Rouse Fellowship by the National Society of Black Physicists
November 2017

We are pleased to announce that undergraduate physics major Jordan Kemp was selected for the Carl A. Rouse Fellowship. This fellowship was established by the Rouse family in honor of the Late Dr. Carl Albert Rouse. It is awarded each year to up to two undergraduate students who have demonstrated both a commitment to pursuing science as an academic major and a strong interest in astrophysics. The fellowship committee seeks qualified African American applicants. Fellows are supported through the NSBP and the generous contribution of the California Institute of Technology. As part of this fellowship, Jordan was invited to speak at the NSBP's national conference on November 3rd at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. He presented on research from his summer fellowship with LIGO titled "Temperature Control and Coupled Oscillator Modelling for LIGO Voyager." Please join us in congratulating Jordan on his accomplishments.

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Image credit: LIGO/Caltech/MIT

Nobel winner Barish, Thorne, and Weiss

Former Member of Tufts' Physics and Astronomy Department Rainer Weiss Wins the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics
October 2017

In February 2016, the LIGO and VIRGO collaborations created a shockwave when they announced the first observation of gravitational waves, predicted 100 years earlier by Albert Einstein. Since then, this discovery has received a lot of media attention (for example this New York Time article), captivating the public imagination. The LIGO and VIRGO experiments are based on laser interference techniques developed by Rainer Weiss in the 1960s. Prof. Weiss later co-founded the LIGO project and obtained NSF funding for initiating the project. In reward for his decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves he was awarded half of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, the other half being shared between Kip Thorne and Barry Barish. Rainer Weiss spent most of his career as a faculty member at MIT, but his first faculty appointment was as an assistant professor at Tufts from 1962 to 1964. He is the second Nobel laureate that worked at Tufts, joining particle physicist Allan Cormack in this very distinguished category. Both were members of the Physics and Astronomy department!

Physics and Astronomy Defeats Mathematics at Annual Softball Game
September 2017

At the annual softball match between the Mathematics department and the Physics and Astronomy department, Physics and Astronomy prevailed with a final score of 7-4. Fifteen department members participated, including faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates. We all had a lot of fun being outdoors on a beautiful fall afternoon. Thanks to everyone from both departments who played and came to watch and cheer us all on. A special recognition goes out to those who were trying out softball for the very first time, and those who returned to the field for the first time in years. We are looking forward to next year's match!

2017 Solar Eclipse

Viewing of Partial Solar Eclipse
August 2017

Graduate students set up a telescope outside of the Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex (CLIC) to view a partial solar eclipse, using a special filter to view the eclipse safely. Several members of the department and even passers-by got a chance to view this exciting celestial phenomenon. In Medford at the height of the eclipse, the moon covered about 63 percent of the sun. You can learn more about how solar eclipses work. The next solar eclipse visible in North America will be in April 2024.

Tim Atherton

Professor Atherton Wins Tufts University's Recognition Of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence (ROUTE)
July 2017

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is delighted to congratulate faculty member Tim Atherton, who was today awarded the University-wide Recognition of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence (ROUTE) prize. This award is awarded annually to a junior faculty member of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering who has displayed exceptional teaching and advising, concern for students' academic and personal growth, and the ability to convey passion and enthusiasm for his or her field of study. Atherton's citation singled out his creation of a project-based class on Computational Physics, use of an innovative "cyclic approach" to teaching introductory physics classes and outstanding mentoring of undergraduates.

Undergraduate student

Tufts Professors Awarded $1 Million Grant to Boost Diversity in Natural Sciences
July 2017

A group of faculty at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences has received a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to broaden participation and cultivate the talents of undergraduate students of diverse backgrounds in the natural sciences. Known as the Listening Project, the five-year initiative aims to increase instructors' awareness of implicit and unconscious bias and support their efforts to elicit and cultivate the productive beginnings of scientific thought in all students. The program will provide science faculty and teaching assistants in introductory science courses with support to enhance their ability to elicit, recognize, interpret, and respond meaningfully to all students' thinking and reasoning regardless of their cultural background or prior preparation. It will be led by Roger Tobin, professor of physics; David Hammer, professor of education and physics; Juliet Fuhrman, professor of immunology and infectious disease; Susan Koegel, senior lecturer of cell biology and immunology; and Donna Qualters, director of the university's Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching
Read more about the project >

Three Physics and Astronomy Professors Awarded Tenure
June 2017

Tufts University today announced that three faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Anna Sajina, Hugo Beauchemin and Tim Atherton, have been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure. This acknowledges their outstanding contributions to research and teaching, as well as mentoring numerous students. The three faculty span a broad range of research activities—Atherton in theoretical condensed matter physics, Beauchemin in high energy physics and Sajina in astronomy—and have contributed significantly to the continuing success of our department. The department congratulates them and looks forward to having them as tenured members for years to come.

2017 Graduates

Congratulations to the 2017 Graduates in Physics and Astronomy
May 2017

The Physics and Astronomy department congratulates all of our 2017 graduates. We are proud of all your work at Tufts and look forward to the great things you will do in the future. This year, 20 Tufts undergraduates completed their degrees in physics or astronomy, our largest class in recent years! In addition, six graduate students completed their Ph.D.s.
Pictured at the doctoral hooding ceremony are (left to right): Jeremy Watcher, Yazhe Zhu, Ozgur Altinok, Vesal Dini, Chris Burke with Professor Peggy Cebe and Professor David Hammer.

Professor Tim Atherton

Professor Atherton Receives Prestigious CAREER Grant from National Science Foundation
April 2017

Tufts Physics and Astronomy Professor Tim Atherton has recently been awarded a prestigious CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation. These are the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Prof Atherton will use the award, "Jamming in Flexible Geometries-from Shape Sculpting to Shapeshifting" to advance our understanding of how ordered materials interact with curved geometries. The award also supports outreach and education efforts that are closely integrated with the research, including a new course on Computational Physics, links with Somerville High School and the participation of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in Prof. Peggy Cebe's existing summer internship program.
Read more about the project >

Graduate Student Dave Thomas

Thermal Analysis of Polymers in Germany
October 2016

Over the past few years Professor Peggy Cebe has been collaborating with Professor Christoph Schick and his research group at the University of Rostock on the thermal analysis of polymers by fast differential scanning calorimetry (FSC). This past fall Professor Cebe's graduate students, Nelaka Govinna and David Thomas, accompanied her for two weeks to conduct experiments relevant to their own research projects. FSC allows for thermal measurements of samples at heating and cooling rates in excess of 4,000 K/s compared to the upper limit heating rate of 0.5 K/s accessible in conventional differential scanning calorimeters. Utilizing high rates allows for the study of materials which undergo thermal degradation near their melting points or have rapid phase change kinetics. Their work was focused on the study of polymer thin films and nanofibers suitable for applications ranging from tissue scaffolds to membranes for oil and water separation. Samples for the trip were prepared from both commercially available polymers as well as novel copolymers synthesized by our collaborators in Professor Asatekin's research group in the Chemical & Biological Engineering Department here at Tufts. The trip was highly productive with data being collected on a variety of polymers as well as the successful employment of our newly developed methodology to study nanofibers in a fast scanning calorimeter. Nelaka and Dave will be presenting on their results from these experiments at the upcoming March Meeting of the American Physical Society in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Department Chair Hugh Gallagher

Professor Gallagher Becomes Department Chair
August 2016

Professor Hugh Gallagher takes on a new role as Chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Professor Gallagher remarks: "I am excited to be taking over the role of Chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department from Professor Roger Tobin. Roger will be a hard act to follow. Under his leadership over the past seven years the Department has seen tremendous growth and change. We are now all housed under one roof at 574 Boston Ave, and our number of majors, course offerings, and graduate programs have all grown under his leadership. I look forward to working with our incredibly talented staff to maintain this trajectory over the coming years, and to supporting our faculty in their research pursuits."

Goodbye to Friend and Colleague Allen Everett
June 2016

The Department of Physics and Astronomy notes with sorrow the passing of our esteemed friend and colleague Allen Everett.

Allen joined the Tufts Physics Department faculty in 1960, just after he completed a PhD in theoretical physics at Harvard. His early research was in the areas of nuclear and high energy physics, including the structure of the deuteron and the S-matrix approach to fundamental interactions. He was chair of the department between 1977 and 1980, and during this time recruited two theoretical physicists with interests in general relativity and theoretical cosmology, Alex Vilenkin and Larry Ford. Allen soon switched his attention to these areas, and the three of them founded the Tufts Institute of Cosmology, the first center in the United States devoted to theoretical cosmology. The Center has since achieved international prominence.

Allen and his colleagues sought to apply fundamental principles of particle physics to understand the processes in the early universe that gave rise to the universe that we see around us today. Allen researched the effects of phase transitions earlier in the history of the universe in forming topological defects, like cosmic strings and domain walls. The search for such defects still continues, and their detection would provide information about particle physics at the highest energies and about the early universe. Later he turned his attention to the deep question of the limits which the laws of physics place on faster than light travel and time travel. He did not seriously expect that these exotic effects actually occur in nature, but did believe that we can learn a great deal by probing the limits of physics and understanding why time travel is difficult or impossible.

Allen was also a dedicated teacher who cared deeply about the success of his students, and sought to give them an understanding of the key principles of physics. For several years, he taught an introductory calculus based physics course taken by all science and engineering majors at Tufts. He developed a course on time travel which appealed to a broad range of students, including those majoring in non-science areas. This course combined science fiction and a study of the basics of relativity theory. After his retirement in 2004, he built on that experience and his research to coauthor with Thomas Roman a book, "Time Travel and Warp Drives: A Scientific Guide to Shortcuts through Time and Space," which explains to non-experts what the laws of physics do say about faster than light travel and time travel. In recent years all graduating seniors in physics and astronomy have received a copy as a gift from the department.

Allen's generosity to Tufts, Tufts students, and the Physics-Astronomy Department did not end with his retirement. In the past few years he made substantial financial donations to secure the future of the Institute of Cosmology and endow a room in the department's new home at 574 Boston Ave. With characteristic humility, Allen insisted that both of these contributions be in the name of his late colleague Allan Cormack.