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Department News

Changes to GRE General and Physics subject test scores starting the admission cycle for the 2022-2023 Academic Year
July 2021

The Physics and Astronomy Department has decided that, starting with the admission cycle for the 2022-23 Academic Year (i.e., Fall 2022 start of the PHD or MS programs), GRE General and Physics subject test scores are no longer required, will no longer be accepted, and will no longer be considered in the evaluation of graduate applications. In determining the admissibility of a prospective graduate student, the department attempts to carefully weigh all relevant factors, including transcripts of academic work, three letters of recommendation, a resume/CV, research experience, a personal statement, and official TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test (if applicable). A holistic approach to admissions is taken, carefully weighing all components of the application to make the best determination about which students will be a good fit in our department. The Physics and Astronomy Department is strongly committed to creating an inclusive, diverse graduate community whose members feel welcome and valued. However, we also recognize that the Physics and Astronomy communities have much work to do towards improving diversity and we strongly encourage members of historically under-represented groups to apply.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy Recognized the Class of 2021 with In Person Commencement on April 18th, 2021

On Sunday, April 18th, the Physics and Astronomy department honored its 2021 graduating students in person. 14 of our undergraduate and graduate students receiving degrees were able to attend the in-person department commencement ceremony coordinated by student services and the registrar’s office. Professor Larry Ford led the ceremony. Graduating seniors Allison Culbert and Robert Hoover spoke on behalf of the undergraduate class. Professor Hugo Beauchemin and Dean James Glaser were also in attendance.

Students recognized in person were: Max Mandel Kurzner (MS), Donovan D. Brady (BS), Bayley E. Cornish (BS), Allison E. Culbert (BA), Sadhya Garg (BS), Dalton L. Glenny (BS), Robert J. Hoover (BS), Lilianna Houston (BS), Maxwell H. Kaye (BS), Samantha M. Livermore (BS), Paul A. Lutkus (BS), Emanuel J. Ray (BS), and Jacob P. Sunnerberg (BS).

Recognized remotely were Andrew G. Clark (PhD), Derek M. Walkama (PhD), Noura Alzaidan (MS), Mudit Garodia (MS), Peter, S. Moore (MS), and Jacob T. Whitney (BS). Students also completing their degrees are Yifie Huang (PhD), Mudit Jain (PhD), Anuja Jayasekara (PhD),

A recording of the ceremony will be available at a future date through Tufts University.

Itamar Allali

Itamar Allali Receives GSAS Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education
April 2021

Itamar Allali is a third year Ph.D. student working in the field of cosmology. Itamar is working with Prof. Mark Hertzberg on a range of topics related to dark matter, gravitation, and cosmic history, for which he has already published several papers.

In addition to all his research, Itamar is an extremely passionate and dedicated teacher. He has done a brilliant job in his Teaching Assistant roles and has actively sought out additional teaching duties due to his passion for helping younger students. In fact, he has been the primary instructor for PHY 13 in the summer of 2020 and will do so again in 2021.

In addition, Itamar has sort out and participated in other learning modes that are engaged in developing more equitable teaching. One example is the “Listening Project”, which is designed to help faculty and TAs hear and see more in students’ thinking, working across science disciplines.

Itamar’s teaching evaluations have consistently been excellent. For example, students have commented on him as being “super enthusiastic”, “clear”, “passionate”, “approachable”, “knowledgeable”, “humble”, and “probably the best recitation TA I’ve had at Tufts”.

Altogether, Itamar has displayed all the desired features of a great educator: knowledge, passion, care, and desire to continually grow. Along with his great progress in his research, Itamar is an outstanding student, and fully deserving of the graduate award Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education.

Andrew Clark Receives GSAS Award for Outstanding Academic Scholarship
April 2021

Andrew Clark (right) is a fifth-year student who is graduating in May 2021 with a Ph. D. in physics. He has been working in the Polymer Physics Group with Prof. Peggy Cebe since early in 2018. (left to right) Miriam Salcedo Montero, Peggy Cebe, Nelaka Govinna. Andrew’s interdisciplinary research focuses on gaining a deeper physical understanding of a class of polymers known as polyzwitterions. These polymers contain positive and negative charges on each molecule, though overall they are electrically neutral. His work is directed at answering fundamental questions in polymer physics as well as providing the knowledge base for applications and performance enhancement of these unique polymers in “green” technologies. An interdisciplinary project with the group of Prof. Matt Panzer (CBE Dept.) focused on quantifying the behavior and interactions of ionic liquids and zwitterionic polymers in ionogels that are under development as next generation safer batteries. His work and insight were instrumental in providing proof of concept for an NSF grant on polyzwitterions awarded in 2020 to Prof. Cebe and Co-PI Prof. Ayse Asatekin (CBE). Andrew's work has led to seven oral and nine poster presentations at local, national, and international conferences, culminating in four first-author manuscripts, two already published and two ready for submission.

Andrew has shown outstanding leadership as manager of the Thermal Analysis facility, host of the Condensed Matter Seminar Series, and the graduate students' Union representative. He also contributed to STEM diversity and inclusion by serving as the teaching assistant for the 2019 summer internship program for deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) interns. Andrew worked with four DHH interns from the Rochester Institute of Technology conducting research into polyzwitterions. Andrew helped instruct the interns in safe practice in the lab, and trained and monitored them on proper usage of the high precision instrumentation of the Cebe Research Lab. He oversaw their experiments and data collection, and helped these students prepare their results for presentation to the Tufts community.

For his excellent scholarship in the conduct of his Ph. D. research, for his leadership and contributions to diversity in STEM education, Andrew has been awarded the graduate student Outstanding Academic Achievement Award.

Tufts Physics Researchers Demonstrate Spontaneous Topography in a Newtonian Fluid
February 2021

When you fill a glass with water, the interface with air is perfectly flat, except around the boundary where a meniscus forms due to the water wetting the glass. Tufts Physics faculty member Timothy J. Atherton together with Andrew J. Ferris and Charles Rosenblatt of Case Western Reserve University proposed and demonstrated a new mechanism to create a fluid/air interface that is not flat. Rather, the free fluid surface possesses an equilibrium topography, the size and shape of which they controlled from elsewhere in the fluid. To accomplish this feat they patterned a surface on the opposite side of a thin nematic liquid crystal film, resulting in a controlled alignment of the molecules throughout the film. Using this approach, they demonstrated experimentally and theoretically that such a pattern can result in a predetermined “bumpy” surface at the top of the fluid film, i.e., at the air interface. This is an example of “action at a distance”, where the physics at one location can alter some remote behavior. A rough analogy might be filling a pool with a liquid and having the bottom of the pool’s shape be reflected in the top surface—something that we don’t experience in everyday life! The effect, though very small, may be key to creating responsive and adaptive devices that can respond to an external stimulus, and ultimately enable the creating of shapeshifters (think Mystique from X-Men). The work was published in Physical Review Letters [126, 057803 (2021)], and was selected by the journal’s editors for special attention by the physics community.

Alexander Vilenkin

National Academy of Sciences Elects Professor Alexander Vilenkin as New Member
April 2020

Professor Alexander Vilenkin has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Members are elected by their peers in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.

The NAS is committed to furthering science in America, and its members are active contributors to the international scientific community. Approximately 500 current and deceased members of the NAS have won Nobel Prizes, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, founded in 1914, is today one of the premier international journals publishing the results of original research.

More details on Professor Vilenkin’s work and his contributions to science will be available on the NAS website in July.

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