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Filippo Caschera

Synthetic Biology

Filippo Caschera is a Research Associate working on synthetic biology with Professor Vincent Noireaux. Synthetic biology is a multidisciplinary field that combines physics, biology and chemistry. Caschera has a Ph.D. in chemistry, but has always worked in physics because he likes the approach. ‘We build things from the bottom up, like legos, using pieces to build a system that will evolve. We are building to understand.” More »

Rafael Fernandes

Finding the Glue in Unconventional Superconductors

Most metals, when cooled below a certain temperature, become superconductors. A superconductor not only carries electric current without dissipation but it also expels the magnetic field from its interior. "Microscopically we understand that the system is in a new quantum state where pairs of electrons form bound states, called Cooper pairs, in a coherent way, " says Rafael Fernandes, a theoretical physicist who studies superconductivity. More »

J J Nelson

JJ Nelson: Hardware Guy

JJ Nelson, a graduate student in the Allen Goldman’s Superconductivity Laboratory is what’s known as a hardware guy. Nelson’s work bench is stacked with parts of various machines he’s repairing or building. For all the hardware solutions Nelson finds to improve his research-- such as a thermometer that he “grew” on the same chip next to his superconducting sample-- he stresses the importance of understanding the measurement, of which the hardware is just one part. A hardware guy has to have a good sense of what’s going on in the whole laboratory as well as understanding the physics. More »

Jorge Vinals

Out of Equilibrium

While most everyday observations of nature reflect its ever changing state, the subset of processes that physicists understand best are those in which the system studied is in equilibrium. Jorge Vinals is a theoretical physicist whose research focuses on systems that are out of equilibrium. More »

Evan Skillman

Dwarf Galaxies Provide Clues to Early Universe

Evan Skillman is an astrophysicist who studies helium abundances in dwarf galaxies to learn more about the very early universe. In the Big Bang theory, within the first three minutes, the material cools sufficiently to form the lightest elements—hydrogen, helium, and a tiny bit of lithium. All of the heavier elements are made later by stars, so the amount of helium relative to hydrogen is a prediction and therefore a strong constraint on the Big Bang theory. More »

Galaxy NGC 2403 with SN54J in the upper left corner.

Long-standing Supernova Mystery Solved

Professors Roberta Humphreys and Kris Davidson and graduate student Michael Gordon in the School of Physics and Astronomy and their collaborator Schuyler Van Dyk at Caltech have solved the 63-year-old mystery of a supernova that wasn’t. More »

In 1954, a star in a nearby spiral galaxy NGC 2403, brightened by about 100 times. It was considered a supernova, the explosion, and annihilation of a giant star, and was named SN 1954J. Its eruption lasted about a year before it faded. But SN1954J was peculiar.

Clem Pryke at the South Pole with the Keck Array team

Viewing the Beginning of the Universe from the Bottom of the World

Clem Pryke is a cosmologist who uses telescopes at the South Pole in Antarctica to learn about the origins of the Universe. Over the last couple of decades cosmology has moved from being the domain of mystics and philosophers to being a hard observational science. One of the pillars of this progress has been measurements of the radio "after-glow" of the Big Bang - known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). More »

Bryan Dahmes

Trigger Man

Sifting through data is a monumental task on physics experiments and the larger the experiment, the more the data piles up. At the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, Switzerland, the problem is so great that physicists can’t even record all of the events created by the collider. “We get data at a rate of more than a million events per second," says Bryan Dahmes a Research Associate at the University of Minnesota, who lives and works at CERN. More »

Neil Barnaby

Talking about the Primordial Universe

Neil Barnaby is a theoretical cosmologist whose research deals with the physics of primordial Universe. Barnaby says he was drawn to Cosmology because “it was a way to do some of the same mathematical calculations and still be in touch with real-world observations.” More »

Lee Wienkes adjusts some research aparatus

Understanding Amorphous Silicon

Lee Wienkes is a graduate student working with Professor Jim Kakalios on mixed-phase silicon thin films. The materials they study have two main applications, solar cells and thin film transistors (which help make LCD screens possible). Amorphous silicon can be easily deposited over a large area , which combined with its strong light absorption, make it an excellent candidate for cost effective solar cells. Unfortunately, due to the Staebler-Wronski effect, the efficiency of the cells degrade in the presence of light. “Amorphous silicon is a solar cell which works well in the dark." More »


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