Science is about experimentation, creativity, even play. The greatest breakthroughs have come from those who pushed the known limits to ask why, how, and ultimately what if. If this is how the best science is done, then why don’t we start giving students autonomy to explore and create in the lab early in their university training? If we do, Natasha G. Holmes, Physics, says that perhaps they’ll get a taste of what it means to be a scientist early enough that they’ll choose science as a career path.
Holmes studies the teaching and learning of physics, especially in lab courses, but her work is applicable more broadly across many disciplines. “In the lab students have their hands on the equipment,” she says. “I’m looking at what they are getting or not getting out of that experience and also digging into what the lab space is actually good for. As a loftier, long-term goal, how can we provide students with transferable skills that will make them critical thinkers and good citizens?”
The experimental realization of ultrathin graphene – which earned two scientists from Cambridge the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010 – has ushered in a new age in materials research.
What started with graphene has evolved to include numerous related single-atom-thick materials, which have unusual properties due to their ultra-thinness. Among them are transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), materials that offer several key features not available in graphene and are emerging as next-generation semiconductors.
TMDs could realize topological superconductivity and thus provide a platform for quantum computing – the ultimate goal of a Cornell research group led by Eun-Ah Kim, associate professor of physics.
“Our proposal is very realistic – that’s why it’s exciting,” Kim said of her group’s research. “We have a theoretical strategy to materialize a topological superconductor … and that will be a step toward building a quantum computer. The history of superconductivity over the last 100 years has been led by accidental discoveries. We have a proposal that’s sitting on firm principles.
“Instead of hoping for a new material that has the properties you want,” she said, “let’s go after it with insight and design principle.”
Since 1999, The Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 has awarded its international Prize to significant thinkers whose work exceeds the traditional framework of scientific knowledge, contributes to the understanding of science as an integral part of general culture and is concerned with unconventional ways of asking fundamental questions about cognition, being and human existence.
This year David Mermin will be recognized with the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 prize.David received a letter from the hormer Czech first lady, Dagmar Havlová informing him that he was chosen by the advisory body to be the 2017 recipient. The award is presented at a ceremony on October 5th, the birthday of President Václav Havel.
Notable laureates include Umberto Eco and Robert Reich, but there hasn't been a physicist selected until this year.
The electron microscope, a powerful tool for science, just became even more powerful, with an improvement developed by Cornell physicists. Their electron microscope pixel array detector (EMPAD) yields not just an image, but a wealth of information about the electrons that create the image and, from that, more about the structure of the sample.
“We can extract local strains, tilts, rotations, polarity and even electric and magnetic fields,” explained David Muller, professor of applied and engineering physics, who developed the new device with Sol Gruner, professor of physics, and members of their research groups.
Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing (CTL) has licensed the invention to FEI, a leading manufacturer of electron microscopes (a division of Thermo Fisher Scientific, which supplies products and services for the life sciences through several brands). FEI expects to complete the commercialization of the design and offer the detector for new and retrofitted electron microscopes this year.
The Lee Osheroff Richardson (LOR) Science Prize promotes and recognises the novel work of young scientists working in the fields of low temperatures and/or high magnetic fields in the Americas. Oxford Instruments is delighted to announce Dr Brad Ramshaw, Assistant Professor at Cornell University as the winner of the 2017 LOR Science Prize.
“I am truly honoured to have been awarded this prize. As I build my new lab in Clark Hall in the same basement where Lee, Osheroff, and Richardson did their ground-breaking work, I am continually reminded of and humbled by their legacy in low-temperature physics. Their work also reminds me that science is a collaborative effort, and I want to thank the mentors and colleagues who have made these experiments possible and who have immeasurably influenced my approach to science”, commented Ramshaw.
Dr Ramshaw is one of the most gifted young experimentalists currently active in the field of strongly correlated electron systems. Ramshaw’s technical contributions to condensed matter physics have focused on improving measurement techniques for pulsed magnetic fields up to 100 T, and on improving resonant ultrasound spectroscopy for low-temperature applications. He has applied these techniques to solve significant problems in both high-temperature and unconventional superconductivity. Most notably he has used quantum oscillation measurements to provide the first direct observation of the effects of quantum criticality on the electronic normal state of cuprate superconductors, and to determine that the Fermi surface of the cuprates is not reconstructed by magnetic order in high fields.
Researchers plumbing the mysteries of the brain gathered to share their discoveries at the inaugural Cornell Neurotech Mong Family Foundation Symposium, Sept. 29 in the Biotechnology Building.
The daylong symposium featured three of the winners of the prestigious Brain Prize – Winfried Denk, Ph.D. ’89; Karel Svoboda ’88; and David Tank, M.S. ’80, Ph.D. ’83 – all graduates of Professor Emeritus Watt Webb’s applied physics laboratory. The three built on their work in the Webb lab to develop multiphoton microscopy as an essential tool in brain research, allowing observation of minute brain structures and dynamic brain functions in real time.
Provost Michael Kotlikoff began the day with thanks for the “extraordinary generosity” of the Mong Family Foundation, guided by Stephen Mong ’92, M.Eng. ’93, MBA ’02, which enabled the university to launch Cornell Neurotech and sponsored the symposium. Cornell Neurotech’s efforts to understand how the brain produces behavior, thoughts and feelings “are vital goals with life-changing implications, and I am grateful to Stephen Mong and the Mong Family Foundation for enabling Cornell faculty and staff to strive toward them,” Kotlikoff said.