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Eun-ah Kim's group proposes new topological superconductor

The Keck Foundation announced in early July that it had awarded $1 million to a Cornell cross-campus collaboration of professors in engineering and physics aimed at turning theory into reality – namely, creating a specific topological superconducting material that could help pave the way to quantum computing.

The idea that sparked the group’s winning proposal came out of the group led by Eun-Ah Kim, associate professor of physics, and is now the first published research from a member of that five-member group.

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The metal-quantum paramagnet heterostructure proposed by a research group led by Eun-Ah Kim. The metal provides the charge carriers; the QPM provides a pairing interaction via spin fluctuations.

Paul McEuen collaboration reports unique property of bilayer graphene

Imagine walking through the Northwest wilderness, camera phone at the ready, hoping to catch at least a faint glimpse of Bigfoot, and instead returning home with an Ansel Adams-quality picture of the mythical beast as he lumbers past you.

That’s kind of what a team led by physics professor Paul McEuen has done in research into the optical properties of single-atom-thick layers of graphene.

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Infrared light illuminates bilayer graphene and create an exciton – a pairing of electron and hole, locating mostly at the top and bottom layers, respectively, of carbon atoms.

Natasha Holmes Group to Develop a VR Curriculum with Oculus

Andrea Stevenson WonNatasha Grace HolmesJonathan Schuldt, and their labs will develop a curriculum to compare the effectiveness of learning activities through table-top activities, computer simulations, and immersive, hands-on simulation in VR to better understand the tradeoffs and advantages of each. Beyond rote learning, this study will measure conceptual understanding, attitudes, and motivation while exploring the mechanics of moon phases and their impact on tides and sea levels.

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Cartoon of Children in VR sets; Image courtesy Yale Center for Health & Learning Games

Tomas Arias awarded the Stephen H Weiss Presidential Fellowship

Six Cornell faculty members — including four in the College of Arts Sciences — have been recognized by the university for excellence in their teaching of undergraduate students and contributions to undergraduate education.

The newest recipients of Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowships are Tomas Arias, professor of physics; Antonio DiTommaso, professor of soil and crop sciences; and Gerald Feigenson, professor of molecular biology and genetics.

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Itai Cohen contributes to the development of programmable 2D transformable synthetic tissue.

A group led by Rob Shepherd, assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is using the cephalopod as inspiration for a method to morph flat surfaces into three-dimensional ones on demand.

Shepherd has teamed up with Itai Cohen, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, and former postdoctoral researcher James Pikul, to devise a method for precisely transforming stretchable 2-D objects into 3-D shapes. Their method involves the use of rigid mesh, laser cut in a way that, when attached to a stretchable material, would constrain the material to form targeted shapes when inflated.

The group’s paper, “Stretchable Surfaces with Programmable Texture Morphing for Synthetic Camouflaging Skins,” will be published Oct. 13 in Science. Pikul, who did his research at Cornell under Shepherd and Cohen, is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Natasha Holmes focuses on how to measure critical thinking in lab pedagogy

Walk into the lab section of any science course and you’ll see students busy with beakers, microscopes, calculators and more. But what’s really going on in their minds?

“Although one may think that labs are inherently active, there’s some research showing the traditional ways that labs are structured – following rote procedures to get a proscribed outcome at the end – means students may be active with their hands but they’re not really active with their brains,” says Natasha Holmes, assistant professor of physics.

But no one really knows. While there have been lots of studies showing how active learning helps students in big lecture courses, there’s not much research on lab pedagogy. That’s where Holmes comes in. She’s the first researcher who focuses on educational practices hired within a discipline as a tenure-track professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. Using a recent Active Learning Initiative (ALI) grant, she and her team will redesign all lab courses for two introductory physics sequences.

Holmes also has a National Science Foundation grant with Carl Weiman of Stanford University to design an assessment for learning in labs. She asks, “Especially when we think about trying to teach students how to make sense of data and models and think critically and have them do some experiment, how do you test that? How do you actually measure whether what you’re doing is helpful?” The assessment’s goal, she explains, is to measure how well students assimilated the information during lab and can reproduce it in another context.

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