Department of Physics and Astronomy

Tweaking Course Paradigm Closes Equity Gaps in Physics Education

Physics faces an equity problem.

According to the latest statistics from the American Physical Society, underrepresented minorities accounted for only 15% of bachelor’s degrees, 12% of master’s degrees and 7% of doctoral degrees awarded to physics students. This equity gap, though not nearly as large, is also pronounced for women in physics, who account for 22% of bachelor’s degrees, 23% of master’s degrees and 20% of doctoral degrees awarded to physics students.     

'Oppenheimer' and UC Davis

Early in the movie 'Oppenheimer,' J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) visits the Berkeley laboratory where Ernest Lawrence is building a particle accelerator to study nuclear physics. The scene reminded me that the giant magnets from one of those accelerators later came to UC Davis, forming the core of the cyclotron at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory on campus. It is one of several links between Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project and UC Davis.

Four Faculty Receive Incentives for Large Grant Awards

A mathematician, a linguist, a chemist and a physicist are among this year’s cohort to receive Incentives for Large Grant Awards from the College of Letters and Science at UC Davis. The Incentives for Large Grant Awards program provides faculty with up to $80,000 in support over two years to pursue large grants over $1 million. “Large proposals require a significant investment of time and resources,” according to the Strategic Initiatives team behind the Incentives for Large Grant Awards program. “Often, our faculty are unable to pursue large grants because there is simply insufficient time to devote to proposal development and submission.” The Incentives for Large Grant Awards program aims to ease that difficulty.

Removing the Arrow of Time from The Equation

How did the universe become so good at hiding quantum physics? In two new papers appearing in Physical Review Research, UC Davis and Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers introduce a new model to explain the phenomenon of decoherence, when a system’s behavior shifts from being explainable by quantum mechanics to being explainable by classical mechanics. The new model divorces the arrow of time from the go-to theoretical tool for understanding decoherence: the Caldeira-Leggett model.

Earthquake 'Nowcasting' with Distinguished Professor John Rundle

Is it possible to predict earthquakes? For decades, earthquake researchers like Distinguished Professor John Rundle have explored various methods attempting to tackle this question. Rundle and his colleagues are exploring “nowcasting,” which uses methods inspired from the fields of finance, economics and meteorology to determine the earthquake potential of a region through time. In this video, Rundle discusses his interest in earthquake nowcasting and why this field of research is more important than ever.

Making Better Measurements of the Composition of Galaxies

A study using data from telescopes on Earth and in the sky resolves a problem plaguing astronomers working in the infrared and could help make better observations of the composition of the universe with the James Webb Space Telescope and other instruments. The work is published April 20 in Nature Astronomy. 

Glimpses of an Ancient Cosmos: What Are Gravitational Lenses?

To glimpse the earliest days of the cosmos, astronomers like UC Davis Associate Professor Tucker Jones rely not only on the magnification of telescopes, but also on powerful natural magnification from our cosmic neighbors in the form of gravitational lenses. For Jones, identifying these gravitational lenses is a first step to understanding the origin of the cosmos.

Mobile App Founded by UC Davis Physics Student Empowers Socially Responsible Investors

An app founded by a UC Davis graduate student is poised to revolutionize financial investing for the socially conscious. Fennel, a mobile investing app that gives users insights into a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics, was recently named one of Fast Company’s “10 most innovative companies in personal finance of 2023.” What’s more, the company has raised roughly $8.5 million in seed funding to support its growth during its beta stages.