Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


Professor Atwater Receives James King Jr. Award


Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as the Director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, is the 2016 recipient of the James King Jr. Award. The award is given annual by the Caltech Center for Diversity to an individual who stands out as a strong supporter of diversity. Professor Atwater received several nominations which recognized “his commitment to recruiting, training, and encouraging female scientists to join and thrive in his research group.” One of his nominators wrote, “He has stood up for his female students when they have faced gender-biased behavior from others, and is a true advocate for all his students.” Another nominator stated that he “is a glowing example of how supportive faculty members can be in advisory roles.” Professor Atwater’s “efforts have long term positive effects for combating gender imbalances in academia.”

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Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis


In a recent New York Times article Professor Harry A. Atwater, Jr. discussed the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). He said, “The grand prize is figuring out how to make carbon dioxide be recyclable, a renewable resource. That would be a millennial advance for society.” JCAP was established in 2010 as a U.S. Department of Energy Energy Innovation Hub that aims to find new and effective ways to produce fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. “You can rest assured that the energy and catalysis problems of humanity will not have been resolved five years from now,” Professor Atwater said in the interview. But there is growing interest in the work, particularly after the recently signed Paris climate treaty that calls for sharp emissions reductions to combat global warming. “We have some wind at our back that we haven’t had until recently,” he added. [New York Times article]

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Undergraduate Wins Hertz Fellowships


Applied Physics senior Paul Dieterle has been selected by the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation to receive a 2016 Hertz Fellowships.  The fellows are chosen for their intellect, their ingenuity, and their potential to bring meaningful improvement to society.  At Caltech, Paul has worked and studied under the guidance of Engineering and Applied Science Professors Painter and Schwab. His research focuses on the physics of superconducting quantum circuits, photon-phonon interactions, and many-body interactions. In the long term, he says, he aims to "construct integrated quantum systems to explore both fundamental and application-oriented physics." [Caltech story]

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Professor Phillips Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences


Rob Phillips, Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology, has been elected to the 2016 American Academy of Arts and Sciences class of fellows. Founded in 1780, the academy aims to serve the nation by cultivating "every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." [List of 2016 fellows] [ENGenious article]

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Professor Fultz Elected Fellow of the Neutron Scattering Society of America


Brent Fultz, Barbara and Stanley R. Rawn, Jr., Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics, has been elected as a Fellow of the Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA). He is being recognized for his “outstanding record of leadership and service to the neutron scattering community, and important discoveries in the field of vibrational entropy and alloy thermodynamics." [2016 NSSA Fellows]

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A Bright Future in Photovoltaics


Alumna Carissa Eisler discusses her passion for science and her research in Professor Harry Atwater’s group on photovoltaics—the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy using semiconducting materials. She was part of a group tasked with developing an ultrahigh-efficiency solar-cell module that involves designing solar collectors, optical components, and electronics. [e&s article]

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Using Applied Physics to Explain How Accretion Disks Drive Astrophysical Jets


Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics, has developed a new model explaining why astrophysical jets always originate from stars having accretion disks, the progenitors of planets. The relationship between jets and accretion disks has eluded scientists for many years and what happens to the angular momentum of accreting particles has also long been a mystery. Professor Bellan’s model explains how the disks power the jets as well as how angular momentum is removed from accreting material in the disks. The model involves peculiar inward spiraling trajectories of clumps of charged and neutral particles, and shows that the disk and jets together form an electric circuit where the disk is the battery and the jet is the load. [Read the Paper]

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Professor Greer Named National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow


Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, has been chosen as a 2016 class of National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow. The program awards grants to outstanding scientists and engineers at U.S. universities to conduct long-term, unclassified, basic research of strategic importance to the Defense Department. Professor Greer will conduct research in the area of Nano-architected Meta-materials. [U.S. Department of Defense Press Release]

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Seeking a Balanced Equation


Applied Physics graduate student Peter Hung, working with Professor Roukes, is one of the Caltech students featured in a recent E&S article. “In our lab, we shoot molecules of different sizes and shapes at really small mechanical resonators—tiny bridges almost 1,000 times smaller than the width of your hair—and use the change in the resonant frequency (how fast these bridges are vibrating) to reconstruct the shape and mass of the molecules that we’re shooting,” Hung explains. [E&S article]

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Professor Faraon Receives ONR Young Investigator Award


Andrei Faraon, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, is a recipient of a 2016 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Award. The objectives of the Young Investigator Program are to attract to naval research outstanding new faculty members, to support their research, and to encourage their teaching and research careers. Professor Faraon’s award is for his proposal entitled, Quantum Transduction Between Optical and Microwave Photons using Rare-Earth-Doped Materials. [Recipient List] [Caltech story]

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