Four Faculty Among 2019 NSF Early-Career Award Winners
Graduate Student Spotlight: Elizabeth Mae Scott
During an introductory nuclear physics course her sophomore year, Elizabeth Mae Scott developed a need to understand things from their most basic, original structure. The course showed her how math becomes a language that physicists use to describe the world around them.
“Fundamental physics is a way to pry at the cosmos. It’s really fun to try to understand the tenets of how things work, to push the boundaries of how we describe our universe,” she said.
Scott earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics from Tulane University. Now a graduate student in nuclear physics at UT, she continues to push those boundaries as part of a collaborative experiment called Nab at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Nature Prefers Asymmetrical Pollen Grains, Study Finds
It’s no secret that pollen plays a vital role in plant reproduction worldwide, including the production of food. But for decades, scientists have been puzzled about the variety of patterns on the surface of these pollen grains—specifically, how they are formed and if they have a function.
A study published in Cell sheds some light on the subject, showing that plants favor the production of uneven, asymmetrical patterns on the surface of pollen grains over more symmetrical patterns.
“The pollen wall itself—the surface of a pollen grain—serves the important function of protecting the pollen grain genetic material from the environment as the pollen travels during the process of pollination. However, the function of the precise pattern on this surface is not well understood,” said Maxim Lavrentovich, assistant professor of theoretical biophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UT, and coauthor of the study.
Continue reading about Lavrentovich’s study at news.utk.edu.
Saturday Morning Lectures to Explain ‘Physics for Everyone’
Are space and time intertwined? Is light a particle or a wave? What are the building blocks of the universe?
“We invite the public to come to campus to hear some of our faculty talk about the fundamental building blocks of the universe, weird and mysterious quantum world, and Einstein’s revolutionary ideas,” said Kranti Gunthoti, program director.
Physicist’s Study Examines Potential Benefits of Rising Energy Costs
It’s rare that additional fees are welcome, but as physicist Steven Johnston and his colleagues suggest, sometimes they can actually be a pleasant surprise.
In a study published today in the journal Nature Communications, Johnston and his collaborators report on how extra energy costs associated with the movement of electrons in lithium copper oxides reveal more about these materials, and in turn help scientists better understand their electronic properties.
The researchers focused on insulators, materials that make it virtually impossible for electric current to flow. They noted that the way current moves is a key property of insulators, semiconductors, and superconductors, which could drive the electronics industry.
Continue reading on the Department of Physics and Astronomy’s website.