Eric Sembrat's Test Bonanza

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Particle-Induced Viscous Fingering

Abstract

An inclusion of non-colloidal particles in a Newtonian liquid can fundamentally change the interfacial dynamics and even cause interfacial instabilities. In this talk, we report a particle-induced fingering instability when a mixture of particles and viscous oil is injected radially into a Hele-Shaw cell. 

The Many Guises of Absorbing-State Phase Transitions: Evolutionary Dynamics and Driven Amorphous Solids

Abstract

Certain non-equilibrium systems, including growing microbial colonies, amorphous solids under oscillatory shear, turbulent liquid crystals, and avalanches undergo dynamical phase transitions across which we observe fluctuating, active regions of the system either propagate and grow with time, or go extinct, forcing the system into an absorbing state. 

Where Science and Art Intersect

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Zhigang Peng wants you to hear Earth’s rumblings. Kenji Bomar wants to capture the exquisite beauty of the air around objects. Jennifer Leavey would like to spice up science instruction with sprinklings of punk rock science lyrics.

These projects are among 16 that recently won funding from the Creative Curricular Initiatives (CCI) of the Georgia Tech Office of the Arts and the Georgia Tech Council of the Arts. CCI aims to support members of the Tech community who are interested in exploring the connection between the arts and sciences. On top of funding, awardees will also receive mentoring in designing, evaluating, and sustaining their projects.

DATA SONIFICATION
A professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Zhigang Peng studies earthquakes and collects seismic data from all over the world.

One of the things Peng does with seismic data is to “sonify” them – that is, make them audible to human ears. His “earthquake music” collection includes sonifications of not only earthquakes but also of meteor impacts and nuclear tests. His sonification of the 2011 Japanese earthquake based on seismic data recorded in California has made it to the top 10 videos in Georgia Tech’s YouTube channel. By sonifying seismic data, Peng enables us to hear Earth’s vibrations that are otherwise inaudible and enables researchers to elucidate the physics of earthquakes and the processes that trigger them.  

For the CCI project, Peng will extend sonification to other fields of Earth and planetary sciences, with help from School of Music Professor Jason Freeman. “I would like to convert scientific data into sound tracks and videos that people can enjoy and easily understand,” Peng says.” He is excited about using sound, because “previously art and science have been connected mostly through images or visual products. Converting scientific data into audible ranges provides a new domain of communication.” 

SCHLIEREN IMAGING
An avid photographer, second-year physics major Kenji Bomar will focus his camera on air that is usually invisible, for example, the air currents around a burning candle tip or a warm hand. To capture these images, he will use a technique called Schlieren imaging.

“Schlieren imaging is used in laboratory settings to observe density and temperature gradients in fluids,” Bomar says. “The images produced by Schlieren imaging are very organic, adding a layer of sincerity to the art, which will largely focus on themes of creativity, passion, and bonds with loved ones.”

Although Schlieren imaging is primarily used in research, “the images created are so uniquely beautiful,” Bomar says. “Beauty isn’t limited by discipline. All it takes is a little ingenuity to find something truly enchanting.” 

Bomar plans to assemble the Schlieren apparatus in January 2018, complete photography by February, and exhibit photographs in April. The project will be an individual effort. However, Bomer says, “advice on the Schlieren apparatus will come from various Georgia Tech faculty, and inspiration for the photos will come from a variety of sources, including other Georgia Tech students.”

EDGY TAKES ON SCIENCE
Meanwhile, Jennifer Leavey will use CCI funding to extend the reach of nontraditional means to communicate science through irreverent stories and punk rock lyrics. Leavey is a senior academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences and is the College of Sciences’ coordinator of the integrated science curriculum. She also directs Georgia Tech’s Urban Honeybee Project.

As the genetically modified clone Leucine Zipper, Leavey does lead vocals for the punk rock science band she and others created in 2013 – Leucine Zipper and Zinc Fingers, named after biologically important protein motifs – for the Atlanta Science Festival.

“We’ve written an album’s worth of original songs,” Leavey says. “The lyrics align with fundamental concepts in chemistry, biology, and physics.”

For example, the song "Entropy," which the band performed in the 2017 Atlanta Science Festival, begins with these lyrics:

          Why are you always trying to organize things?
          Can’t you understand simple entropy?
          Why put order, where it’s not meant to be?
          You can’t control atoms, and you can’t control me
          Entropy: atomic anarchy (x 4)

Leavey would like to incorporate the band’s music in science instruction. She will use CCI funding to create audio and video recordings for class use.

In a separate CCI project, Leavey will create print copies of Charged, a science magazine she founded in 2012 and is now available only online. Contributors include students enrolled in Leavey’s STEM communications class.  

The magazine encourages contributors to write personal accounts of how science or the study of science affects them or to explain complicated topics “in an edgy, irreverent, creative way.” Stories should be fun and easy to read, like those in an entertainment or fashion magazine, but should not insult the reader’s intelligence.

“I am investigating the impact of creative science writing on attitudes toward science and persistence in STEM careers,” Leavey says. Through a print edition, students will not only write but also design layout and illustrations.

Photo Caption

Zhigang Peng and Earthquake Music 
When seismic data, recorded in California, from the 2002, magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Alaska are played 200 times faster than normal, humans can hear what they sound. The primary P wave becomes audible, sounding like distant thunder, while the tremor signals triggered by the earthquake’s surface wave sound like a rattlesnake.

Media Contact: 

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences

Summary: 

Zhigang Peng wants you to hear Earth’s rumblings. Kenji Bomar wants to capture the exquisite beauty of the air around objects. Jennifer Leavey would like to spice up science instruction with sprinklings of punk rock science lyrics.

Intro: 

Zhigang Peng wants you to hear Earth’s rumblings. Kenji Bomar wants to capture the exquisite beauty of the air around objects. Jennifer Leavey would like to spice up science instruction with sprinklings of punk rock science lyrics.

Alumni: 

Georgia Tech Faculty in 2017 Highly Cited Researchers List

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Twelve Georgia Tech scientists have made the 2017 Highly Cited Researchers list. Seven of them, listed below with the subject fields in which they are highly cited, are affiliated with the College of Sciences:

  • Claire Berger, Physics
  • Walter de Heer, Physics
  • Mostafa El-Sayed, Chemistry
  • Randall Engle, Psychiatry/Psychology
  • Nga Lee (Sally) Ng, Geosciences
  • Rodney Weber, Geosciences
  • Younan Xia, Materials Science, Chemistry, Physics

Clarivate Analytics Web of Science compiled the list, which is based on citations of papers published from 2005 to 2015. It features more than 3,300 unique authors who amassed sufficient citations to place them among the top 1% most cited in at least one of 21 subject fields.

Claire Berger is a professor of the practice in the School of Physics. Her scientific interests center on nanoscience and electronic properties of graphene-based systems.

Walter de Heer is Regents Professor in the School of Physics. He is renowned for research on nano-patterned epitaxial graphene and nanoclusters in beams.

Mostafa El-Sayed is Regents Professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Currently his research focuses on the use of nanoparticles in treating cancer.

Randall Engle is a professor in the School of Psychology. His research aims to elucidate the associations between working memory, cognitive control, and intelligence.

Nga Lee “Sally” Ng is an associate professor with joint appointments in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She studies aerosols, including their formation, life cycle, and health effects of aerosols.

Rodney Weber is a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. He is an expert on the sources, formation, and health effects of aerosols.

Both Ng and Weber also develop instruments for field study of aerosols.

Younan Xia is a professor with joint appointments in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Xia is widely known for seminal contributions to shape-controlled synthesis of metal nanocrystals with major impact on catalysis, plasmonics, and biomedicine. Xia is one of 20 authors cited in three subject fields.

Following are the other Georgia Tech faculty on the 2017 list of highly cited researchers:

  • Ian Akyildiz, Computer Science
  • Geoffrey Ye Li, Computer Science
  • Frank Rothaermel, Economics & Business
  • Zhong Lin Wang, Materials Science, Chemistry, Physics
  • Gleb Yushin, Materials Science
Media Contact: 

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences

Summary: 

Twelve Georgia Tech scientists have made the 2017 Highly Cited Researchers list; seven of them are affiliated with the College of Sciences.

Intro: 

Twelve Georgia Tech scientists have made the 2017 Highly Cited Researchers list; seven of them are affiliated with the College of Sciences.

Alumni: 

Greg Richards, Ph.D. in Physics

Friday, December 15, 2017

Gregory T. Richards applied to Georgia Tech for graduate school because of Tech’s academic reputation. But what sealed the decision was Tech’s proximity to his hometown – Birmingham, Alabama. “Having the ability to head home any weekend to visit friends or family provided a certain comfort in the knowledge that I could get away for a few days if necessary,” Greg says.

After completing his B.S. in Physics at Birmingham Southern College, in Alabama, Greg did not immediately go to graduate school. “I took about three years off from academics before coming to Tech,” he says.

“In the year prior to starting my graduate studies, I worked as a pharmacy technician at a Walgreens Pharmacy,” Greg recalls. “That job proved to be educational, despite not having much to do with physics. It gave me perspective of what life is like working outside of academics.”

Greg is graduating with a Ph.D. in Physics. His next stop is a postdoctoral stint at the University of Delaware.

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

I did not have specific expectations when I entered graduate school, except that the first-year coursework at Tech would be challenging. That was an accurate prediction.

Probably the most important thing I learned was the general process of doing science. I had excellent guidance from my thesis advisor and from other members of the VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) Collaboration, who reviewed my work.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

My Ph.D. supervisor, Professor A. Nepomuk Otte, was a brand-new faculty member when I became the first member of his research group. He funded my research assistantship for many semesters. In addition, he funded my attendance to a few conferences and meetings overseas. This experience was extra-special for me, because before graduate school, I had never been on an airplane.  Through overseas travel, I was able to network with many scientists in my subfield from all over the world.  Thanks to my Ph.D. supervisor, I can confirm that spending time abroad immensely broadens one's horizons.

Professor Sven Simon taught one of my elective courses, EAS 8803 Advanced Space Physics. He was the clearest and most effective lecturer I had at Georgia Tech, which is saying something given that the quality of teaching at Tech, in my experience, is generally high.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

The first ever detection of a gravitational wave was announced in February 2016, during my fifth year at Tech. It was a particularly exciting time for the School of Physics, because some members of the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics belong to the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the worldwide group of scientists responsible for the detection. The discovery prompted an on-campus watch party for the announcement, in addition to several interesting talks on campus by Georgia Tech faculty. We also had an off-campus party one night that week in celebration.  

What was the most valuable outcome of your participation in experiential learning activities?

My graduate research focused on gamma-ray astrophysics from the experimental and observational side. In 2012, I joined the VERITAS Collaboration, which comprises scientists who work on the VERITAS array of four very-high-energy gamma-ray telescopes located in southern Arizona.

One of the collaboration requirements is traveling to Arizona at least once a year to take data from sunset to sunrise for about two weeks. These observing shifts are staffed by three or so collaboration members, who spend a good deal of quality time together in the telescope control room. During my observing shifts, I learned how to properly operate the array. In addition, I learned a tremendous amount about all facets of our brand of science from the senior members of the collaboration.

What advice would you give to incoming graduate students at Georgia Tech?

  • Don't bite off more than you can chew.
  • Don't be afraid to take advantage of the mental health support offered by Tech; don't be afraid to complain if you think the mental health support you’re getting is not enough.
  • When selecting a research advisor, have an honest conversation about their expectations for the number of hours they want you putting in per week; look at other research groups if you don't think you can meet those expectations while taking care to stay mentally and physically healthy.
  • Prepare a few humorous remarks to deliver during conference talks; humor helps you stand out.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I have accepted an offer from the University of Delaware for a postdoctoral research position to continue working in gamma-ray astrophysics.

Media Contact: 

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences

Summary: 

Gregory T. Richards applied to Georgia Tech for graduate school because of Tech’s academic reputation. But what sealed the decision was Tech’s proximity to his hometown – Birmingham, Alabama

Intro: 

Gregory T. Richards applied to Georgia Tech for graduate school because of Tech’s academic reputation. But what sealed the decision was Tech’s proximity to his hometown – Birmingham, Alabama

Alumni: 

Kate Napier, B.S. in Physics

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Katherine Avery “Kate” Napier had wanted to attend Georgia Tech ever since she was in elementary school. Growing up, she attended summer robotics and swim camps at Tech and participated in annual dance performances at the Ferst Center for the Arts.  “I applied to Georgia Tech for early admission,” she recalls. “I still remember opening the acceptance email surrounded by my family. I never applied to another college. It was an easy decision.”

Napier is graduating with a B.S. in Physics, Astrophysics Concentration and Research Option. She attended Lakeside High School, in Atlanta. While in high school, she participated in the Scientific Tools and Techniques Program at Fernbank Science Center, taking about 15 hands-on science classes covering various topics – from anatomy to ornithology to astronomy. This experience deeply shaped her desire to study physics in college.

“My life has always been great,” Napier says, “because of my loving family and friends, the richness of my educational experiences, and the opportunities I had outside of school to pursue other interests.”

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

“Plan B” can be great.  Many of my most amazing opportunities are those I created because I refused to give up when my initial plans did not work out.  

The summer after my first year, after being declined to be a camp counselor, I was accepted to a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. I spent 10 weeks working on my own heliophysics research project, and I went to a conference in San Francisco in the fall to present my research.

At the end of my sophomore year, after applications to REU programs didn’t pan out, I reached out to School of Physics Professor Deirdre Shoemaker and was accepted to work with her and the Laser-Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) group, the international collaboration that was the first to detect gravitational waves in 2015. To have been a part of the greatest scientific discovery of this century will always be so special to me.

The summers after my third and fourth years, I applied to various REU programs and positions at NASA, but did not get any position. A mentor of mine from NASA helped me get an internship at NASA Ames in California. I worked for one of the same scientists this past summer, too, characterizing near-Earth asteroids.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

What surprised you most at Georgia Tech?

The multitude of opportunities at Georgia Tech far exceeded my expectations: many teams in various disciplines working on cutting-edge research, hundreds of student organizations, and study-abroad programs enabling exciting travel to many parts of the world.     

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

Deirdre Shoemaker, James Sowell, and Jennie Lincoln.

When Dr. Shoemaker substituted for one of my physics courses, I was immediately impressed with her brilliance, ability to engage students, and energy. After my sophomore year, I began working with her on gravitational-wave physics. It could not have been timed more perfectly, as the first detection of a gravitational wave occurred that fall. In addition to being my primary research adviser, Dr. Shoemaker taught the relativity class I took and advised the Georgia Tech Society of Women in Physics.

I went to high school with Dr. Sowell’s son. During my senior year, Dr. Sowell encouraged me to study physics at Georgia Tech. I took two of his classes, on the solar system and stellar astrophysics. I also worked with him during public nights at the Georgia Tech Observatory. In summer 2015, we did binary-star research, which was published in fall 2016.

Dr. Lincoln is one of my professors on the Pacific Study Abroad Program. She inspires me, as she has one of the most successful careers of any woman I know. Her work with President Jimmy Carter constantly reminds me of how important it is to show kindness to other people.    

These three professors have continuously supported my endeavors.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

February 11, 2016, was one of the best days of my time at Georgia Tech. On that day, LIGO announced that we had successfully detected our first gravitational wave.

My family and I were among those who attended the community viewing of a live press conference by the National Science Foundation. We were amazed to hear that the binary black hole system that created the gravitational wave was over one billion light years away. I will always remember the excitement of that day and the foundation it laid for a new era of gravitational wave astrophysics.

What was the most valuable outcome of your participation in experiential learning activities?

While in the Pacific Study Abroad Program in the spring of 2015, I scuba-dived on the Great Barrier Reef while spending the week on a remote island. In Fiji, I scuba-dived with about 40 sharks. On another scuba diving trip, I helped collect several hundred pounds of debris.

I climbed a volcano in New Zealand. I pointed a telescope at Jupiter while standing on the beach.

I witnessed life below the ocean’s surface and looked at other planets in the night sky. I was reminded of the vastness of nature. The richness of my adventures taught me about the importance of caring for the world and all of its beauty.

As humans are quickly destroying coral reefs, it is more important now more than ever to promote the well-being of all creatures. I hope to be a life-long adventurer and always take the time to ensure that my actions support sustainability.

What advice would you give to incoming Georgia Tech freshmen?

Develop well-roundedness in college. Life is much more than being a great scientist, engineer, mathematician, or businessperson. Academic and career pursuits are important and deserve proper attention and energy. However, it is equally important to be a good friend, citizen, and leader.

Get involved in communities that recognize your strengths and encourage you to pursue your passions. Take time for what makes you happy. Pursuing interests outside the classroom often makes you a better student.

I am passionate about increasing the number of women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As a part of One Voice Atlanta, Georgia Tech’s anti-sex-trafficking organization, I partnered with a local after-school program whose students come from low-income families and are at risk for becoming trafficked or traffickers. I help lead monthly STEM activities and plan field trips to Georgia Tech.

How did Georgia Tech help you for your next step after graduation?

I will start my Ph.D. in astrophysics in fall 2018. I am still applying so I do not know yet where I will be.

My Georgia Tech education helped prepare me for this next step by providing me many opportunities to think critically, innovate, work as a member of a team, and speak to the public about my research.

My ultimate dream is to be an astronaut. While at Georgia Tech, I met several astronauts including Sandra Magnus and Jan Davis. Seeing people who look like me excelling in the career I want to pursue inspires me and reassures me that I am capable.  

Media Contact: 

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences

Summary: 

Katherine Avery “Kate” Napier had wanted to attend Georgia Tech ever since she was in elementary school. Growing up, she attended summer robotics and swim camps at Tech and participated in annual dance performances at the Ferst Center for the Arts.  “I applied to Georgia Tech for early admission,” she recalls. “I still remember opening the acceptance email surrounded by my family. I never applied to another college. It was an easy decision.”

Intro: 

Katherine Avery “Kate” Napier had wanted to attend Georgia Tech ever since she was in elementary school. Growing up, she attended summer robotics and swim camps at Tech and participated in annual dance performances at the Ferst Center for the Arts.  “I applied to Georgia Tech for early admission,” she recalls. “I still remember opening the acceptance email surrounded by my family. I never applied to another college. It was an easy decision.”

Alumni: 

Probing the Function of Chromatin Remodeling Factors with Biomolecular Simulations

Abstract

Eukaryotes package and maintain their genetic code in chromatin fibers. The fundamental unit of chromatin is the nucleosome, a complex of approximately equal mass of protein and DNA molecules.  By altering the physical and biochemical properties of the nucleosome, the cell regulates the structure and stability of chromatin and thus tunes gene expression. 

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