Eric Sembrat's Test Bonanza

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Physics Colloquium - Prof. David B. Kieda

Ever since the first astronomical telescope observations made by Galileo (1610), optical astronomy has developed increasingly sophisticated methods for exploring the universe using only the  classical (wave-description) properties of light.

Tamara Bogdanovic is 2018 Leddy Family Faculty Fellow

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The College of Sciences has selected Tamara Bogdanovic to receive the 2018 Leddy Family Faculty Fellowship. The award recognizes her outstanding research leadership and educational innovation in high-energy astrophysics.

The two-year fellowship goes to a faculty member at the associate professor level. The award recognizes proven accomplishments in research and teaching. It is made possible by a generous gift to the College of Sciences by alumnus Jeffrey A. Leddy (B.S. in Physics 1978) and his wife, Pam. 

Bogdanovic is the second Leddy Family Faculty Fellow. In 2016, Dan Margalit, professor in the School of Mathematics, was named the inaugural recipient of the award.

“I am truly honored to have been selected for the 2018 Leddy Family Faculty Fellowship,” Bogdanovic says. “This award is unexpected but very much appreciated, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of an outstanding researcher, educator, and a colleague, Dan Margalit. I am very grateful to the Leddy family for their generous gift and commitment to research and teaching at Georgia Tech.”

“Tamara is clearly what one envisions of an exceptional faculty member. She is a person with a remarkable creativity in research, passion for teaching, and serious commitment to increasing the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in science.”

Bogdanovic focused her early efforts on likely electromagnetic and gravitational wave signatures from the merger of supermassive black hole binaries. No such event has been observed so far. Her work paves the way toward discovery of such a titanic cosmic cataclysm.

Meanwhile, Bogdanovic has facilitated the search for paired supermassive black holes by identifying specific spectroscopic signatures as efficient criteria. Her approach is used by many other researchers to identify from archival data sets candidates for further monitoring and investigation.

Another phenomenon of interest is tidal disruptions of stars by black holes. When a star is close enough to a supermassive black hole, tidal forces from the black hole disrupt the star. A flash of radiation accompanies the disruption. Recent observations have confirmed Bogdanovic’s theoretical predictions about the characteristic spectral signatures of these events.

As an educator, Bogdanovic is passionate about innovation in teaching. She was a member of the task force that reviewed the introductory physics curriculum. In 2017, she organized a colloquium series on physics education, which helped define the future of introductory physics courses at Georgia Tech. She is proactive in training astrophysics graduate students. The course she developed on high-energy astrophysics is the core foundation for students working with faculty in the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics. 

“Tamara is clearly what one envisions of an exceptional faculty member,” says School of Physics Chair and Professor Pablo Laguna. “She is a person with a remarkable creativity in research, passion for teaching, and serious commitment to increasing the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in science.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” says College of Sciences Dean and Sutherland Chair Paul M. Goldbart. “I congratulate Tamara on her selection as the second Leddy Family Faculty Fellow. And I thank the Leddy family for its generous support of the College of Sciences.” 

Bogdanovic was a 2013 Sloan Research Fellow, a 2016 Cottrell Scholar, and a 2016 Cullen-Peck Fellow.

Media Contact: 

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

Summary: 

College of Sciences selects Tamara Bogdanovic for her outstanding research leadership and educational innovation in high-energy astrophysics.

Intro: 

College of Sciences selects Tamara Bogdanovic for her outstanding research leadership and educational innovation in high-energy astrophysics.

Alumni: 

Simon Sponberg Wins Major Funding to Study Insect Brains

Friday, June 29, 2018

“Movement is a defining feature of animals,” says Simon Sponberg. He is an assistant professor in the School of Physics and of Biological Sciences. How animals navigate their environments is the motivating question of his research program.

Studying animal movement makes for riveting experiments. For example, Sponberg used high-speed infrared cameras to observe, at low light conditions, moths tracking 3-D-printed flowers oscillating at various speeds. The set-up emulates the natural world of Manduca sexta, or hawk moth. Like a hummingbird, this moth feeds by extending its proboscis into flowers, which may be swaying with the wind – at dusk.   

Such dynamic behavior requires neural systems to organize and coordinate many muscles to control the moth’s wings all in fractions of a second. It creates extreme motor and sensory demands on the moths. How do they do it?

Using tethered moths tracking plastic flowers, Sponberg discovered that the moth slows down certain brain functions to improve its vision in dim light. The moths’ neural circuits are adapting exquisitely to the environment.

Other work shows how this small, but still sophisticated brains of insects collect and act upon multiple sensory signals at the same time. “Surprisingly,” Sponberg says, “some very simple physics-based models can describe a lot of how the moth sees and feels its world.”

These findings are tiny pieces of a huge puzzle. The full picture will likely take a long time to complete.

In three years, however, parts of it may emerge, thanks to a major research grant. The Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Fund and the Simons Foundation have awarded Sponberg a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Award in Neurosciences for a period of three years. The grant will support research described in the proposal “Timing, Learning, and Coordination in a Comprehensive, Spike-Resolved Motor Program for Flight.”

The work is part of Sponberg’s broader research goal: to understand how stable and maneuverable movement emerges from the neural and muscular systems of animals in their natural environments. If we know the biophysics of these movements, we may know how the brain could activate and control muscle to modify movement.

“This award will catalyze a lot of work that would not be otherwise possible,” says Sponberg, who is also a member of the Parker H. Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience. “Specifically my research group has been developing a way to have unprecedentedly complete access to all the signals the animal’s brain is sending to its muscles, all during a challenging and highly dynamic behavior like flight.

“Instead of getting a small piece of the picture of what the brain is trying to do, we want to have complete read-and-write access to its neuromuscular signals to understand how it is executing agile maneuvers.

“The Klingenstein-Simons fellowship will enable us to take this project from is initial stages toward a deeper understanding of learning and coordination during locomotion – ideas that we think are common across all animals.”

The research is informed by myriad disciplines: computational neuroscience, electrophysiology, neuromechanics, and comparative biology. Sponberg group’s research tools -- small force and torque sensors, miniature insect-sized backpacks, virtual-reality worlds that the moth can control like a video game, and many tiny electrodes tapping into the animal’s brain and muscles –will yield high-dimensional datasets of all kinds of physiological signals.

From the vast amounts of data, Sponberg will extract neuromechanical principles. Ultimately, he hopes, the data will enable predictions about neural control and behavior.

More broadly, Sponberg’s research on movement bridges the gap between physics and organismal biology – the study of complex creatures. “The intersection of physics and organismal biology is a very exciting one right now,” Sponberg commented in 2017. “The assembly and interaction of multiple natural components manifests new behaviors and dynamics. The collection of these natural components manifests different patterns than the individual parts, and that’s fascinating.”

Media Contact: 

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

Summary: 

The Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Fund and the Simons Foundation have awarded Simon Sponberg a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Award in Neurosciences for a period of three years. The award will support Sponberg’s research, described in the proposal “Timing, Learning, and Coordination in a Comprehensive, Spike-Resolved Motor Program for Flight.”

Intro: 

The Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Fund and the Simons Foundation have awarded Simon Sponberg a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Award in Neurosciences for a period of three years. The award will support Sponberg’s research, described in the proposal “Timing, Learning, and Coordination in a Comprehensive, Spike-Resolved Motor Program for Flight.”

Alumni: 

Georgia Tech @ 71st American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting

The 71st American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia. This premier annual meeting is the largest gathering of the year for the fluid dynamics community. Organizers expect 3,400 attendees from around the world.

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