From World Community Grid (WCG): “15 Years of Shining a Beacon for Science”

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From World Community Grid (WCG)

15 Nov 2019

Summary
To mark World Community Grid’s 15th anniversary, we’re asking you as volunteers, researchers, and supporters to publicly show your support for science on social media, in our forum, and on your own website or blog.

“Basic research is performed without thought of practical ends. It results in general knowledge and understanding of nature and its laws. The general knowledge provides the means of answering a large number of important practical problems, though it may not give a complete specific answer to any one of them.”

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Thanks to volunteers, researchers, and supporters of science all over the globe, World Community Grid has been a beacon for scientific research since 2004. What started out as a short-term initiative has grown into a major source of computing power for 30 basic science projects to-date. So far, this has led to breakthrough discoveries for childhood cancer, water filtration, and renewable energy, as well as more than 50 peer-reviewed papers about many smaller discoveries that may one day lead to future breakthroughs.

Future discoveries depend on the basic research of yesterday and today. And basic research projects often uncover knowledge no one expected, and lead to paths that were previously unknown. This past year, World Community Grid’s contribution to advances in basic research included:

Working with the FightAIDS@Home researchers to create a new, more efficient sampling protocol
Helping the Microbiome Immunity Project researchers predict almost 200,000 unique protein structures, which is more than all the experimentally solved protein structures to-date
Providing data to help lay the ground for new tools to analyze protein-protein interactions.

This is only possible because of generous volunteers who donate their unused computing power to research, and scientists who have the unique skills and patience to take on challenging problems that have no obvious answers.

We’re inviting everyone involved with World Community Grid to shine a beacon for science this week to help us celebrate our 15th anniversary. You can do this by:

Creating your own social media posts on your favorite platform (tag us on Twitter or Facebook so we can say thanks, and use the hashtag #Beacon4Science)
Posting your thoughts about being involved in World Community Grid in our forum
Sharing our Facebook post and/or retweeting our tweets on starting on Saturday, November 16
Sending us an email with your thoughts at beacon@worldcommunitygrid.org

Feel free to include pictures or videos, especially if they’re science or World Community Grid-related.

Thanks for helping us shine a beacon for science since 2004, and we look forward to continuing our important work together.

See the full article here.


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Ways to access the blog:
https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com
http://facebook.com/sciencesprings
World Community Grid (WCG) brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.”
WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.
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BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing.

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CAN ONE PERSON MAKE A DIFFERENCE? YOU BET!!

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“Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.

Please visit the project pages-

Microbiome Immunity Project

FightAIDS@home Phase II

FAAH Phase II
OpenZika

Rutgers Open Zika

Help Stop TB
WCG Help Stop TB
Outsmart Ebola together

Outsmart Ebola Together

Mapping Cancer Markers
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Uncovering Genome Mysteries
Uncovering Genome Mysteries

Say No to Schistosoma

GO Fight Against Malaria

Drug Search for Leishmaniasis

Computing for Clean Water

The Clean Energy Project

Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together

Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy

Help Fight Childhood Cancer

Help Conquer Cancer

Human Proteome Folding

FightAIDS@Home

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World Community Grid is a social initiative of IBM Corporation
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IBM – Smarter Planet
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#basic-research, #biology, #chemistry, #physics, #wcg

From Fermi National Accelerator Lab: “Discovery of a new type of particle beam instability”

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FNAL Art Image by Angela Gonzales

From Fermi National Accelerator Lab , an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

November 14, 2019
Alexey Burov

Accelerated, charged particle beams do what light does for microscopes: illuminate matter. The more intense the beams, the more easily scientists can examine the object they are looking at. But intensity comes with a cost: the more intense the beams, the more they become prone to instabilities.

One type of instability occurs when the average energy of accelerated particles traveling through a circular machine reaches its transition value. The transition point occurs when the particles revolve around the ring at the same rate, even though they do not all carry the same energy — in fact, they exhibit a range of energies. The specific motion of the particles near the transition energy makes them extremely prone to collective instabilities.

These particular instabilities were observed for decades, but they were not sufficiently understood. In fact, they were misinterpreted. In a paper published this year, I suggest a new theory about these instabilities. The application of this theory to the Fermilab Booster accelerator predicted the main features of the instability there at the transition crossing, suggesting better ways to suppress the instability. Recent measurements confirmed the predictions, and more detailed experimental beam studies are planned in the near future.

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Recent measurements at the Fermilab Booster accelerator confirmed existence of a certain kind of particle beam instability. More measurements are planned for the near future to examine new methods proposed to mitigate it.

Accelerating high-intensity beams is a crucial part of the Fermilab scientific program. A solid theoretical understanding of particle beam behavior equips experimentalists to better manipulate the accelerator parameters to suppress instability. This leads to the high-intensity beams needed for Fermilab’s experiments in fundamental physics. It is also useful for any experiment or institution operating circular accelerators.

Beam protons talk to each other by electromagnetic fields, which are of two kinds. One is called the Coulomb field. These fields are local and, by themselves, cannot drive instabilities. The second kind is the wake field. Wake fields are radiated by the particles and trail behind them, sometimes far behind.

When a particle strays from the beam path, the wake field translates this departure backward — in the wake left by the particle. Even a small departure from the path may not escape being carried backward by these electromagnetic fields. If the beams are intense enough, their wakes can destabilize them.

In the new theory, I suggested a compact mathematical model that effectively takes both sorts of fields into account, realizing that both of them are important when they are strong enough, as they typically are near transition energy.

This kind of huge amplification happens at CERN’s Proton Synchrotron, for example, as I showed in my more recent paper, submitted to Physical Review Accelerators and Beams. If not suppressed one way or another, this amplification may grow until the beam touches the vacuum chamber wall and becomes lost. Recent measurements at the Fermilab Booster confirmed existence of a similar instability there; more measurements are planned for the near future to examine new methods proposed to mitigate it.

These phenomena are called transverse convective instabilities, and the discoveries of how they arise open new doors to theoretical, numerical and experimental ways to better understanding and better dealing with the intense proton beams.

This work is supported by the DOE Office of Science.

Science paper:
Convective instabilities of bunched beams with space charge
Physical Review Accelerators and Beams

See the full here.


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Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

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From PPPL: “PPPL wins DOE funding for entrepreneurship”

From PPPL

November 13, 2019
Jeanne Jackson DeVoe

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Craig Arnold, a professor of Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, and founder of TAG Optics Inc., discusses his experiences starting a business at the Jan. 23 Entrepreneurship Lunch and Learn in the MBG Auditorium. (Photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications)

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) will expand an entrepreneurship “lunch and learn” program pioneered at PPPL last year and appoint mentors to help and encourage potential entrepreneurs in the Laboratory through two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects totaling $70,000 awarded to PPPL’s Technology Transfer Office.

PPPL will participate in three and receive funding for two of 12 projects through DOE’s Practices to Accelerate the Commercialization of Technologies (PACT) program developed by DOE’s Office of Technology Transition (OTT) to help promote the transition of inventions developed at the 17 national laboratories and plants to the marketplace.

“I’m thrilled that PPPL received these awards,” said Laurie Bagley, head of Technology Transfer. “We are delighted to have the funding to provide support and training to our entrepreneurs, as well as to provide mentorship and training in collaboration with other laboratories.

A goal of instilling entrepreneurship

Steve Cowley, laboratory director, said he is glad to see funding for programs that encourage PPPL inventors. He noted that the DOE set a goal of instilling a culture of entrepreneurship as a “notable” requirement for all national laboratory directors in fiscal years 2019 and 2020. “One of PPPL’s major goals is to develop useful new technologies of all kinds,” Cowley said. “Laurie has done a wonderful job in developing programs to encourage entrepreneurship and these awards are a reflection of that. I hope everyone on our staff will take advantage of these programs and learn how to bring out their inner inventors.”

PPPL received $40,000 from the DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions to continue and expand the Entrepreneurship Lunch and Learn program begun last year by Bagley, to offer information and support to current and future entrepreneurs at the Laboratory. The additional funds will allow PPPL to bring in a wider variety of experts on a range of topics affecting entrepreneurs, Bagley said. Topics could include how to identify ideal customers, developing marketing leads and plans, intellectual property’s role in a start-up, and entrepreneur success stories. The talks could also help improve the skill set of inventors presenting their technologies at events such as the Innovation Discovery Events, technology showcases or Energy I-Corps programs, Bagley said.

This award is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship throughout PPPL’s staff, not just physicists and engineers. “The goal is to get people here thinking more entrepreneurially, so if they are working on a technology that can be patented or have an idea to start a business, they’ll have a deeper understanding to make those decisions,” Bagley said.

PPPL’s Office of Technology Transfer offered four such talks last year to audience members and ranged from advice from a Princeton University entrepreneur on the challenges of starting a business to services available to entrepreneurs through Princeton University and the DOE’s Office of Technology Transition’s Program.

Funding for research liaisons

The Laboratory will also participate in a $30,000 project through a new pilot initiative, the DOE Technology Transfer Research Liaison Program. The program was championed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as a collaborative effort with 11 national laboratories, including PPPL. The idea is to strengthen the relationship between the lab’s tech transfer office and its researchers and engineers to identify inventors and encourage and advise them about how to develop technologies, some of which can eventually be brought to market. PPPL will select three liaisons, who will receive training along with liaisons at other laboratories. The liaisons will then serve as champions and mentors by offering help and encouragement on questions about invention disclosures, patents, and other technology transfer issues.

In addition to the awards, PPPL was named as one of 11 partners in another new DOE program, Diversity and Inclusion in InVentorship and EntrepReneurship Strategies and Engagement (DIVERSE), which is aimed at encouraging a more diverse pool of inventors and entrepreneurs.

See the full article here .


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Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.http://www.energy.gov.

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From MIT News: “Using light to generate order in an exotic material”

MIT News

From MIT News

November 11, 2019
David L. Chandler

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An artist’s impression of a light-induced charge density wave (CDW). The wavy mesh represents distortions of the material’s lattice structure caused by the formation of CDWs. Glowing spheres represent photons. In the center, the original CDW is suppressed by a brief pulse of laser light, while a new CDW appears at right angles to the first. Image: Alfred Zong

Physics experiment with ultrafast laser pulses produces a previously unseen phase of matter.

Adding energy to any material, such as by heating it, almost always makes its structure less orderly. Ice, for example, with its crystalline structure, melts to become liquid water, with no order at all.

But in new experiments by physicists at MIT and elsewhere, the opposite happens: When a pattern called a charge density wave in a certain material is hit with a fast laser pulse, a whole new charge density wave is created — a highly ordered state, instead of the expected disorder. The surprising finding could help to reveal unseen properties in materials of all kinds.

The discovery is being reported today in the journal Nature Physics, in a paper by MIT professors Nuh Gedik and Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, postdoc Anshul Kogar, graduate student Alfred Zong, and 17 others at MIT, Harvard University, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University, and Argonne National Laboratory.

The experiments made use of a material called lanthanum tritelluride, which naturally forms itself into a layered structure. In this material, a wavelike pattern of electrons in high- and low-density regions forms spontaneously but is confined to a single direction within the material. But when hit with an ultrafast burst of laser light — less than a picosecond long, or under one trillionth of a second — that pattern, called a charge density wave or CDW, is obliterated, and a new CDW, at right angles to the original, pops into existence.

This new, perpendicular CDW is something that has never been observed before in this material. It exists for only a flash, disappearing within a few more picoseconds. As it disappears, the original one comes back into view, suggesting that its presence had been somehow suppressed by the new one.

Gedik explains that in ordinary materials, the density of electrons within the material is constant throughout their volume, but in certain materials, when they are cooled below some specific temperature, the electrons organize themselves into a CDW with alternating regions of high and low electron density. In lanthanum tritelluride, or LaTe3, the CDW is along one fixed direction within the material. In the other two dimensions, the electron density remains constant, as in ordinary materials.

The perpendicular version of the CDW that appears after the burst of laser light has never before been observed in this material, Gedik says. It “just briefly flashes, and then it’s gone,” Kogar says, to be replaced by the original CDW pattern which immediately pops back into view.

Gedik points out that “this is quite unusual. In most cases, when you add energy to a material, you reduce order.”

“It’s as if these two [kinds of CDW] are competing — when one shows up, the other goes away,” Kogar says. “I think the really important concept here is phase competition.”

The idea that two possible states of matter might be in competition and that the dominant mode is suppressing one or more alternative modes is fairly common in quantum materials, the researchers say. This suggests that there may be latent states lurking unseen in many kinds of matter that could be unveiled if a way can be found to suppress the dominant state. That is what seems to be happening in the case of these competing CDW states, which are considered to be analogous to crystal structures because of the predictable, orderly patterns of their subatomic constituents.

Normally, all stable materials are found in their minimum energy states — that is, of all possible configurations of their atoms and molecules, the material settles into the state that requires the least energy to maintain itself. But for a given chemical structure, there may be other possible configurations the material could potentially have, except that they are suppressed by the dominant, lowest-energy state.

“By knocking out that dominant state with light, maybe those other states can be realized,” Gedik says. And because the new states appear and disappear so quickly, “you can turn them on and off,” which may prove useful for some information processing applications.

The possibility that suppressing other phases might reveal entirely new material properties opens up many new areas of research, Kogar says. “The goal is to find phases of material that can only exist out of equilibrium,” he says — in other words, states that would never be attainable without a method, such as this system of fast laser pulses, for suppressing the dominant phase.

Gedik adds that “normally, to change the phase of a material you try chemical changes, or pressure, or magnetic fields. In this work, we are using light to make these changes.”

The new findings may help to better understand the role of phase competition in other systems. This in turn can help to answer questions like why superconductivity occurs in some materials at relatively high temperatures, and may help in the quest to discover even higher-temperature superconductors.Gedik says, “What if all you need to do is shine light on a material, and this new state comes into being?”

The work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Skoltech-MIT NGP Program, the Center for Excitonics, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

See the full article here .


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The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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From Symmetry: “Transitions into medical physics”

Symmetry Mag
From Symmetry<

11/12/19
Catherine N. Steffel

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Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha

Scientists who moved from particle physics or astrophysics to medical physics sit down with Symmetry to talk about life, science and career changes.

“I wasn’t one of those people who grew up knowing that they wanted to be a scientist,” says Jennifer Pursley.

Pursley found her way to physics through enthusiastic and supportive instructors. She conducted research in experimental atomic, nuclear and particle physics before finally discovering medical physics.

Medical physicists use their knowledge of physics to develop and improve medical diagnoses and treatments. Some medical physicists create better and safer radiation therapies for cancer patients, others more accurate imaging technologies. Some work exclusively in radiation protection as health physicists, a profession often (but not always) distinguished from medical physics.

Many particle physicists and astrophysicists like Pursley have transitioned into medical physics, taking a variety of paths to get there. To learn more, Symmetry writer Catherine Steffel spoke with five individuals, ranging from those still in training to established professionals, who entered medical physics at different stages in their careers.

Hunter Stephens

Current position: Medical physics PhD student at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States

Education: BS in mathematics from Tennessee Technological University; MS in theoretical particle astrophysics from North Carolina State University, both in the United States

Year he entered medical physics: 2018

How he came to medical physics: I finished my coursework and written PhD qualifying exams and was only doing research when I thought, is research something I want to do long-term? I started looking into other options. I had heard of medical physics, but I didn’t know what it was. I started talking to people and meeting with people.

My main love is still research. I considered just doing a certificate program and looking for a residency, but it wasn’t going to cost me much time to make the switch [to a medical physics PhD].

Current area of research: Optimization and fast photon dose calculations.

Most surprising part of the job: Seeing the broad reach of a field that’s almost unrecognized. I’m surprised that I didn’t hear about it before.

Whether he misses astrophysics: Sure, but it’s one of those things where I know I’m going to love either one, and I’d miss the other.

Future plans: I plan to do a clinical residency and become board-certified.

Advice for future medical physicists: Know yourself well. In physics, it’s like everything and everybody outside is less than. If you really enjoy something and you see yourself fitting in better somewhere else, don’t let that stigma or what people think change that.

Laza Rakotondravohitra

Current position: Radiation therapy resident at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States

Education: MS in nuclear physics from University of Antananarivo in Madagascar; PhD in experimental particle physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in the United States; post-doctoral certificate in medical physics from Wayne State University in the United States

Year he entered medical physics: 2016

How he came to medical physics: Every two years, scientists from the US, Europe and Africa hold the African School of Physics, where selected students from underdeveloped countries, such as Madagascar, meet for a month of training. That’s how I discovered experimental particle physics and medical physics.

Two years later, I got an offer for the Fermilab International Fellow Scholarship. I thought that I could switch to medical physics while doing experimental particle physics research, but it didn’t happen that way. After I was accepted to the medical physics certificate program at Wayne State University, I did research at Henry Ford Health System on the MRLinac while taking classes. Doing those simultaneously made the transition relatively easy.

Most challenging part of going into medical physics: As an international student, I had a lot of questions and had to second-guess everything. I worked really hard to come to the US, and now I want to share my experience with my students. Maybe that saves them half a year, you know?

Most rewarding part of the job: I do the same amount of coding as I did in experimental physics, except the input data and output goal are different. It’s very rewarding because I’m doing physics like I’ve done all my life, but now someone benefits immediately.

Future plans: Become an ABR-certified academic clinical physicist. The more time you spend in the clinic, the more you want to improve things, and improvement requires research. I also want to work together with people to bring medical physics to my country, like I did with high-energy physics.

Advice for future medical physicists: Be prepared to humble yourself. When I finished my PhD with my friends, they went into post-doc while I went back to class. Also, be patient. If you want to have a good future, you have to invest in what you have right now.

Jennifer Pursley

Current position: Clinical and academic medical physicist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Education: BS in physics from Gonzaga University; MA and PhD in physics from Johns Hopkins University; postdoctoral research position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; post-graduate certificate in medical physics and residency in the Harvard Medical Physics Residency Program, all in the United States

Other careers considered: Science and technology policy

Year she entered medical physics: 2010

How she came to medical physics: Going from particle physics to medical physics is not as common as it used to be. Now that we have medical physics graduate programs, more people will be coming from that pathway. But my progression since residency is pretty typical for an academic clinical physicist in the United States.

I did two summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs, one in atomic and the other in nuclear physics. Job prospects pushed me to the thing that seemed most similar to nuclear physics, which was particle physics. By the end of my second year of post-doc, I wanted a job that was more satisfying, in the sense of having an immediate impact.

Most challenging part of the job: Balancing responsibilities. It’s easy to let clinic take all of your time because it’s satisfying and there’s always something to do. I really had to figure out what I wanted and how to balance clinical work and research.

On the job: My clinical responsibilities have shifted. As a resident, I learned how to do treatment planning and machine QA. As a junior physicist, I did that stuff. Now, I’m moving into a leadership, mentoring, and teaching role and spending more time on research.

What she misses about particle physics: I miss having a big, collaborative group. Medical physics research often happens in a vacuum, since every institution has different software environments and commercial products. The field is starting to realize this is an issue, but there’s a long way to go.

On the future of the field: Early on, research was primarily technology development. More recently, it’s software driven. Now, I see research going in two directions. There’s big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, which I think will provide some efficiency savings. There’s also radiation biology, which I’m most interested in. Namely, how do we personalize treatments, rather than just saying, “Because this works for most people, that’s what everyone gets”? Physicists can tease out information from data we already have.

Advice for future medical physicists: Make sure you will enjoy whatever field you go into. Talk to people who are in the field, and if they’re people who have come from your current field, even better.

Ane Appelt

Current position: Academic and part-time clinical medical physicist at Leeds University, Leeds, England

Education & training: BS in physics from University of Southern Denmark; MS in elementary particle physics from University of Durham in England; PhD in medical physics and radiation oncology from University of Southern Denmark; postdoctoral research position at Rigshospitalet in Denmark and MD Anderson Cancer Center in the United States

Other careers considered: Science communication

Year she entered medical physics: 2009

How she came to medical physics: My theoretical [particle physics] research—for long-baseline neutrino experiments—became very demotivating because whatever came out of my project, it would be decades before anybody built the experiments. I applied to a couple of medical physics positions by chance, and I started doing research after I worked at a hospital in Denmark for about three months.

In Denmark, you train for three years and complete modules that combine self-study, on-the-job training, and official courses. A training supervisor signs off on your progress reports, which are then approved by a central board.

In contrast, training in the UK is directly connected to the university with on-the-job training, modules, an MSc [master of science] project, and a final review [exam]. In both Denmark and the UK, we are registered, not board-certified like in the US.

On the job: Clinically, I’m in radiotherapy treatment planning. From a research perspective, I’m interested in reducing and predicting side effects of treatment. I also work on optimizing when we deliver a second course of radiotherapy.

Similarities between particle and medical physics: You have large amounts of messy data that you need to clean and analyze.

Most rewarding part of the job: You get to use your high-level skills, all your intellectual capacity, on something that matters.

Most challenging part of the job: Because I’m not a clinician, I’m always relying on other people, which is amazing but also super frustrating at times. Sometimes I wonder if I can do an MD part time!

Magdalena Bazalova-Carter

Current position: Academic medical physicist at University of Victoria, BC, Canada

Education: MS (or BS, depending on who you talk to) in physics from the Czech Technical University; PhD from McGill University in Canada; postdoctoral research position at Stanford University in the United States

Year she entered medical physics: 2005

How she came to medical physics: I studied dosimetry rather than medical physics in college so that I could work at CERN. When I moved to Canada, they would not recognize my MS degree from the Czech Republic, so I took medical physics courses at McGill University. Then I went to the US, where, when I was applying for the clinical board exam, my MS from the Czech Republic was recognized!

On the job: My ideal job would be a mix of clinical and research, which is why I pursued board certification, but when I moved to Canada, I could only do academic work and research because of my visa. After I got permanent residency, I had my daughter and wanted to spend time with her. So, right now, I do not do clinical work or use my board certification.

I am an assistant professor and a Canada Research Chair, which gives me a decreased teaching load. I supervise four graduate and two undergraduate students in my lab, the X-ray Cancer Imaging and Therapy Experimental (XCITE) lab, and I’m on too many committees. Saying “no” is increasingly important to me.

Differences between particle and medical physics: I had to rely on too many people to make progress on ATLAS, to the point where I wasn’t sure I would finish my PhD. In medical physics, we are the only ones responsible for a project, and it’s on us whether or not we finish.

Most surprising part of the job: The composition of conference attendees. I was used to being the only woman and one of the few young people at conferences. When I went to my first medical physics conference, the energy was very different—there were lots of young people, lots of women, and they were presenting.

Most rewarding part of the job: Supervising students. I graduated my first two students this year.

Another rewarding part of the job: Every new idea we have is beneficial. It would be great if more people were coming to medical physics from high-energy physics and fields like engineering. In Czech, we have a saying that “the bread will not be cheaper.” A discovery or new treatment modality won’t make the bread cheaper, but you will be saving patients’ lives or improving their quality of life.

Future plans: The minimum goal I have is to get my students good positions. I have a proposal on FLASH radiotherapy with TRIUMF. We don’t know whether our work will be clinically translatable, but we’ll see if we can make a difference.

See the full article here .


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From The New York Times: “Ultra-Black Is the New Black”

New York Times

From The New York Times

Nov. 11, 2019
Natalie Angier

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A work by the M.I.T. artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe: a 16.78-carat diamond, one of the most brilliant materials on Earth, under a glass dome and cloaked in black carbon nanotube material, the blackest black we know.Credit…Diemut Strebe

On a laboratory bench at the National Institute of Standards and Technology was a square tray with two black disks inside, each about the width of the top of a Dixie cup. Both disks were undeniably black, yet they didn’t look quite the same.

Solomon Woods, 49, a trim, dark-haired, soft-spoken physicist, was about to demonstrate how different they were, and how serenely voracious a black could be.

“The human eye is extraordinarily sensitive to light,” Dr. Woods said. Throw a few dozen photons its way, a few dozen quantum-sized packets of light, and the eye can readily track them.

Dr. Woods pulled a laser pointer from his pocket. “This pointer,” he said, “puts out 100 trillion photons per second.” He switched on the laser and began slowly sweeping its bright beam across the surface of the tray.

On hitting the white background, the light bounced back almost unimpeded, as rude as a glaring headlight in a rearview mirror.

The beam moved to the first black disk, a rondel of engineered carbon now more than a decade old. The light dimmed significantly, as a sizable tranche of the incident photons were absorbed by the black pigment, yet the glow remained surprisingly strong.

Finally Dr. Woods trained his pointer on the second black disk, and suddenly the laser’s brilliant beam, its brash photonic probe, simply — disappeared. Trillions of light particles were striking the black disk, and virtually none were winking back up again. It was like watching a circus performer swallow a sword, or a husband “share” your plate of French fries: Hey, where did it all go?

N.I.S.T. disk number two was an example of advanced ultra-black technology: elaborately engineered arrays of tiny carbon cylinders, or nanotubes, designed to capture and muzzle any light they encounter. Blacker is the new black, and researchers here and abroad are working to create ever more efficient light traps, which means fabricating materials that look ever darker, ever flatter, ever more ripped from the void.

The N.I.S.T. ultra-black absorbs at least 99.99 percent of the light that stumbles into its nanotube forest. But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported in September the creation of a carbon nanotube coating that they claim captures better than 99.995 of the incident light [NCBI].

“The blackest black should be a constantly improving number,” said Brian Wardle, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and an author on the new report. “Folks will find other materials that are blacker than ours.”

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Black carbon nanotube discs were arranged by Dr. Solomon Woods at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.Credit Matt Roth for The New York Times.

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Dr. Woods, right, giving a tour of his lab to Dr. Nathan Tomlin, who works in Boulder’s N.I.S.T. facility making carbon nanotubes for study.Credit Matt Roth for The New York Times.

It’s not a mere ego-driven dance of the decimal point. The more fastidious and reliable the ultra-black, the more broadly useful it will prove to be — in solar power generators, radiometers, industrial baffles and telescopes primed to detect the faintest light fluxes as a distant planet traverses the face of its star.

The color of cleverness, and rage

Blacker beauties canter through the natural world, too. Biologists lately have identified cases of superblack coloration in birds, spiders and vipers that go far beyond the standard melanin-based pigments of a crow’s plumage or a black cat’s fur, and vie with lab-grown carbon nanotubes in their structural complexity and power to conquer light.

Psychologists have gathered evidence that black is among the most metaphorically loaded of all colors, and that we absorb our often contradictory impressions about black at a young age.

Reporting earlier this year in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Robin Kramer and Joanne Prior of the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom compared color associations in a group of 104 children, aged 5 to 10, with those of 100 university students.

The researchers showed subjects drawings in which a lineup of six otherwise identical images differed only in some aspect of color. The T-shirt of a boy taking a test, for example, was switched from black to blue to green to red to white to yellow. The same for a businessman’s necktie, a schoolgirl’s dress, a dog’s collar, a boxer’s gloves.

Participants were asked to link images with traits. Which boy was likeliest to cheat on the test? Which man was likely to be in charge at work? Which girl was the smartest in her class, which dog the scariest?

Again and again, among both children and young adults, black pulled ahead of nearly every color but red. Black was the color of cheating, and black was the color of cleverness. A black tie was the mark of a boss, a black collar the sign of a pit bull. Black was the color of strength and of winning. Black was the color of rage.

“We have strong opinions about black and red,” Dr. Kramer said, “and that doesn’t seem to be true for any other color.”

The contrariness of black has long been expressed in our clothing. As the color best able to hide stains and dirt, black was the color of the laboring classes, and of the pious: people who sought to signal their disinterest in personal vanity and worldly affairs.

“Black was the color of modesty,” said Steven Bleicher, author of “Contemporary Color: Theory and Use,” and a professor of visual arts at Coastal Carolina University. “You still see that today across cultures, in Hasidic Judaism, where people wear all black, or the Amish.”

Black took on an air of cultured urbanity beginning in the Renaissance, when so-called sumptuary laws limited the wearing of rich colors like red and purple to the aristocracy. Newly prosperous merchants, lawyers, scholars and other professionals responded by donning luxurious black outfits of velvet, silk and fine wool, which also proved ideal for the display of gold accessories and brocade. Before long, aristocrats were wild for black clothing, too.

As clothes lost their drapiness and began hugging the body, people discovered another benefit of black. “It’s slimming,” Mr. Bleicher said. “And so we have the little black dress.” Not to mention James Bond’s Euro-cut black tuxedo and Peter Fonda’s black leather pants.

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A 1617 engraving of a black square by the physician and astrologer Robert Fludd.Credit Artokoloro Quint Lox Limited, via Alamy.

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“Black Square,” by Kazimir Malevich, exhibited at the Fundación Proa in Buenos Aires in 2016.Credit Mariano Garcia, via Alamy.

For artists, black is basal and nonnegotiable, the source of shadow, line, volume, perspective and mood. “There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh,” Ad Reinhardt, the abstract expressionist artist, said. “Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.”

So essential is black to any aesthetic act that, as David Scott Kastan and Stephen Farthing describe in their scholarly yet highly entertaining book, On Color, modern artists have long squabbled over who pioneered the ultimate visual distillation: the all-black painting.

Was it the Russian Constructivist Aleksandr Rodchenko, who in 1918 created a series of eight seemingly all-black canvases? No, insisted the American artist Barnett Newman: Those works were very dark brown, not black. He, Mr. Newman, deserved credit for his 1949 opus, Abraham, which in 1966 he described as “the first and still the only black painting in history.”

But what about Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” of 1915? True, it was a black square against a white background, but the black part was the point. Then again, the English polymath Robert Fludd had engraved a black square in a white border back in 1617.

Clearly, said Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first director of the Museum of Modern Art, “Each generation must paint its own black square.”

Or its own superblack polyhedron. Artists today are experimenting with the new carbon nanotube coatings, to plumb such evergreen themes as the nature of light, absence, perception, deception and jewelry.

Diemut Strebe, an artist in residence at M.I.T., collaborated with Dr. Wardle on a project that would merge carbon at its most absorptive configuration, in the form of carbon nanotubes, with carbon in its most reflective and refractive state, as a diamond. How about if we smother a diamond in a layer of ultra-black carbon nanotubes, Ms. Strebe suggested, and watch its facets disappear?

“It was an exploration of a Heraclitean principle,” Ms. Strebe said. “The extreme opposites of how carbon behaves on exposure to light.”

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A yellow diamond worth $2 million forms the core of Diemut Strebe’s work, The Redemption of Vanity.Credit Diemut Strebe.

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The diamond covered in black carbon nanotubes. Credit Diemut Strebe.

One of their biggest challenges: finding a jeweler willing to lend them a chunky diamond that would be plastered with what amounts to high-tech soot.

“I tried many companies, Tiffany, others,” Ms. Strebe said. “I got many no’s.” Finally, L.J. West Diamonds, which specializes in colored diamonds, agreed to hand over a $2 million, 16.78-carat yellow diamond, provided the process could be reverse-engineered and the carbon nanotube coating safely removed.

The resulting blackened bling is on view at the New York Stock Exchange, which Ms. Strebe calls “the holy grail of valuation.”

Scamming the eye

The key to true ultra-blackness is creating a material that absorbs light across the electromagnetic spectrum — not just visible light, but out to the far infrared, too.

To manage the task, explained John Lehman, an applied physicist and master ultra-black-smith at N.I.S.T.’s campus in Boulder, Colo., you take a carbon source like graphite and a metal like iron or nickel to serve as template and catalyst, and you cook them together in an oxygen-free setting [Applied Physics Reviews]to a temperature of about 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the graphite heats up, it saturates the ring-like structure of the metal and starts to push upward into a vertical array of hollow cylinders, each some billionth of an inch thick — the carbon nanotubes.

The final height, density and distribution of those nanotube trees in your nanotube bosk will determine how effectively your material can imprison photons and incorporate their energy into its constituent parts, and hence how extravagantly black it will appear.

“We start with the intrinsic properties of graphite, which already is pretty black,” Dr. Lehman said. “Then we essentially make a lot of little cavities for the light to bounce around in so the photons have a chance to be absorbed by the graphite.”

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A male peacock spider, in a mating display. The extreme black of its hairs makes the colors appear even brighter.Credit Adam Fletcher/Biosphoto, via Alamy

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A male Victoria’s riflebird. The feathers of superblack birds-of-paradise have an unusual microstructure, with dense, tiny branches that curve and are edged with spikes.Credit Ray Wilson, via Alamy.

A similar interplay between chemistry and physics explains the newly discovered ultra-blacks in nature.

As Dakota McCoy of Harvard University and her colleagues have reported in Nature Communications and the Royal Society Proceedings B, the feathers of some species of birds-of-paradise and the decorative patches on peacock spiders rival the luxurious blackness of a lab-grown carbon nanotube jacket, reflecting well under .5 percent of the light cast upon them.

The researchers determined that, in addition to being flush with the dark pigment melanin, the superblack body parts in both the birds and the spiders had an unusual microstructure.

“If you’re a biologist, you know what a feather should look like,” said Ms. McCoy, who is completing her doctorate. But on examining a black feather from a bird-of-paradise under a microscope, “I almost fell out of my chair.”

Rather than lying in a flat, smooth plane, as normal feathers do, the dense, tiny branches of this feather curved upward by 30 degrees and were edged with spikes. That bristling structure, the researchers showed, created cavities of an ideal size and shape for trapping light.

The peacock spider, by contrast, builds its superblackness convexly. Cannily placed bumps on its cuticle channel incident light toward melanin-rich patches primed to absorb it.

In both birds and spiders, the animal superblacks seem to be part of a masculine ruse. The blacks are always next to bright colors: the vivid splashes of teal, yellow, lime-green, violet and electric blue that males must flaunt in their mating displays.

By aggressively absorbing light in the areas surrounding the colorful bits, the superblacks stanch the sort of visual cues the female might use to judge the relative brightness of the ambient light. Without such comparative information, the female can only conclude the male’s colors are better than brilliant: They’re lit from within.

Little black dresses are slimming — and little black feathers scam the eye.

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From Northwestern University: “‘Are we alone?’ Study refines which exoplanets are potentially habitable”

Northwestern U bloc
From Northwestern University

November 11, 2019
Amanda Morris

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An artist’s conception shows a hypothetical planet with two moons orbiting within the habitable zone of a red dwarf star. Credit: NASA/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/D. Aguilar

In order to search for life in outer space, astronomers first need to know where to look. A new Northwestern University study will help astronomers narrow down the search.

The research team is the first to combine 3D climate modeling with atmospheric chemistry to explore the habitability of planets around M dwarf stars, which comprise about 70% of the total galactic population. Using this tool, the researchers have redefined the conditions that make a planet habitable by taking the star’s radiation and the planet’s rotation rate into account.

Among its findings, the Northwestern team, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, NASA’s Virtual Planet Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered that only planets orbiting active stars — those that emit a lot of ultraviolet (UV) radiation — lose significant water to vaporization. Planets around inactive, or quiet, stars are more likely to maintain life-sustaining liquid water.

The researchers also found that planets with thin ozone layers, which have otherwise habitable surface temperatures, receive dangerous levels of UV dosages, making them hazardous for complex surface life.

“For most of human history, the question of whether or not life exists elsewhere has belonged only within the philosophical realm,” said Northwestern’s Howard Chen, the study’s first author. “It’s only in recent years that we have had the modeling tools and observational technology to address this question.”

“Still, there are a lot of stars and planets out there, which means there are a lot of targets,” added Daniel Horton, senior author of the study. “Our study can help limit the number of places we have to point our telescopes.”

The research will be published online Nov. 14 in The Astrophysical Journal.

The ‘Goldilocks zone’

To sustain complex life, planets need to be able to maintain liquid water. If a planet is too close to its star, then water will vaporize completely. If a planet is too far from its star, then water will freeze, and the greenhouse effect will be unable to keep the surface warm enough for life. This Goldilocks area is called the “circumstellar habitable zone,” a term coined by Professor James Kasting of Penn State University.

Researchers have been working to figure out how close is too close — and how far is too far — for a planet to sustain liquid water. In other words, they are looking for the habitable zone’s “inner edge.”

“The inner edge of our solar system is between Venus and Earth,” Chen explained. “Venus is not habitable; Earth is.”

Horton and Chen are looking beyond our solar system to pinpoint the habitable zones within M dwarf stellar systems. Because they are numerous and easier to find and investigate, M dwarf planets have emerged as frontrunners in the search for habitable planets. They get their name from the small, cool, dim stars around which they orbit, called M dwarfs or “red dwarfs”.

Crucial chemistry

Other researchers have characterized the atmospheres of M dwarf planets by using both 1D and 3D global climate models. These models also are used on Earth to better understand climate and climate change. Previous 3D studies of rocky exoplanets, however, have missed something important: chemistry.

By coupling 3D climate modeling with photochemistry and atmospheric chemistry, Horton and Chen constructed a more complete picture of how a star’s UV radiation interacts with gases, including water vapor and ozone, in the planet’s atmosphere.

In their simulations, Horton and Chen found that a star’s radiation plays a deciding factor in whether or not a planet is habitable. Specifically, they discovered that planets orbiting active stars are vulnerable to losing significant amounts of water due to vaporization. This stands in stark contrast to previous research using climate models without active photochemistry.

The team also found that many planets in the circumstellar habitable zone could not sustain life due to their thin ozone layers. Despite having otherwise habitable surface temperatures, these planets’ ozone layers allow too much UV radiation to pass through and penetrate to the ground. The level of radiation would be hazardous for surface life.

“3D photochemistry plays a huge role because it provides heating or cooling, which can affect the thermodynamics and perhaps the atmospheric composition of a planetary system,” Chen said. “These kinds of models have not really been used at all in the exoplanet literature studying rocky planets because they are so computationally expensive. Other photochemical models studying much larger planets, such as gas giants and hot Jupiters, already show that one cannot neglect chemistry when investigating climate.”

“It has also been difficult to adapt these models because they were originally designed for Earth-based conditions,” Horton said. “To modify the boundary conditions and still have the models run successfully has been challenging.”

‘Are we alone?’

Horton and Chen believe this information will help observational astronomers in the hunt for life elsewhere. Instruments, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, have the capability to detect water vapor and ozone on exoplanets. They just need to know where to look.

“‘Are we alone?’ is one of the biggest unanswered questions,” Chen said. “If we can predict which planets are most likely to host life, then we might get that much closer to answering it within our lifetimes.”

Horton and Chen are both members of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary and Exploratory Research in Astrophysics).

The study was supported by the Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology graduate research award (80NSSC19K1523) and a NASA Habitable Worlds grant (80NSSC17K0257). Computational work was completed at Northwestern’s QUEST high-performance computing facility.

See the full article here .

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Northwestern South Campus
South Campus

On May 31, 1850, nine men gathered to begin planning a university that would serve the Northwest Territory.

Given that they had little money, no land and limited higher education experience, their vision was ambitious. But through a combination of creative financing, shrewd politicking, religious inspiration and an abundance of hard work, the founders of Northwestern University were able to make that dream a reality.

In 1853, the founders purchased a 379-acre tract of land on the shore of Lake Michigan 12 miles north of Chicago. They established a campus and developed the land near it, naming the surrounding town Evanston in honor of one of the University’s founders, John Evans. After completing its first building in 1855, Northwestern began classes that fall with two faculty members and 10 students.
Twenty-one presidents have presided over Northwestern in the years since. The University has grown to include 12 schools and colleges, with additional campuses in Chicago and Doha, Qatar.

Northwestern is recognized nationally and internationally for its educational programs.

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