Departent of Physics & Astronomy
E-Newsletter - Summer 2008

Issue 1, Summer 2008

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Physics & Astronomy



As a Board Member you help create goals, design plans, suggest innovations and set the direction of the department  for future decades.   Board Members are an integral part of making sure that UCLA Physics and Astronomy is center stage in the universe of Physics and Astronomy.  Make the investment, the payoff is guaranteed!

For more information or to volunteer for the board contact Diana Thatcher at

Physics & Astronomy T-shirt
click pictures for larger image


colors & sizes:
S, M, L,XL and XXL- white, blue, red, black
green & navy

L, XL, XXL & 1X - red, white,green, black
please note - sizes are small - large will fit small or medium size, large - medium or large etc.

contact either
Diana -
or Mary Jo -
to find out how you can purchase the T-shirt.

Physics & Astronomy goes to Hollywood

Professors Matt Malkan and Alice Shapley from the Astronomy Division appeared on “Beauty and the Geek“ as Science Fair judges of physical science experiments. Beauty and the Geek: Episode 5.4 “Lovelorn Science“

Big Bang Theory Gets a Dose of Physics “Very often, we’ll write a speech and say ’science to come,’ “executive producer Chuck Lorre explained. “[David] Saltzberg fills it in. He’s a terrific guy with a great sense of humor.“ Lorre is referring to David Saltzberg, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles who checks the show’s scripts and provides dialogue, math equations and diagrams used as props. See Article

Big Bang picture
picture from ’Big Bang Theory’



put away his WWII Army uniform and joined the department in 1956. For nearly 50 years,  he cheerfully procured and distributed supplies to researchers working in the labs in Knudsen and Kinsey Halls.  A true oral historian, he recalls “ of my jobs was to go out and buy blank cartridges for the guns that Knudsen used in the dead room.“ Curt’s work ethic and personal dedication will forever linger in the labs at UCLA.
TUYET-HONG TRUONG-UNG Hong Truet-Hongwas a careful and diligent steward of the department’s finances while also providing  counsel on and supervision of all aspects of the department’s financial business.  She was a practical financial manager and conservative in her long view towards the future.  Her reputation for candor and commitment to her job will forever be a part of her legacy.

We thank Curt and Tuyet-Hong for their many years of service.


Peter Schlein,... We are sad to announce that Peter Schlein, professor Emeritus at UCLA and long-time friend and colleague, died February 26 in Paris at the age of 75.  A memorial was held in New York on March 9th 2008

Mirek Plavec, a UCLA Astronomy Emeritus Professor, passed away on January 23, 2008. A memorial service was held on Saturday, March 29, 2008 at the Planetarium at Cal State, Northridge.

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Message from the Chair

Welcome!  This is our inaugural e-newsletter .  UCLA’s Department of Physics & Astronomy is making headlines every day and our website will report this news as it happens.  Through this e-newsletter it is our intention to keep you, our  readers,  informed about  our “cutting-edge“ scientific projects  and, at the same time, keep you “in-the-loop“  about  ongoing  seminars,  academic happenings  and alumni activities and events. 
Help keep our information up-to-date;  become familiar with the website; send us your comments and connect with the department and other alumni. This newsletter is for you, so please enjoy the read and keep in touch.

Keep us up-to-date - Send comments, information you would like in our next e-newsletter, or suggestions -
to e-mail: in subject line please put "e-newsletter"

Do you know someone here???

Graduation Day 30 years ago.
We have been going through the archives recently and unearthed a lot of old photos with nothing on them as to their identity. This photos were taken at graduation 1978?, 79?, or 80? Do you know when? Do you know someone in the pictures? Could it be you? Please e-mail: and refer to this e-newsletter if you know anyone. Check the next e-newsletter for another dusty old picture to find Waldo, or you?

Faculty Research Highlights

Homing in on Black Holes: Andrea Ghez and her team of astronomers were featured in the cover story of the 2008 April issue of Smithsonian Magazine reporting on their work to shine a light at the chaotic center of the Milky Way. See Article

thirty-meter telescope

High-end computation alters the research landscape. High-end computation is particularly well-suited to collaborations across disciplines, noted Chancellor Gene Block. ’Interdisciplinary study is required to address complex problems in the world today, and it is a hallmark of UCLA. The interdisciplinary work here is remarkable.’ Warren Mori, director of IDRE and professor of electrical engineering and physics, makes use of high-end computational analysis in his own research in plasma physics.

Microscope sees with Nanoscale Resolution: A team of researchers from UCLA, Argonne National Lab and the Australian Synchrotron, led by John Miao, have demonstrated, for the first time, that resonant X-ray diffraction microscopy can be used to image buried structures with nanoscale resolution. See article

Research Conducted using the UCLA Physics Saxon Cluster: A team of UCLA particle physics researchers (led by Charles Plager), which has been searching for the Flavor Changing Neutral Current (FCNC) decay of the top quark, announced a breakthrough on February 14, 2008 See article

“Deep in a dim cavern,
UCLA physicist Bob Cousins scrambled onto a catwalk straddling the six-story detector known as the Compact Muon Solenoid,.... ”CMS Research

UCLA particle physicists are ready for the start of the new LHC accelerator.: In a few months, a new frontier at the high energy end of physics will be opened when the LHC accelerator starts smashing beams of protons together at the CERN laboratory. UCLA particle physicists Cousins, Cline, and Hauser have been preparing for this for more than a decade, and are eagerly anticipating data that may provide answers to fundamental questions such as the number of dimensions of space and time, the
mechanism of symmetry breaking (perhaps the Higgs particle), and so on. Recently the popular press has latched onto the possibility of microscopic black holes being produced by the LHC. In this unlikely scenario, the black holes will quickly evaporate, and are expected to leave striking signatures of their evaporation in the CMS detector that the UCLA physicists have had a large role in building.

Learn about what the LHC will be doing. Check out the LHC Rap (physics is not just for nerds - it is cool!)

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes prize 2008 - Dolores Bozovic was awarded the 2008 Pierre-Gilles de Gennes prize “From Solid State to Biophysics” for her remarkable contributions to the understanding of biophysics of active processes of the inner ear and the extraordinary sensitivity of hearing. The international jury was unanimous that her scientific work deserves the prize as it truly honors Nobel Laureate (1991) Pierre-Gilles de Gennes‒ legacy. Dolores also received the 2008-09 Faculty Career Development Award from the UCLA Office of Faculty Diversity & Development.

Wright wins David S. Saxon Presidential Chair in Physics - Professor Edward Wright was awarded the David S. Saxon Presidential Chair in Physics. The Chair was established by the Regents in 1981 and renamed in 1986 for David Saxon. Presidential Chairs are intended to encourage new and interdisciplinary program development or to enhance quality in existing academic programs of the university. Appointment to the Chair is a special honor.

Winter School 2008

The Center for Multiscale Plasma Dynamics and The Center for Magnetic Self-Organization (CMPD and CMSO) sponsored a Winter School on Instabilities in Laboratory, Space and Astrophysical Plasmas at UCLA on January 7-12, 2008. The latest ideas and results of the subject were discussed and presented in a pedagogical setting. Approximately 100 graduate students (2nd year and above) and post docs were among the attendees. See talks

Undergraduate Programs Update

Teaching Techniques for the 21st Century
The physics department has created a Committee on Modern Teaching Techniques chaired by Professor Troy Carter. Over the past 2 decades physics education research has emerged as an important endeavor and has focused on student understanding of science concepts. The physics community has taken the lead in trying to provide an effective and relevant science education for all students. The great strength of physics is that a few fundamental concepts can explain a vast range of phenomena. From that research, modern pedagogical approaches and associated techniques have been derived and seem to fall into three categories:

1. Peer instruction or similar concept-focused, interactive styles used during lectures.
2. Online homework with a feedback/tutorial mechanism (students get immediate feedback on their response to the homework)
3. Workshop-style discussion where student groups of 4 discuss problems interactively with TA's guiding their problem-solving discussions.

The committee is charged with the evaluation of these modern pedagogical approaches and focuses on the appropriateness of these approaches in our curriculum with minimal disruptive impact on our teaching program. This spring, Professors Carter and Rainer Wallny have integrated workshop-style discussions and are developing workbooks presenting the fundamental concepts taught in Physics 6A to be used in workshop style discussion sections. The goal of this pilot program is to create a bank of concepts that all faculty teaching 6A can use in the future. It is hoped that the workshop-style discussions as well as more the interactive teaching styles in lectures will eventually be used in all lower division physics courses to maximize teaching effectiveness.

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Department Events

Physics & Astronomy Colloquium The lecture is held every Thursday from 4pm to 5pm. This past year the popularity of the colloquium is due to the variety of invited speakers that have come to talk to our faculty and students on many different aspects of physics and astronomy. See list of recent colloquia speakers and past speakers.

Career Day 2008 was held on April 21, 2008 and registered a strong turnout of undergraduate students who gathered in the Physics & Astronomy Building on the 4th floor conference room (4-330). Past alum were invited to participate as speakers. Eight UCLA physics alum attended as a panel discussing their particular fields of expertise and how having a physics degree led them to their respective careers.

Career Day Panel

Panel left to right: Cheng-Wei Cheng, Senior IT Architect IBM, Dan Dawes, Founding Partner Myers, Dawes, Andras & Sherman LLP; John Vaszari, Program Manager & Senior Engineer, L-3 Communications, Nzhde Agazaryan, Dept of Radiation Oncology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA; Raymond Ellyin, Logistical and Electrical Engineer, JPL; John Taborn, Graduate Counselor Supervisor - UCLA Career Center; Darius Gagne, Principal and Co-founder - Quantum Wealth Management; and Tatiana Vinogradova (sitting to the right, but unfortunately, not in the photo), Senior Engineer, Space Sensors & Exploitation Systems Division, Northrop Grumman Corporation.

How about volunteering your career expertise as a Physics & Astronomy alumi? You will be contributing a lot to our future alumni. contact Diana Thatcher: in the chairs office if you can volunteer for April 2009.

Graduation Day 2008 June 14, 2008 Schoenberg Hall

The ceremony opened as Chair, Ferdinand Coroniti, welcomed the guests.  The program flowed amid family and friends enthusiastically applauding  the procession of the students in the graduating class of 2008 as they made their entrance onto the stage.  The Program moved on and our audience sat enraptured as Mary Alice Vijjeswarapu, BS, ’08, offered a thrilling performance  of our National Anthem; her voice still resonating through Schoenberg as the next speakers Lauren Nicholaisen, BS ’“08 and Erin Smith, Ph.D., ’08 addressed their fellow graduates.  Faculty addresses, honors and awards, along with graduate presentations completed a joyous and inspiring celebration.

The first Guy Weyl (UCLA PhD 1969) Physics & Astronomy Alumni Alliance Fellowship was awarded to John Joseph Carrasco and Henrik Johansson.

Day of the Dead 3-D Teslathon November 2, 2007

teslathon - light pipes Teslathon November 2007 Martin Simon from the physics department organized an extremely successful "Day of the Dead 3-D Teslathon" demonstration of high voltage electricity, a flame vortex and death-defying walk over burning coals. Over 350 people attended the event and were awed by the many demonstrations of light and electricity. The most popular was when some faculty and some staff took a walk through the coals. Not everyone sailed through unscorched. This event was so popular we all hope to have it again, but that will depend on how many folks volunteer, as it is really a huge endeavor and set up. Marty Simon is to be thanked and congratulated on a job more than well done. See pictures from the event

Giving to the Department of Physics & Astronomy giving
Donor Opportunities:

The principal commitment of the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy is to train the scientific leaders of the next generation and to expand the limits of our knowledge of the nature of the universe in which we live. Your generosity plays a vital role in our ability to fulfill that commitment. Your gift to the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy allows us to enrich and enhance our educational program and to create new opportunities for students, faculty and all who benefit from the pursuit of knowledge at the frontiers of human understanding.
Donate now!

Staff Lunch and Learn

On May 15th, 2008 David Saltzberg had his audience riveted as he enthusiastically explained his travels to Antarctica, the coldest continent on earth and inhabited by some of the most wonderful wild life on the planet. The staff energized by his presentation on his search for neutrinos in this unforgiving climate, responded with inciteful questions at this first session in a series of Brown Bag Lunch Seminars.

Walter Gekelman hosted a lunch and learn on May 29th, taking attendees on a tour of his lab. The Large Plasma Device (LaPD) was the first stop where Walter explained how the machine works and the energy that went into the development of this very impressive machinery. Next stop was what was formerly known as the Tokamak, this type of machine must be100s’ of times larger in order to accomplish today’s work. This machine is now in the process of being developed as another plasma machine if the lab is lucky enough to get funding for this endeavor. All the massive equipment has been built on site by Walter Gekelman and his group.

Faculty News

Two new Associate Professors, Steven Furlanetto and Alice Shapely have recently joined the Department.

Alice Shapely comes directly from her tenure as Assistant Professor in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University.

Steven Furlanetto was formerly an Assistant Professor of Physics at Yale University.

See Annual Report 2007-08( coming in December 2008) for a more detailed biography of Alice and Steven

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Campus Outreach

150 students from Paul Revere Science Magnet School visited the Department for a day of activities on March 26, 2008

See more pictures from the visit

students Paul Revere School students
Caesar Chavez Day March 30/08

Manuel Urrutia gave families celebrating Caesar Chavez Day on March 30th an educational demonstration of the physics of airflow to encourage more Latinos to consider science as a career.

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Eight Year Self-Review

The Academic Senate held a three day site visit from February 4 through February 6, 2008 in response to the department’s Eight Year Self-Review. They met with faculty, graduates, undergraduates, researchers, post docs, staff and representatives from every department, along with touring the labs and classrooms. In May 2008 the senate completed their study.

Their final report was, in general, positive; it included suggestions and changes, along with many thoughtful comments.

The department has one year to respond to the Academic Senate’s Report

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