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Tony Hawk : The Intuitive Physicist of Vert Skating

The Intuitive Physicist of Vert Skating


June 13, 2024
Above: Tony Hawk executing an impressive aerial maneuver on his skateboard.

'Would you consider Tony Hawk a physicist?'

'I would consider Tony Hawk a physicist. If nothing else, he’s an intuitive scientist, right?'

Before you go, watch Kevin Davenport, assistant lecture professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the U, break down the physics that allows vert skaters to huck themselves into the stratosphere—learn why he calls Tony Hawk an intuitive scientist.

Read the rest of the story by Lisa Potter at @The U. 

 

L.S. Skaggs Applied Science Building Named at the U

L.S. SKAGGS APPLIED SCIENCE BUILDING NAMED AT THE U


May 28, 2024
Above:  Rendering of the new L.S. Skaggs Applied Science Building

The ALSAM Foundation has made a substantial gift toward the latest addition to the science campus at the University of Utah: the L.S. Skaggs Applied Science Building.

The 100,000-square-foot building will include modern classrooms and instruction spaces, cutting-edge physics and atmospheric science research laboratories, and faculty and student spaces. Scientists in the new building will address urgent issues, including energy, air quality, climate change, and drought. The building’s naming honors L.S. “Sam” Skaggs, the philanthropist and businessman whose retail footprint spread across the Mountain West and the U.S.

Building Construction -  April 30, 2024

Expressing profound gratitude for the transformative gift, Peter Trapa, Dean of the College of Science, shared, “We deeply appreciate The ASLAM Foundation’s extraordinary generosity. This gift is a testament to the value the organization places on higher education and its transformational impact on students and communities. It continues the Skaggs family's legacy in Utah and at our state’s flagship university. The new L.S. Skaggs Applied Science Building, a beacon of scientific innovation, will play an essential role in educating students in STEM programs throughout the University of Utah. This much-needed building allows the U to expand its STEM capacity and continue to serve our region’s expanding workforce needs.”

The construction of the L.S. Skaggs Applied Science Building is part of the Applied Science Project, which also includes the renovation of the historical William Stewart Building. The overall project is scheduled to be completed by next summer. Combined with the Crocker Science Center and a new outdoor plaza abutting the historic Cottam’s Gulch, the three buildings and outdoor space will comprise the Crocker Science Complex named for Gary and Ann Crocker.

The Skaggs family has a long history of supporting universities through The ALSAM Foundation, including the University of Utah. Other ALSAM Foundation-supported projects at the U include the L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Research Institute, housed in the Skaggs Pharmacy Building, and the Aline S. Skaggs Biology Building, named after Mr. Skaggs’s wife.

The ALSAM Foundation issued the following statement, “The ALSAM Foundation and the members of the Skaggs family are pleased to continue the legacy of Mr. Skaggs at the University of Utah.  The Applied Science Project will benefit STEM education which was one of the goals of Mr. Skaggs.”

 

 

Outstanding Undergrad Research Awards 2024

Outstanding Undergrad Research Awards 2024


April, 2024
Above: Student recipients at the 2024 OUR Awards Ceremony

The University of Utah is one of the top research academic institutions in the Intermountain West, and it’s thanks in major part to the U’s undergraduate student researchers and the faculty who advise and mentor them.

Some of the university’s up-and-coming researchers and mentors were honored at the 2024 Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) Awards, held virtually on April 1.

Every year, OUR recognizes one undergraduate student researcher from each college/school with the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award, according to the office’s website. Partnering colleges and schools are responsible for selecting the awardee.

This year, 18 undergraduate researchers were honored with the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award, two of them from the College of Science / College of Mines & Earth Sciences:

Autumn Hartley (Mentor: Professor Sarah Lambart)

Dua Azhar (Mentor: Professor Sophie Caron)

Autumn Hartley

Autumn Hartley (she/they) is also a College of Science ambassador and has a passion for science and learning as geology and geophysics major. Originally from Midway, Utah, she moved to Salt Lake City when she started school at the U where she became involved in many different organizations including oSTEM, which connects LGBTQ+ students in STEM. Outside of academia, she loves all things artistic. “I’m a writer, graphic designer, and a character designer when I’m not in the lab!” she says.

Dua Azhar

Born and raised a Utahn in Draper, Dua Azhar (she/her) is an honors physics student with a biomedical emphasis. During her undergraduate years here at the U, she says, “I intend to tie my education and research together towards an MD/PhD, in order to specialize in neurology.” Along with the sciences, she love the arts, especially film and photography. “So if you don’t see me in the lab, you’ll most likely see me making something with a camera!”

Opening remarks at the event were made by Associate Dean Annie Fukushima, followed by Provost Mitzi Montoya and VP Research Erin Rothwell. They were followed by the presentation of Undergraduate Research Scholarship recipients which included the 2023 – 2024 recipients of the Francis Family Fund Scholarships, Dee Scholarship, and Parent Fund Scholarship.

The Monson Essay Prize winner, Pablo Cruz-Ayala, was then acknowledged followed by the 18 OUR & Research Mentor Awards by college.

At the ceremony event, award recipients were able to thank their mentors, family and others for their support.

More information and criteria for both awards can be found on the OUR’s website Watch video of OUR awards 2024 program below:

2024 Convocation Student Speaker: Dua Azhar

2024 Convocation Student SPeaker: Dua Azhar


May 2, 2024

Above: Dua Azhar (left) with Swoop (Buteo jamaicensis) dressed appropriately for the lab in PPE.

On May 2 physics graduate Dua Azhar spoke at the College of Science's 2024 convocation ceremony staged at the Huntsman Center. Her complete remarks are below.

Thank you, Dean Bandarian for the introduction. I am honored to speak today before the deans, faculty, family and friends, and of course Class of 2024, congratulations!

We’re all here today because of our love for the sciences. I know I've always been drawn to the mysteries of the natural world, from the universe to the human brain, all the way down to quantum mechanics. That rush of excitement and ideas that comes when reaching towards that you don’t understand keeps me motivated. So, it would make sense that I am here today graduating with a degree in physics. But if you told high school me I’d be doing that, I’d probably burst out laughing.

What I’ve learned these past few years is that there is a caveat to deciphering these mysteries because, as Cillian Murphy’s character says in the film Oppenheimer, “theory will take you only so far.” You see, in quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that it’s impossible to know all information about a particle. If you think this drives scientists crazy, you’re absolutely right. The past four years for all of us have also been filled with uncertainty, and I don’t know about you, but I also went a bit crazy. Yet, I and all of you are here today to celebrate the chances we took and the perseverance through the uncertainties that have come with this journey.

Dua Azhar gives student speech at 2024 Convocation.

For many of us here today, this is our first proper graduation – the last time we gathered for graduation, it was on Zoom and in parking lots. The global pandemic also didn’t stop after those make-do send-offs. However, we all decided to continue our educational journeys despite that uncertainty. Like many of you, I struggled during that time. Despite the difficulties, it was also beautiful because we came together to help each other push through it all. I know for a fact that I would not have been able to go through that time without the mentorship and support of the faculty, who went out of their way to not only accommodate all of us but also provide individual support, in and outside of classes. For example, while I was uncertain about my studies, it was because of the faculty and the college’s resources that I was able to forge my educational path, combining my interests in neuroscience with physics. I know many of you could share similar stories, because together, we persevered through uncertain times to reach this day.

And we didn’t get here alone. We all have loved ones that have supported us and set us on our paths. In my case, I cannot take credit for any of this without acknowledging the uncertainties my parents faced as immigrants. Exactly 30 years ago, being one of the few Pakistanis in Utah at the time, my father graduated from the U in mechanical engineering. His studies and career path influenced my own, and it was through both of my parent’s sacrifices in adapting to a new country that I am here today.

Watching my parents and the talented individuals around me, I have learned the value of taking chances amidst uncertainty. My parents took a chance for a better opportunity for our family. WE all took the crazy chance to go to college during a pandemic! And I took a chance on the sublime complexity that is physics.

As we leave here today, we’ll be entering anew into a world that is now especially uncertain and scary. But we can come together again to push through it. Some of us graduates might not know where we will go next, but there is a beauty to that uncertainty. It will bring the excitement, the collaboration, and the knowledge needed for us, together, to solve the problems and mysteries that keep us up at night. So sure, theory might only take you so far, but theorize anyway. Then take a chance, because you won’t know until you try.

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The collapse and subsequent explosion of a massive star: B.O.A.T.

The collapse and explosion of a massive star: B.O.A.T.


April 19, 2024

Above: Artist’s visualization of GRB 221009A showing the narrow relativistic jets (emerging from a central black hole) that gave rise to the gamma-ray burst and the expanding remains of the original star ejected via the supernova explosion. CREDIT: AARON M. GELLER / NORTHWESTERN / CIERA / IT RESEARCH COMPUTING AND DATA SERVICES

In October 2022, an international team of researchers, including University of Utah astrophysicist Tanmoy Laskar, observed the brightest gamma-ray burst (GRB) ever recorded, GRB 221009A. Now, physicists have confirmed that the phenomenon responsible for the historic burst — dubbed the B.O.A.T. (“brightest of all time”) — is the collapse and subsequent explosion of a massive star.

Tanmoy Laskar, assistant professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Utah

The team discovered the explosion, or supernova, using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

While this discovery solves one mystery, another mystery deepens. The researchers speculated that evidence of heavy elements, such as platinum and gold, might reside within the newly uncovered supernova. The extensive search, however, did not find the signature that accompanies such elements. The origin of heavy elements in the universe continues to remain as one of astronomy’s biggest open questions.

Tanmoy Laskar, coauthor on the study that published in Nature Astronomy on April 12, spoke with AtTheU about why GRB 221009A was the B.O.A.T.

We have seen gamma-ray bursts before, but this one was so bright that its light blinded our gamma-ray telescopes in space and even shook the Earth’s upper atmosphere! Several dedicated people worked very hard to reconstruct the original gamma-ray signal and found that this gamma-ray burst was by far the brightest of all time (B.O.A.T) we have ever recorded. It has been exciting to study the B.O.A.T. over the last couple of years to try to figure two big mysteries: What kind of star is responsible for this powerful light display, and what produces the heavy elements in the universe?

How can finding a supernova help in solving these mysteries?

There are two theories to what makes these powerful, gamma-ray bursts—one is the collapse of massive stars at the ends of their lives (which also results in an explosion of the star as a supernova), and the other is a merger of two neutron stars, which are dense remnants of dead stars. We looked for the signature of a supernova, which would definitively tell us which theory was responsible for the B.O.A.T. explosion.

The other reason we wanted to search for the supernova was to solve the mystery of what produces heavy metals. Supernovae are factories that manufacture many elements in the universe—could a supernova powerful enough to create the gamma-ray burst also produce heavy elements in the explosion, like platinum and gold?

Read the entire interview conducted by Lisa Potter in AtTheU.

 

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Utah Refugee Teens Build Cosmic Ray Detectors

Utah Refugee Teens Build Cosmic Ray Detectors


April 11, 2024

This collaborative cosmic ray project connects refugee youth to science

 

On April 9, 2024, a community of refugee students and their families, scientists, educators and policymakers will celebrate an event three years in the making—the installation of five cosmic ray detectors atop the Department of Workforce Services Refugee Services Office (also known as the Utah Refugee Center) in downtown Salt Lake City. The detectors, which measure echoes of cosmic particles bombarding Earth’s atmosphere, were built by nearly 60 participants in a program called “Investigating the Development of STEM-Positive Identities of Refugee Teens in a Physics Out of School Time Experience (InSPIRE)”, which brings science research—in this case particle physics—to teenagers and contributes to a worldwide effort to measure cosmic ray activity on Earth.

“Refugee youth often encounter many challenges related to STEM, including restricted exposure to STEM education, language barriers, cultural adjustments and a history of interrupted schooling, resulting in a low rate of high school completion and college matriculation among refugee students,” said Tino Nyawelo, principal investigator of InSPIRE and professor of physics and astronomy at the U. “The project conducts research to better understand these challenges and how to best broaden access to and engagement in STEM for refugee youth and other historically disenfranchised populations.”


Tino Nyawelo kicks off the cosmic ray detector installation celebration at the Utah Refugee Services Center on April 9, 2024. (Photo: Todd Anderson)

InSPIRE brings together the University of Utah, Utah State University, Utah Department of Workforce Services Refugee Services Office, as well as the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics (Nikhef) in Amsterdam, to involve teens in real science. Data from the students’ cosmic rays detectors helps us understand the origins of the universe. The celebration is on Tuesday, April 9, at 1:30 p.m. at the Refugee Services Office at 150 N. 1950 W., Salt Lake City, UT 84116. A short ceremony will include speakers from the U, USU and the Refugee Services Office, and two student-participants will be available with research posters to talk about their cosmic ray detection projects.

Funded by a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation in 2020, InSPIRE explores how refugee teenagers identify with STEM subjects while they participate in a cosmic ray detector-building and research project. Fifty-seven refugee teens spent one-to two-days a week for nearly three years building the detectors while learning the principles of particle physics and computer programming. The students designed their own research projects, posing questions such as whether the moon impacts cosmic rays. While some participants focused on the detectors, others focused on crafting short films on their fellow students’ research journeys. These students are working on a documentary, in partnership with the ArtsBridge America program at the U’s College of Fine Arts.

Neriman (left) and Lina Al Samaray with a poster of their research project, Effect of the Moon on Cosmic Ray Detectors. The high highschoolers used data from existing HiSPARC detectors to investigate whether the moon’s position from the horizon impacted the rate of cosmic rays hitting Earth’s surface.(Photo: Lisa Potter)

InSPIRE is embedded within Refugees Exploring the Foundations of Undergraduate Education In Science (REFUGES), an after school program that Nyawelo founded to support refugee youth in Utah’s school system, who are placed in grade levels corresponding to their ages despite going long periods without formal education. The U’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME) has housed the REFUGES program since 2012, where it has expanded to include non-refugee students who are underrepresented in STEM fields. Since then, REFUGES has worked closely with the state of Utah’s Department of Workforce Services Refugee Services Office, which serves as a critical link to the refugee community by coordinating comprehensive services to refugees resettled in our state.

“For the past 12 years, the Refugee Services Office has collaborated with the REFUGES program to identify refugee students and their families who need academic assistance and support. Participation in REFUGES keeps these students engaged in their community while also promoting their access to educational opportunities,” said Mario Kligago, director of the Utah RSO. “It’s amazing—what started as a small project funded by a Refugee Services Office grant has grown into a multi-million dollar endeavor backed by national organizations.”

The detector technology is adapted from HiSPARC (High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics), a collaboration between science institutions that started in the Netherlands, aimed at improving high schoolers’ interest in particle physics. There are now more than 140 student-built detectors on buildings in the Netherlands, Namibia, and the United Kingdom that upload their data 24/7 to publicly available databases. Nikhef in Amsterdam coordinated the project from 2003-2023 and created the initial worldwide network of cosmic ray detection data. Starting in 2024, data on extensive cosmic air showers and the digital HiSPARC infrastructure will be hosted and maintained by the U’s Center for High Performance Computing (CHPC), led by professor Nyawelo.

Read the full article in @TheU.

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The Beauty of Mathematics

THe beauty of Mathematics


April 2, 2024


by Fred Adler

After listening to an egregiously (and quite uncharacteristically) dull math colloquium some years ago, I had a revelation that there are three good reasons to do mathematics:  it is important (solves an open problem), it is useful (cures cancer) and it is beautiful.

 

These good reasons are not mutually exclusive, and my own ideal, rarely achieved, is to combine all three. In case you are curious, the dull talk exemplified one of the bad reasons (it is hard), that I'll say no more about.

So what is this vaunted mathematical beauty? Is mathematical beauty the same as beauty in the arts and nature, or does it just happen to go by the same name?

Faced with a problem of this magnitude, poet and Distinguished Professor Katharine Coles and I decided to do what we do best. Talk about it. This year's Symposium on Science and Literature takes on the idea of beauty, bringing together poet Claudia Rankine, physicist Brian Greene, and neuroscientist/artist Bevil Conway for three days of discussion. As part of the preparation, we are jointly teaching a course this semester on the theme of Beauty to a small class of remarkable students, half from math, half from English. The English students are facing the trauma of making sense of math and physics and attempting to see the beauty therein. The Math students are facing the terror of making sense of complex poetry and attempting to see its beauty. And we are all taking on the collective challenge of reading philosophy to peek behind the curtain to ask what beauty is.

At the atomic scale, when one sheet of atoms arranged in a lattice is slightly offset from another sheet, moiré patterns can create some exciting and important physics with interesting and unusual electronic properties. (Image courtesy of Ken Golden)

Before revealing the answer, I'll share some of the mathematical ideas we have discussed, largely following the charming “The Joy of x by Stephen Strogatz, inspired by his popular series for the New York Times online called "The Elements of Math.” Given the mixed group, the mathematics, in the spirit of Strogatz's book, is fundamental and not technical.

We began with an age-old question: What does the golden ratio have to do with rabbits? The golden ratio appears in geometry, describing the shape of a rectangle that is supposedly the most appealing to the eye, and appearing in the elegant logarithmic spiral. But this number also shows up as the limit of the ratio of the consecutive values of the Fibonacci sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21...). Each number is the sum of the previous two numbers, and the sequence can be generated by counting the population of immortal and fecund rabbits who produce babies every month and take just two months to mature. The beauty, we decided, lies in the unexpected connection of geometry and arithmetic.

The most elegant and venerable link between geometry and numbers is the Pythagorean theorem, that the sum of the squares of the sides of right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse. Where do those squares come from anyway? I know three broad classes of proof. The first is rather pretty, involving drawing squares on the sides and hypotenuse and cleverly chopping them to get them to match. The second, which I came up with when I couldn't figure out how to do the first, is rather ugly, involving drawing lines, taking ratios, and doing a bunch of nasty algebra. The best proof, which I had not seen before, was attributed to the teenage Einstein in one of the books we read for the class ``A Beautiful Question" by Nobel-prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek. It is based on what we mean by area. If you take any shape and make it twice as big by stretching equally in all directions, the area gets bigger by a factor of 4. That's where the squares come from if you made the shape 3 times as big, the area would be 3^2=9 times bigger. Rather than building on tricky drawing or algebra, this proof requires adding just one line to the picture, and then thinking. In mathematics, beauty lies in deep simplicity. And, as in music and the arts, that kind of simplicity has to be earned.

Fred Adler writes equations inside his office at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Sept. 5, 2023. (Photo by Marco Lozzi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

I became interested in mathematics because of the magic of numbers. And large numbers have an allure all their own. The Fibonacci series, like rabbit populations, grows rather fast. But what if you want to write down really huge numbers? We can use the way that mathematical ideas build on themselves, recalling the progression of arithmetic in elementary school. Addition is repeated counting (6+7=13 means counting to six and then counting to seven). Multiplication is repeated addition (6*7=42 means adding up seven 6's). Exponentiation is repeated multiplication (6^7=279936 means 6*6*6*6*6*6*6, multiplying together seven 6's). The numbers are starting to get pretty big. But to really turbocharge, let's try repeated exponentiation. Donald Knuth invented "arrow notation" to handle this question. ­6­­↑↑7 is 6 raised to the 6th power seven times, or 6^6^6^6^6^6^6. There's really no way to say how big this number is. Even 6­­↑↑3 has 36,305 digits written in decimal notation. But no matter how absurdly large these numbers become, they are still nothing compared with infinity. The beautiful has the sense of the inexhaustible, the beauty of a poem, the face of one you love.

We have touched on many other mathematical questions. Is the quadratic formula ugly, or does it have "inner beauty"? Is there a beautiful poetry behind the existential angst of probabilities? Will I ever get over my prejudice against fractals?

Along the way, we've learned a few things. Good things happen when geometry and algebra get together. Beauty has an element of surprise, evoked by connections between apparently different things. Beauty arises when complexity meets simplicity and when simplicity meets complexity. Einstein was a beautiful and deep thinker. Keats was a great poet who evoked deep thoughts with beautiful words.

There is a toast attributed variously to G.H. Hardy and other famous mathematicians: “Here’s to pure mathematics. May it never be useful for anything!” The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant argues that beauty indeed must lie outside anything useful, attractive or even morally good. But mathematics has the remarkable power to surprise us with beauty when it seeks to be useful, and with usefulness when it seeks beauty.

Fred Adler is Professor of Mathematics and Director of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah.

The 2024 Science and Literature Symposium takes place April 10-12. This year's topic arises from reexaminations of beauty that are occurring broadly not only in the arts and across such disciplines as ethnic and disability studies, but also in biology, where dominant theories about the possible evolutionary purposes of beauty are being questioned. 

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The future of physics education

The Future of Physics Education


April 1, 2024

Above: Ricardo Gonzalez, REFUGES Afterschool Program Coordinator in class. Credit: Todd Anderson

The March issue of Nature Physics, a premier academic publication, was all about education. Physics Education Research (PER) is a scientific field of study in which researchers collect and analyze data related to the learning environment.

Ramón Barthelemy

“Physics curricula and education systems have remained largely unchanged for decades, and much can be done to improve them,” reads the issue’s editorial. “Nature Physics provides an overview of the current state of physics education research and offers recommendations on how to make learning environments more equitable and inclusive, diversify graduates’ skillsets and enable them to tackle important societal issues and challenges.”

The editors hand-picked contributors who focus on PER from varying perspectives. Ramón Barthelemy, assistant professor in the U’s Department of Physics & Astronomy and founder of the PERU Group, was co-author of a comment titled “Racial equity in physics education research.” AtTheU spoke with Barthelemy about his contribution to the landmark issue.

Nature Physics doesn’t typically focus on education. Was this issue a big deal?

Yes, it is! The editors reached out to my wonderful colleague, Dr. Geraldine Cochran at Ohio State, who brought in a bunch of folks from the U.S. and Brazil. I was excited to hear that Nature Physics chose to include a racial equity perspective in their journal, and I was excited that Dr. Cochran invited me to participate.

How did you and your co-authors decide which aspects of racial equity in PER to include?

Dr. Cochran made the overall framework, and within that, each one of us brought our unique perspective. For me, it was really important that we at least mention LGBTQ+ communities, for example. We are very intersectional in the work that we’re doing. The main focus is race, but you can’t talk about race and ignore the sociocultural, sociohistorical, sociopolitical differences that really impact people.

A big focus of all physics education research is identity—how can we get all students to see themselves as physicists? When we talk about one identity category, we have to think about it in terms of other categories as well—gender identity, sexual identity, income level, whether your parents went to college or not, and so on. I was just happy to work with a group of people that recognize that it’s not just the one thing that affects us, it’s all things that affect our success in physics.

Why is identity an important aspect to the physics education research field?

Physics historically has had one of the biggest challenges in terms of not only diversifying representation in the field, but also diversifying the experience of being a physicist. When we look across the physics literature, we’re not seeing gains in the experiences of women, People of Color and LGBTQ+ folks that we’d like to see. The same issues that people talked about in the seventies and the nineties are the same issues that people are talking about when I and my colleagues interview them today in our own research. So, we have to keep this at the forefront of the broader physics education conversation, because physics just isn’t seeing the kind of change that we are seeing in other fields, unfortunately.

Read the entire interview conducted by Science Writer Lisa Potter in @TheU

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Spectrum 2023

Spectrum 2023


Aftermath 2024

The official magazine of the U Department of Mathematics.

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Common Ground 2023

The official magazine of the U Department of Mining Engineering.

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Down to Earth 2023

The official magazine of the U Department of Geology & Geophysics.

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Our DNA 2023

The official magazine of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah.

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Catalyst 2023

The official magazine of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah.

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Synthesis 2023

Wilkes Center, Applied Science Project and stories from throughout the merged College.

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Aftermath Summer 2023

Anna Tang Fulbright Scholar, Tommaso de Fernex new chair, Goldwater Scholars, and more.

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Air Currents 2023

Celebrating 75 Years, The Great Salt Lake, Alumni Profiles, and more.

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Spectrum 2022

Explosive neutron stars, Utah meteor, fellows of APS, and more.

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Aftermath 2022

Arctic adventures, moiré magic, Christopher Hacon, and more.

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Our DNA 2022

Chan Yul Yoo, Sarmishta Diraviam Kannan, and more.

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Spectrum 2022

Black Holes, Student Awards, Research Awards, LGBT+ physicists, and more.

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Aftermath 2022

Student awards, Faculty Awards, Fellowships, and more.

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Our DNA 2022

Erik Jorgensen, Mark Nielsen, alumni George Seifert, new faculty, and more.

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Notebook 2022

Student stories, NAS members, alumni George Seifert, and Convocation 2022.

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Discover 2021

Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics Research, SRI Update, New Construction.

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Our DNA 2021

Multi-disciplinary research, graduate student success, and more.

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Aftermath 2021

Sound waves, student awards, distinguished alumni, convocation, and more.

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Spectrum 2021

New science building, faculty awards, distinguished alumni, and more.

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Notebook 2021

Student awards, distinguished alumni, convocation, and more.

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Spectrum 2021

Student awards, distinguished alumni, convocation, and more.

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Aftermath 2021

Sound waves, student awards, distinguished alumni, convocation, and more.

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Our DNA 2021

Plant pandemics, birdsong, retiring faculty, and more.

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Discover 2020

Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics Research, Overcoming Covid, Lab Safety.

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AfterMath 2020

50 Years of Math, Sea Ice, and Faculty and Staff recognition.

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Our DNA 2020

E-birders, retiring faculty, remote learning, and more.

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Spectrum 2020

3D maps of the Universe, Perovskite Photovoltaics, and Dynamic Structure in HIV.

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Notebook 2020

Convocation, Alumni, Student Success, and Rapid Response Research.

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Our DNA 2020

Stories on Fruit Flies, Forest Futures and Student Success.

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Catalyst 2020

Transition to Virtual, 2020 Convocation, Graduate Spotlights, and Awards.

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Spectrum 2020

Nuclear Medicine, PER Programs, and NSF grant for Quantum Idea Incubator.

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Discover 2019

Science Research Initiative, College Rankings, Commutative Algebra, and more.

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Spectrum 2019

Nuclear Medicine, PER Programs, and NSF grant for Quantum Idea Incubator.

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Notebook 2019

The New Faces of Utah Science, Churchill Scholars, and Convocation 2019.

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Catalyst 2019

Endowed Chairs of Chemistry, Curie Club, and alumnus: Victor Cee.

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Our DNA 2019

Ants of the World, CRISPR Scissors, and Alumni Profile - Nikhil Bhayani.

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Catalyst 2019

Methane-Eating Bacteria, Distinguished Alumni, Student and Alumni profiles.

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Spectrum 2019

Featured: Molecular Motors, Churchill Scholar, Dark Matter, and Black Holes.

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Our DNA 2019

Featured: The Startup Life, Monica Gandhi, Genomic Conflicts, and alumna Jeanne Novak.

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AfterMath 2018

Featured: A Love for Puzzles, Math & Neuroscience, Number Theory, and AMS Fellows.

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Discover 2018

The 2018 Research Report for the College of Science.

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Spectrum 2018

Featured: Dark Matter, Spintronics, Gamma Rays and Improving Physics Teaching.

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Catalyst 2018

Featured: Ming Hammond, Jack & Peg Simons Endowed Professors, Martha Hughes Cannon.

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Rhodes Scholar Finalist

Rhodes Scholar Finalist: Eliza Diggins


February 27, 2024 |

The University of Utah is proud to announce that Eliza Diggins, a senior Honors student double-majoring in physics and applied mathematics, was selected as a finalist for the 2024 Rhodes Scholarship.

One of the oldest and most celebrated awards for international study in the world, Rhodes Scholarships provide tuition and living expenses for two or three years of graduate study at the University of Oxford.  Along with “outstanding scholarly achievements,” Rhodes Scholars must demonstrate “character, commitment to others and to the common good, and the potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.”

Diggins, who hails from Sandy, Utah, is a cross-disciplinary researcher in astrophysics and epidemiology. She is completing an Honors thesis titled “Constraining Modified Gravity Using Galaxy Cluster Dynamics” and has worked throughout her undergraduate career to couple mathematical and computational skills with observational data and statistical method. She plans to carry these skills forward in a graduate program in astrophysics, where she intends to investigate the dynamics of galactic and extra-galactic systems and become a more holistically skilled researcher, capable in both theory and observation.

In addition to excelling in her coursework, Diggins has contributed to research projects and labs run by College of Science faculty, Daniel Wik, associate professor of physics and astronomy; Frederick Adler, professor of mathematics and director of the School of Biological Sciences; as well as Melodie Weller, assistant professor, School of Dentistry. These faculty members celebrated Diggins’ “drive, scientific curiosity and collaborative nature,” “the tremendous energy and enthusiasm” she brings to her academic work, and her “ability to convey mathematically intensive and innovative research.” Along with her selection as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, Diggins received a nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship, an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) award, a Wilkes Center Scholarship (awarded by the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy in the College of Science) and a Thomas J. Parmley Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduate Student from the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Finally, Diggins serves as the inaugural chair of the Physics & Astronomy Student Lecture Series and was selected to present her research at the American Society for Virology conference and to members of the Utah state government at Research on Capitol Hill (ROCH).

“Diggins’ research on the gravitational properties of X-Ray emitting intra-cluster medium and Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), galaxy evolution, and plasma dynamics answers important galactic questions and will allow her to contribute to the scientific community in myriad ways, ensuring that she will contribute to the future of scholarship about not only our world, but our universe as well,” says Ginger Smoak, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships. Smoak also celebrated Diggins’ community work and how it “aligned with Rhodes Scholarship values, including a commitment to others and to the common good.”

Diggins taught English to low-income immigrant adults through the Adult Education Program at Guadalupe School in Salt Lake City and facilitates a transgender friendship circle for Encircle, a local nonprofit committed to advancing the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, young adults, and their families. Her community recommenders praised her as one of the “brightest, most authentic, and committed people” they had met and stated that “her dedication transformed lives.”

For Diggins, competing for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship was “a difficult but illuminating experience.” She felt honored, she explained, “to meet and build relationships with the other Rhodes candidates, each of whom brought unique and interesting perspectives and qualifications.” Overall, she found the experience “instructive in forcing me to think very deeply about various aspects of my life.”

Per the Rhodes Trust, more than 2,500 students began the application process this year; 862 were ultimately endorsed by 249 different colleges and universities; 240 applicants from 90 different colleges and universities reached the finalist stage of the competition. Since 1904, the University of Utah has had 23 Rhodes Scholarship recipients, including Sabah Sial in 2023 (see https://nationallycompetitivescholarships.utah.edu/student-spotlights/sabah-sial/).

Diggins was advised throughout the Rhodes Scholarship application process by the University of Utah’s Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships (ONCS) housed in the Honors College. ONCS staff members assist outstanding University of Utah students and recent alumni in developing competitive applications, preparing for interviews, and securing University endorsements for a variety of prestigious nationally competitive scholarships.

To learn more, see https://nationallycompetitivescholarships.utah.edu/

This story originally appeared in @TheU

May 20 2024 — The U’s Marriott Library  announced recipients of the 2024 Alison Regan Library Thesis Award. Eliza Diggins was one of three. These students were chosen for their exceptional senior theses in the fields English, of physics and astronomy, and chemistry. Each student received $1,000 in recognition of their outstanding work. Read more about this honor in @ the U.