Fall 2021 Colloquia

Unless otherwise specified, all lectures will take place in CoorsTek 140/150 from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
For more information, please contact Barbara Shellenberger.
No Physics Colloquium
Colorado School of Mines, Environmental Health & Safety


MANDATORY safety training for faculty, staff, postdocs, grad students, and undergraduates working in laboratories.
No Physics Colloquium – Departmental Activity
Colorado School of Mines, Department of Physics


Kyle LeachAbstract: The search for sterile neutrinos is among the brightest possibilities in our quest for understanding the microscopic nature of dark matter in our universe. Experiments that hunt for these particles using large-volume direct-detection methods, however, have an inherent disadvantage in these searches since sterile neutrinos are predicted to have much weaker couplings to the Standard Model (SM) than the active neutrinos. As a result, the existence of these elusive particles are best probed indirectly via momentum conservation with SM particles during their creation in weak-interaction processes. One way to observe these momentum recoil effects experimentally is through high-precision measurements of nuclear electron-capture (EC) decay, where the final state only contains the neutrino and a recoiling atom. This approach is a powerful method in our search for beyond Standard Model (BSM) physics since it relies only on the existence of a heavy neutrino admixture to the active neutrinos and not on the model-dependent details of their interactions. In this talk, I will describe our Beryllium Electron capture in Superconducting Tunnel junctions (BeEST) experiment that uses the decay-momentum reconstruction technique to precisely measure the 7Li recoil spectrum following 7Be decay in sensitive superconducting tunnel junctions (STJ). I will also present our ongoing work for dramatically increasing the sensitivity of the BeEST, which includes scaling the experiment to thousand-pixel arrays and generating an atom-by-atom map of the rare-isotopes in our sensors using state-of-the-art material characterization methods combined with theoretical quantum simulations.


Bio: After completing his PhD at the University of Guelph (Canada) in 2013, Dr. Leach accepted a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the TRIUMF facility in Vancouver (Canada) performing novel in-trap decay spectroscopy studies on highly charged radioactive ions. Dr. Leach joined Mines in 2015 and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics, and Faculty in both the Nuclear Engineering and Quantum Engineering Programs. Dr. Leach’s research focuses on using novel, high-precision experimental techniques to search for dark matter and other physics beyond the Standard Model that are created during nuclear decay. In addition to his involvement in major international research collaborations, Dr. Leach is the Spokesperson of the BeEST experiment to search for sterile neutrinos using superconducting quantum sensors. Related to this research direction, Dr. Leach was recently awarded the 2020 U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Research Award and named a 2019 FRIB Visiting Scholar.
Willie Rockward
Morgan State University, Physics & Engineering Physics


Abstract: Building physics majors at any institution, especially Morgan State University – a public, urban, HBCU institution, can be very challenging. To address this challenge, I am applying a modified version of my pedagogical approach called “We C.A.R.E.” which stands for Curriculum, Advisement, Recruitment/Retention/Research, and Extras. This approach utilizes an integrated strategy of cultural (family-orientated), collaborative (shared-governance), and career (personalized-pathways) modalities to provide the framework and momentum of building physics majors. Also, I expanded department research interests, projects, and collaborations to (1) provide a variety of meaningful, year-around research experiences for undergraduates at Morgan and (2) prepare students for graduate studies in physics and related STEM disciplines. Thus, a detailed overview of the “We C.A.R.E.” approach will be presented along with an emphasis on recruitment, retention and research of 1st and 2nd year students.


Biography: Dr. Rockward has a unique combination of leadership from academic, professional, and community experiences. As a tenured professor at Morehouse College, he served the past 7 years as the Chair of the Department of Physics & Dual Degree Engineering Program (Physics & DDEP) and the past 20 years as the Research Director of the Materials and Optics Research & Engineering (MORE) Laboratory. Among his professional leadership experiences, he is the President of the National Society of Black Physicists and the immediate Past President of Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society. Also, he has served a combination of 23 years as Pastor of the Divine Unity Missionary Baptist Church and Associate Minister of Antioch Baptist Church North in East Point and Atlanta, Georgia, respectively. As Chair of Physics & DDEP at Morehouse, his vision and leadership resulted in the department being the US #1 producer for underrepresented minorities with Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics according to the American Institute of Physics in conjunction to boasting the Nation’s most productive Dual Degree Engineering Program. He is a strong proponent of STEM mentorship using methodologies of faculty-to-student, peer-to-peer, professional shadowing, life-skills coaching, and research apprenticeship. His current research interests include micro/nano optics lithography, extreme ultraviolet interferometry, metamaterials, terahertz imaging, nanostructure characterization, and crossed phase optics.
Franklin Dollar
University of California – Irvine, Department of Physics and Astronomy


Abstract: Through the use of high power, short pulse lasers, a technology which warranted the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, a revolution is occurring in particle acceleration. Through the use of laser driven accelerators, it is possible to achieve efficient acceleration of particles and generate bright x-rays while simultaneously shrinking the size and cost of the accelerator itself, opening new applications which were not practical before. In this colloquium, we will discuss the science behind using light to accelerate particles, and some of the applications now possible.


Bio: Professor Dollar is the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for the School of Physical Sciences and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. Franklin is a member of the Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians. He has a B.S. in engineering physics from the University of California, Berkeley, then obtained an M.S.E. in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research interests involve laser plasma interactions with ultrafast laser systems, performing high intensity laser experiments with near and above critical density plasmas for tabletop particle acceleration and the generation of soft and hard x-rays; and the simulation of such experiments using numerical modeling. He is involved with a variety of recruitment and retention efforts for underrepresented students in STEM fields, with a particular focus on American Indians.

UCLA, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering


Abstract: Extreme-environment materials present some of the most significant challenges to the development of many advanced technologies in the nuclear, aviation, space, defense, automotive, and power generation industries. Such materials are subject to unprecedented assaults of high thermal heat flux, plasma and nuclear interactions, extremely fast mechanical loads, erosion and corrosion, to mention a few examples. To meet these challenges, material development must integrate detailed models of the mechanical behavior, together with advanced mechanical design strategies. To accomplish this goal, a multiscale modelling process will be described, where a “top-down” approach is developed that allows incorporation of materials microstructure, and hence manufacturing information, into successively more detailed representations. At the macroscopic level, continuum mechanics is used to couple elasticity and elasto-plasticity, while at the meso-scale, microstructure- informed crystal plasticity and discrete fracture mechanics are used, while at the nano- and micro- scales, the method of Discrete Dislocation Dynamics completely resolves the materials microstructure. To endow this multiscale strategy with relevant design attributes, it is embedded within Multiphysics FEM-based simulations of coupled fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and structural mechanics. Three illustrative examples of the Multiscale-Multiphysics approach will be presented for the development of: (1) Plasma-Facing structures in fusion energy; (2) Extreme temperature heat exchangers (recuperators) for hybrid aviation, and (3) the Leading Edge of hypersonic vehicles.

Biography: Nasr Ghoniem is a “distinguished professor” in the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, with joint appointment in the Materials Science & Engineering Department at UCLA. He has wide experience in the development of materials in extreme environments (Nuclear, Mechanical and Aerospace), and has developed some of the most widely-used multiscale computational methods for studies of defect physics and mechanics. He is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society, the American Academy of Mechanics, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Japan Society for Promotion of Science, and The Materials Research Society. He was the general chair of the Second International Multiscale Materials Modeling Conference in 2004 and is the chair of the 19th International Conference on Fusion Reactor Materials in 2019. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals, and has published over 350 articles, 10 edited books, and is the co-author of a two- volume book (OxfordPress) on the mechanics and physics of defects, computational materials science, radiation interaction with materials, instabilities and self-organization in non-equilibrium materials (Oxford Press, 2007, 1100 pages.) He graduated 37 Ph.D. students and 25 post-doctoral scholars (15 are currently in faculty positions). His current research on “Materials in Extreme Environments” is supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, ARPA-E, and the US Air Force Office for Scientific Research.

UCLA (ECE and Physics Departments) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University

Emerging Frontiers at the Intersection between Photon Sciences, Molecular Dynamics, and Light-Matter Interactions - Zoom

Abstract: Photon and particle sources are powerful tools with extremely high societal impact because they underpin myriad groundbreaking scientific, technological, and medical advancements. Topological and structured photonics can probe, excite, and manipulate matter with unparalleled spatio-temporal accuracy to study new functional materials. They can also carry quantum-level information with many degrees of freedom without suffering decoherence, and thus render new technologies in quantum materials, information sciences, and (bio)chemical physics, among others. In the X-ray regime, ultrafast photon and electron sources, such as X-ray free-electron lasers (XFEL), have demonstrated the capacity to make molecular movies that reveal conformational dynamics in biomolecules and ultrafast chemistry at atomic-level spatial and femtosecond temporal resolutions. Motivated by their overarching relevance, we will review some of the most recent scientific and technological advances in photon and particle sources and some of their most important breakthroughs in life, chemistry, and energy sciences. We also discuss the potential impact of emerging technologies to tackle global challenges in environmental and chemical engineering, medical technologies, and other broader applications.

Brief Bio: Sergio leads the Quantum Light-Matter Cooperative (Q-LMC), whose mission is to understand, design, and ultimately control light-driven physical processes to help solve interconnected socio-technological challenges. The Q-LMC is located across various areas in California: based at the UCLA Electrical & Computer Engineering Department and closely affiliated with the UCLA Physics & Astronomy Department, and Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Linac Coherent Light Source. He graduated with a BS in Telecom Engineering from Tecnun, Universidad de Navarra in 2009. In 2012, he received his M.Sc. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center at Colorado State University. Later he continued his joint doctoral program simultaneously at the Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Center for Free Electron Laser Science, Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron, and obtained his Ph.D. in Physics in 2015. He has received several awards recognizing his contributions to photon sciences and their application in ultrafast phenomena, including the 2021 Horizon Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the 2021 SPIE Early Career Award, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship in 2019, SRI 2018 Young Scientist Award, and the PIER Helmholtz Foundation Dissertation Award in 2015, among others. He is also actively focused on professional service and outreach activities devoted to underrepresented minorities and to promote equity in educational and professional opportunities. Sergio also teaches ultrafast and quantum optics and accelerator physics courses periodically at the U.S. Particle Accelerator School. He currently holds two patents, is the author of over 80 peer-reviewed publications—including two book chapters—and has presented his work in over 50 international conferences.

No Physics Colloquium – Fall Break
Boom Supersonic
San Jose State University


Allison “Allie” PelzelAerodynamics EngineerBoom SupersonicBS Engineering Physics, MS Mechanical Engineering (Thermal Fluid Systems)Colorado School of Mines Equestrian Team FounderI am an aerodynamics engineer for Boom supersonic working on the supersonic civil transport, Overture. I am on the aircraft preliminary design team specializing in aircraft performance as well as being involved in aircraft design and acoustical analysis. My main responsibilities involve translating FAA requirements and pilot input into physical models and simulations of aircraft motion including developing advanced takeoff and landing procedures that will minimize community noise. I also coordinate with the propulsion team, commercial team, and engine manufacturers to develop thrust requirements that will result in an engine-airframe design match that balances low- and high-speed performance.



Hilary M. Hurst, PhDAssistant ProfessorDepartment of Physics & AstronomySan José State UniversityDr. Hilary Hurst is an Assistant Professor at San José State University. She is a quantum educator and theoretical physics researcher, with broad interests in condensed matter theory, many-body atomic physics, and open quantum systems. Her research primarily focuses on the theory of quantum measurement and feedback control for many-body quantum systems. In addition to research, Dr. Hurst is passionate about making quantum physics education more accessible and preparing students to work in the growing quantum technology industry. She develops new coursework and curricular materials for undergraduates focused on quantum information science. Dr. Hurst is also the SJSU lead on a new collaboration between Mines and SJSU to train the next generation of quantum engineers. Learn more about that effort at: https://www.minesnewsroom.com/news/mines-quantum-engineering-program-wins-3m-nsf-grant-graduate-student-training

Dr. Hurst is originally from Greeley, Colorado and she received her BS in Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines. She went on to earn a Masters in Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge (UK), and received her PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics from the University of Maryland. For her dissertation research she studied the dynamics of topological defects under the supervision of Prof. Victor Galitski. Following her doctoral work, she was a National Research Council (NRC) Postdoctoral Fellow at NIST and the Joint Quantum Institute, focusing on the theory of quantum measurement and feedback control for many-body systems. Dr. Hurst joined the faculty of San José State University in Fall 2020 as an Assistant Professor of physics. SJSU is the largest public university in Silicon Valley and a founding campus of the California State University system. Outside of physics, she enjoys reading novels and staying active through running, yoga, and hiking with her family.



Caroline Ellis

Caroline graduated from Mines in 2018 with a BS in Engineering Physics. She now works as a Flight Controller for the International Space Station at NASA Johnson Space Center. In her specific role, she manages all cargo onboard ISS and works to improve automated logistical tracking in preparation for missions to the Moon and Mars. During her evenings, Caroline is working toward an MS in Computer Science.



Jennifer “Jen” Glick

Jen Glick is a quantum applications researcher with IBM Quantum. In collaboration with organizations in the IBM Quantum Network she researches, develops, and implements quantum algorithms and software that can address industry-relevant problems challenging to solve with today’s classical techniques. Jen is a contributor to the first demonstrations of Qiskit Runtime, a new execution model offered by IBM Quantum that can significantly reduce the overhead to running quantum applications. She also is an inventor on several patent applications in the areas of quantum machine learning and optimization. Jen is regularly involved in community outreach initiatives focused on teaching quantum computing and has given presentations and tutorials on programming quantum algorithms and applications with Qiskit. In 2020, she was selected for MIT Technology Review’s global 35 under 35 Innovators for her work on developing applications of quantum computing. Jen received her Ph.D. in physics from Michigan State University in 2017 and her B.S. in engineering physics from Colorado School of Mines in 2011.


Ball Aerospace

Engineering the Complex: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the largest, most complex, space telescope undertaken in NASA’s history. But why is it so? This talk will discuss why JWST is being built and how the ambitious science goals for it have led to such a unique and massive system. And we’ll dive down into the some of the many nuances that were involved in designing, integrating, and testing JWST ahead of its highly anticipated launch in December of 2021.

The Speaker:

Daniel Porpora is the program manager for the Microwave Instrument (MWI) on the Weather System Follow-on – Microwave (WSF-M) mission at Ball Aerospace. This mission will provide critical weather data to protect the nation’s warfighters and improve weather forecasting. Dan is responsible for supporting a team of world-class engineers and technicians as they develop the space instrument, and ensure that Ball Aerospace delivers the government’s data on-time and on-budget.

Prior to Ball Aerospace, Dan served as an engineering aide and independent researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, CO. His primary research topics were the measurement of magnetic fields in nanoscale dots using micro-cantilevers and the magnetic manipulation of individual strands of lambda-phage DNA.

Daniel received a B.S. in engineering physics and an M.E. in microelectronic materials engineering, both from the Colorado School of Mines. he also holds professional certifications in Systems Engineering (CSEP) and Project Management (PMP).

Outside of work, Daniel spends much of his time with his wife, Laura, and their two young boys. Having spent the last 20-plus years living in Colorado, he considers himself a native, much to the chagrin of his wife, who was actually born here.



Abstract: Vat photopolymerization is a powerful additive manufacturing technique that address many applications ranging from personalized medicine to large-scale manufacturing. Unfortunately, these printing processes introduce micrometer-scale anisotropic inhomogeneities due to the resin absorptivity, diffusivity, reaction kinetics, and swelling during the requisite photoexposure. Previously, it has not been possible to characterize high-resolution mechanical heterogeneity as it develops during the printing process. By combining vat photopolymerization additive manufacturing with atomic force microscopy (AFM) in a hybrid instrument, heterogeneity of a single, in situ printed voxel is not only characterized and quantified for the first time, but also an as-printed modulus-informed corrective algorithm is applied to fabricate homogeneous voxels. Our results demonstrate the complex properties of printed voxels at all relevant stages of the printing process including in resin and after post-processing (both after rinse and after secondary cure). This instrument and voxel-correction now equips researchers with the tools to develop rich insight into not only resin development, but into the entire photopolymer 3D printing process.

Biography: Dr. Callie Higgins is a Materials Research Engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder working to drive innovation in the PAM industry by enabling unprecedented high-resolution, mechanically-precise vat photopolymerization via fundamental understanding informed by novel voxel and sub-voxel-scale characterization throughout all major stages of the printing process. She graduated with her PhD from CU Boulder’s Department of Electrical Engineering with specialties in optics and material science where she characterized the fundamental properties of photopatterned hydrogels for use in regenerative medicine. Outside of the lab, she loves to adventure around Colorado skiing, hiking, and picnicking with her husband, friends, and family.

Colorado School of Mines, Physics Department


Abstract: Experimental quantum simulators have become large and complex enough that discovering new physics from the huge amount of measurement data can be quite challenging, especially when little theoretical understanding of the simulated model is available. Unsupervised machine learning methods are particularly promising in overcoming this challenge. I will review typical unsupervised learning methods and show that they generally only work for learning simple symmetry-breaking quantum phase transitions. I will then show that a more advanced method known as diffusion map, which performs nonlinear dimensionality reduction and spectral clustering of the measurement data, has much better potential for unsupervised learning of complex phase transitions, such as topological phase transitions and many-body localization. This method is readily applicable to many experimental quantum simulators as it only requires measuring each particle in a single and local basis.

Reference: A. Lidiak and Z.-X. Gong, Phys. Rev. Lett. 125, 225701 (2020).

Biography: Zhexuan Gong obtained his bachelor’s degrees in both physics and computer science from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China’s Hubei province, where he was born. He then went to University of Michigan, where he obtained his PhD there in 2013. After graduation, he spent three years working as a postdoctoral researcher at the joint quantum institute between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology before being promoted to a research scientist in 2016. Gong’s research is in the field of theoretical quantum physics. In particular, he is interested in designing faster architectures for quantum computing, understanding novel quantum many-body physics via quantum simulation, and applying machine learning to facilitate new discoveries in quantum experiments. He recently won a prestigious W. M. Keck Foundation award to support his research in building a next-generation quantum simulation platform. In his free time, he enjoys playing piano, listening to classical music, reading novels, swimming, and traveling.

No Physics Colloquium