Sunday, November 27, 2016

PhiDiP 11/29/16: All About Time

This Tuesday we will be holding our final PhiDiP discussion of the semester and we will be talking all about time. Why does time seem to flow in only one direction? How would the universe differ if time flowed backwards? How are entropy and the arrow of time related? Could the second law of thermodynamics ever be violated, allowing entropy to decrease in a system? What do the concepts of past, present, and future really mean?

For background material this week we have an article and a brief video.

First up is an article about the role of time in physics and some of the challenges we face in defining even everyday concepts like 'now.' Thanks to Dr. Loats for the recommendation!

Now-And The Physics of Time
"Time is elusive and enigmatic. The moment now is ephemeral. Quandaries and confusion about time date back as far as Aristotle and Augustine, and as recently as Einstein and Feynman"  Read more...

Maxwell's Demon-The Demon That Betters The World
A short video (3min) that provides an introduction to a thought experiment known as 'Maxwell's Demon' which would theoretically violate the second law of thermodynamics. The video also addresses some of the recent progress made in actually creating an experiment to test this idea.

Monday, October 24, 2016

PhiDiP 10/25/16: Are We Living Inside a Black Hole?

This week in PhiDiP: Could we be living inside a black hole? What would this mean for inflation theories and theories of the multiverse? How does this relate to so-called arrow of time? See below for a very brief video and article related to this question and the possible implications.

Why our Universe Must Have Been Born Inside a Black Hole
A small change to the theory of gravity implies that our universe inherited its arrow of time from the black hole in which it was born. Read more...

Are We Living Inside a Black Hole?
Michio Kaku hypothesizes the possible results of venturing into a black hole, and what we may find on the other side. Additionally the universe's parameters fill the equation when punched into the equation for a black hole.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Applications for PhysCon Funding are Live!

Calling all undergraduate physics students! 

The 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress, aka. PhysCon, is happening November 3-5 in San Francisco, and we want to send as many representatives from our department as we can. The Congress is held every four years, and is the only physics conference that is expressly for undergraduates, so the entire program, including plenary talks, workshops, exhibitors, tours, and poster sessions, is designed for us! If you want a chance to network with other undergraduates, learn more about graduate school and/or careers in industry, or tour Google X/NASA Ames/SLAC, then we want you to sign up. Haven't been involved much with SPS? No problem! Not a member of SPS National? That's ok (though we always encourage people to join for the many benefits of membership)! Haven't done any research yet? Sweet; this conference is the right one to go to! We strongly encourage underclassmen to apply, along with anyone else who has an interest.

Apply for funding here:

Application tips:

  • You do not need to present a poster! If you have one in the works, go for it, but this is not a requirement for consideration.
  • Your essay should be 250 words or less (a decent paragraph).
  • We will leave the application up during the summer, but please apply ASAP. We need to have the complete list of attending students at the START of the fall semester to receive funding, so we will be selecting attendees in early August.
  • Everyone who applied to attend the last conference got to go, so even if you're not sure... apply anyway!

The fine print: We will be procuring funding from our respective institutions to pay for this trip. In order to make this trip happen for as many students as possible, we will probably be requesting institutional funding for hotel rooms and registration fees only. This means YOU will be responsible for acquiring funding for your plane ticket and a few meals, which you can do out of pocket or through various other funding venues, including SPS National (if you are a member), the CU Denver President's Diversity Fund, or possibly departmental funds (though we're not counting on these). If you're not sure if you can cover these costs, go ahead and apply and we'll work out the details in the fall. We also will be housing four students per hotel room, but we've done it before with great success.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Undergrad Experience at the APS April Meeting

Students from our chapter of SPS attended the 2016 American Physical Society April Meeting in Salt Lake City, UT. This is the second largest annual meeting of professional physicists in the country, and featured international research ranging from particle astrophysics to experimental general relativity. There were seven awards presented to undergraduate researchers at the conference, and our chapter took home two of them (Matthew Longo, Mitch Matheny, & Jasmine Knudsen - Development of a Cryostat to Characterize Nano-scale Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices and Rosa Wallace - Thermal Stabilization in a High Vacuum Cryogenic Optical System). There were a lot of takeaways from the conference that can help all of us as we move forward into our careers in physics, so here are some perspectives from the students that attended. Read on for some great tips on getting into grad school or moving into industry!

From Andy T.:
"The April Meeting in Salt Lake City had presentations from speakers mainly focused on Gravitational Waves as they were only confirmed recently, trends in astrophysics, as well as poster presentations, and talks given by undergraduates. The keynote speaker the first night was Lisa Randall from Harvard University who gave a talk on her new book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs building a case which was accessible to both physicists and non-physicists for the existence of dark matter which was suggested by the rotation curves of galaxies being far faster than the baryonic ordinary matter would permit. Another talk by Stephan Schlamminger discussed how current measurements of the gravitational constant are inconsistent and new methods are needed to find agreement, a majority of the experiments use the original torsion pendulum developed by Henry Cavendish in the 18th century, a technique which worked well for the civil engineering at the time, but poorly characterized masses leading to uneven densities, and other systematic error such as variances in the tension of the wire mean that the gravitational constant has not been consistent to within 1 part in 1000. Dr. Schlamminger encouraged anyone with ideas on how to resolve G with a new apparatus to submit a proposal via NIST’s website.

There were also several panels of current industry professionals and graduate students, both would appeal to Physics majors and others in competitive fields. During the industry panel speakers discussed many of the challenges that Physics students face, especially when demonstrating how important analytical, mathematical, and programming skills will translate from Physics to the workplace. One avenue suggested by the panel was to email potential employers for an informational interview, a process far less formal than an official job interview which might include a prospective candidate touring a potential workplace and asking questions, another avenue was using the APS website which had resume builders that can help translate physical science skills to those needed in industry. A common deficiency identified by the panel was soft skills such as communicating technical work to non-technical decision makers, and ability to communicate in group settings, getting involved in outreach was identified as a way to make your resume stand out, as well as highlighting hobbies and other interests that make a more unique and a more well-rounded candidate.

APS has made the lecture slides available from most talks given at the April meeting on their webpage at, and there are career tools to show salary information, and other resources to help physics with internships, employeement, and graduate school. There is also a tool which allows you to view specific graduate school profiles including GRE minimums, Acceptance Rate’s, and many useful variables that my influence graduate school decisions."

From Mitch M.
"The topics [of the meeting] were based around astrophysics and particle physics, which are the two areas I hope to pursue someday. When I first got to the conference the atmosphere felt very welcoming and relaxing. Everyone was very friendly and willing to assist me with any questions I might have had.

The first talk I went to was about "chameleons," which are theoretical particles thought to be the reason we cannot detect dark energy. I went into the talk prepared not to understand anything, but came out relieved that I wasn’t completely lost. This feeling continued throughout the conference. Even though the topics were advanced, it felt like the presenters were trying to keep it as simple as they could, which I am sure was pretty difficult considering the scope of this conference.

A few important things I learned at this conference were how crucial it is to not set your eyes on one goal, and how important networking is. I say not to focus on one goal because in physics the majority of students have their mind set on becoming a research professor. As I found out in a few talks, the percentage of graduates that go into academia is quite low. This means you have to be open to the idea of finding jobs in industry or the private sector. This is where networking becomes important, since it will give you job opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

I am very thankful that I was able to attend this conference. I believe that it's very important for undergraduates to attend as many conferences as possible. It not only lets you become familiar with the research being done, but also gives you the chance to make connections with people who might have a job for you someday."

From Rosa W.
"Going to my first professional physics conference was an awesome experience! There were multiple sessions going on at once throughout the entire four days, so there was never a time when there wasn't at least one talk I wanted to go to (usually 3 or 4). It was very exciting to hear about where the 'edges' of physics research are right now, since most of what we study as an undergraduate doesn't get us to that point, and it has definitely opened my eyes to the different types of projects I'd like to work on (and NOT work on) in graduate school. I met several researchers at other universities that are looking for graduate students with the skills associated with my research, so perhaps those connections will open a few doors as I apply for graduate school next year.

The biggest lessons I learned at the conference are that the people around you matter, that social skills and networking can make a career, and that setting yourself apart can make all the difference. There are a lot of personality types in physics, and when you're committing six years of your life (or so) to a Ph.D. program, you want to be with people that are nice to be around and that want to help you grow as a scientist. Choosing a program that is a good match for your priorities and personality could make the going much smoother, even though grad school is very tough. That being said, anyone you come into contact with (at this stage) could be a future advisor, mentor, or colleague, so it's worth taking the time to get to know people that take an interest in your work, or are doing work that you want to know more about. It's also worth it to be someone that others want to be around!

Lastly, skills or hobbies that don't seem to pertain to physics shouldn't necessarily be left off of your personal statements and resumes- they might be what sets you apart. One of the members of the graduate student panel we attended got into her research group because her future advisor saw that the student was a jazz musician, and the advisor used to be a jazz DJ. The advice we got, from both industry professionals and graduate students, was that anything positive that sets you apart from the crowd is a good thing to include. More importantly, people that see those extracurriculars as a sign that you're not a "real" physicist probably aren't the people you want to spend most of your waking hours working with! As someone who wants to do good work and do it with great people, I feel a lot more comfortable going forward knowing that I want to work with people who want to work with me."

The CU Denver chapter of the Society of Physics Students would like to acknowledge the support of the CU Denver Student Government Association Finance & Funding Committee and the Office of Student Life in making this trip possible. We couldn't have done it without you!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Coming Up for SPS!

It's spring break at last, and there is a lot coming up for our chapter in the second half of the semester. We hope to see you at one of our events soon!

  • Officer Elections: April 1-7
    • If you have great ideas for our chapter or just want to get some leadership experience, being an SPS officer is a fun way to get it done! All you have to do is get your name on the board above the ballot box.* Speaking of which, we are running a ballot system, so please stop by NC 3405 and drop your ballot in the box anytime during the first week of April.
  • SPS Semi-Monthly Shindig: April 6, 11AM - 12:30PM
    • We'll be hosting another pizza party for SPS members and friends in NC 3405, featuring a tower build-off with some sort of prize for the winning team. Stop by for pizza, or join a team to see if your tower won't topple!
  • Special Guest Speaker: April 12, 3PM - 4PM
    • Warren Skidmore of the Thirty Meter Telescope will be delivering the following talk: "The Thirty Meter Telescope: The Next Generation of Ground Based Telescope" in NC 3405 for SPS, the MSU Engineering club, and members of the community. Join us for a compelling discussion on the science behind this controversial telescope.
  • SPS Outreach: April 29, 3PM - 6PM
    • We have our second outreach event of the semester scheduled with the Denver Boys & Girls Club, location TBA. Keep an eye out for more info, and if you are interested in being on our outreach mailing list, please reply to this email!
  • SPS Colloquium Series (extra dates)
    • For exoplanet lovers! April 1, 3PM - 4PM: Dr. Webster Cash - "Starshades: Direct Imaging and Spectroscopy of Earth-like Planets"
      • The Starshade was invented at the University of Colorado about ten years ago. It features a large (~50m diameter) external occulter of a shape designed to optimally suppress diffraction from a parent star, leaving the exoplanet light visible over the edge. Currently it is the only financially feasible approach identified for performing spectroscopy of Earth-like planets around the nearby stars, and as such is now thought to be the key technology in the search for biomarkers and life outside the Solar System. NASA is currently starting up a project to a fly a starshade in the mid 2020’s with WFIRST. In about another decade we will be able to not only map the planets of the neighboring stars, but characterize the planets we find there through spectroscopy.
    • For galactic astronomy types! April 8, 3PM - 4PM: Dr. Alberto Sadun - "Quasar Light Curves: Secrets Revealed"
      • Dr. Sadun will be presenting his research on active galactic nuclei in the distant universe. Abstract TBA.
    • For particle physics types! April 22, 3PM - 4PM: Akaxia Cruz - "Neutrino Oscillation and 1-10 GeV Neutrino/Nucleon Scattering"
      • Over the past two decades experiments have observed the the oscillation of neutrino flavor. This implies that neutrinos have a small non-zero mass and that the three neutrino flavor states are not equivalent to the mass states. The amplitude of mixing between the flavor and mass states is parameterized by three angles. The frequency of oscillation is determined by the differences between the masses squared. Magnitude and sign measurements have been made for some of the masses. This sign determines the ordering of the neutrino mass states, also known as the neutrino mass hierarchy. The neutrino mass hierarchy will help answer open questions in physics such as the origin of matter/anti-matter asymmetry and whether neutrinos are their own anti-particle. Future neutrino experiments will use neutrinos with energies of a few GeV to deter-mine the hierarchy. Neutrino scattering in this energy range is messy as many distinct interaction channels exist. In this talk I will present a brief overview of neutrino oscillation and related open questions in physics, as well as problems I predict future neutrino experiments will face based on an examination of out-going particles produced via each distinct interaction channel in the few-GeV energy range.
Have a relaxing break and we'll see you soon!
* All new officers will be required to attend officer meetings, one colloquium, and the outreach event during April to get up to speed for next school year.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Two STEM Job Fairs in February, Coming Up!

STEM Job Fairs!
CU Denver Engineering Internship & Job Fair
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Tivoli Turnhalle

MSU Denver STEM Job Fair
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Tivoli 320AB

Employers will be recruiting to fill science, technology, engineering and math positions, including part-time, full-time, and internship opportunities.

Bring your resume and dress professionally! For help with your resume, please visit:

Some of the employers participating include: Colorado DoT, Environmental Stoneworks, Kaiser Permanente, Lockheed Martin, Xcel Energy, and more!