Beverly Berger Receives APS Isaacson Award

Beverly K. Berger (Ph.D., ‘72) has been selected to receive the 2021 American Physical Society (APS) Richard A. Isaacson Award in Gravitational-Wave Science, which recognizes outstanding contributions in gravitational-wave physics, gravitational-wave astrophysics, and the technologies that enable this science. Berger was cited for supporting and expanding the community of scientists engaged in gravitational-wave research, and for fostering an international network of researchers devoted to theory and experimentation."

The award, which honors alumnus Richard Isaacson (Ph.D., ‘67), was established with funds donated by Nobel laureates Kip S. Thorne and Rainer Weiss to commemorate Isaacson’s impact on the study of gravitational waves. Isaacson’s research contributed to the theory of gravitational wave generation and propagation, and he later oversaw the development of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) during his career as Program Director of Gravitational Physics at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Berger did her thesis work on cosmological graviton creation under Professor Emeritus Charles Misner. Her career included 24 years in the Physics Department at Oakland University (MI), where she served a term as department chair, and 10 years as Program Director for Gravitational Physics at the NSF. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the APS.

Within the APS, Berger worked to establish the Topical Group on Gravitation, which eventually became the Division of Gravitational Physics (DGRAV). She has twice served as DGRAV chair, and also led the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics in 2000.

She joined the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) in 2012 and is now part of the Stanford University LIGO Group.

The CMNS story, The Chirps Heard Round the World, describes the University of Maryland’s contributions to gravitational wave science. The short documentary film Mirrors That Hang on Glass Threads illuminates the scale and complexity of the LIGO detector, while LIGO Detection tells the story of the September 2015 event in the words of many LIGO scientists.

Other University of Maryland APS awardees in this cycle are Nick Poniatowski, who received the LeRoy Apker Award, and Steve Fetter, Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Public Policy, who received the Leo Szilard Award.

UMD Welcomes 16-year-old Ph.D. Student

Sixteen-year-old Jeremy Shuler subscribes to the theory of “many worlds.” It’s a weird but, many physicists argue, mathematically sound interpretation of quantum mechanics holding that every possibility—Schrödinger’s cat lives, it dies, it was actually a dog—plays out in a practically infinite array of universes.

If true, then in at least one of them, Shuler is an average high school junior in Texas hoping for a B in trigonometry, who just got his driver’s license and is excited about the upJeremy Shuler, 16, enrolled to study for a doctoral degree in theoretical physics this year after becoming Cornell University's youngest-ever graduate this spring. (Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle)Jeremy Shuler, 16, enrolled to study for a doctoral degree in theoretical physics this year after becoming Cornell University's youngest-ever graduate this spring. (Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle)coming Cowboys game.

In our universe, things couldn’t be more different: Shuler can handle differential geometry and complex analysis, rides Shuttle-UM buses from University Park and isn’t a sports fan—instead, he’s believed to be one of the youngest Ph.D. student ever at the University of Maryland.

He enrolled this semester to study theoretical physics, Einstein’s field, which focuses on mind-bending questions ranging from the existence of hidden dimensions to the nature of time.

“The subfield I’m interested in is high-energy/particle physics, which is great, because it’s a way to understand the fundamental nature of our universe,” he said.

It was already clear when he was a toddler that Jeremy, while maybe not in his own universe, was on a different track than most, said his mother, Harrey Shuler, who is from South Korea. At 18 or 19 months, he asked what she was doing as she typed an email to her family.

“I showed him the Korean consonants and the Korean vowels … I repeated it like twice,” she said. “We spent maybe half an hour, and the next day, he could read Korean.” A few days after that, he started reading in English.

She was completing her aerospace engineering Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin, but decided to homeschool Jeremy rather than pursue a career; Jeremy’s father, Andrew Shuler, worked as an engineer at Lockheed Martin in Dallas. The youngster progressed quickly through elementary subjects, then completed online high school courses in two years, graduating at 12.

Accompanied by media hoopla, Shuler in 2016 became the youngest-ever student at his father’s alma mater, Cornell University. Andrew Shuler was able to transfer to a nearby Lockheed Martin location, so the family picked up and moved to Ithaca, N.Y. 

“Cornell was the first actual school I attended,” Shuler said. “But by the end of the semester, I got pretty much adjusted to how things worked there, and the students were pretty supportive of me.”

After graduating in 2020, the whole family moved to the College Park area, where Shuler had been accepted in UMD’s highly touted physics department. 

Tom Cohen, professor and associate chair in physics, said the risk of admitting a student so young is balanced with the possibilities of major reward because of Shuler’s natural abilities.

“In terms of straightforward intellectual firepower, he’s got it—he can solve a problem presented to him in a way that’s off-scale good,” Cohen said, adding that math ability is not what set great physicists like Einstein apart. “What’s not obvious yet is how creative Jeremy is; that can be tricky for young prodigies.”

Deciding his research focus is his top priority, Shuler said, although learning to teach has also been on his mind: “Being a TA is different from anything I’ve ever done before. I’m a little nervous.”

He’ll have five or so years to figure out how to corral undergrads as he works on his Ph.D. “By the time he graduates,” Andrew Shuler said, “he might be old enough to celebrate with a glass of champagne.”

Original story by Chris Carroll:

Nick Poniatowski Wins APS Apker Award

The American Physical Society has selected Nicholas R. Poniatowski (B.S. Physics, ’20) to receive the 2020 LeRoy Apker Award. The Apker Award, which carries a $5,000 prize for both the awardee and the department, is givelobb merrillRick Greene and Nick Poniatowski.n annually to one student from a Ph.D. granting institution and one from a non-Ph.D. granting institution. Poniatowski, now in graduate school at Harvard University, will study with condensed matter experimentalist Amir Yacoby.

Poniatowski, the first University of Maryland student to receive this honor, entered UMD neither having taken AP Physics nor working in a lab. He began his research in March 2017 with Rick Greene of the Quantum Materials Center; by his spring 2020 graduation, he was a major contributor to three experimental research projects and the author or co-author of five publications and two manuscripts submitted for publication and now under review. Among his accolades are a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. 

“In the Quantum Materials Center, we routinely support undergraduate research not only to provide students an opportunity to gain experience, but also because there are many talented students eager to help boost our efforts,” said director Johnpierre Paglione. “In Nick's case, we were both delighted and amazed at his abilities and enthusiasm, and are proud to have helped launch his career.” 

“I had a great run at UMD, and benefitted immensely from the department’s emphasis on undergraduate research,” said Poniatowski, who was named a 2020 UMD Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher. “Working with Rick was a truly formative experience, and perhaps more importantly, a tremendous amount of fun.”

Greene regards Poniatowski as an extraordinary scholar. “When Nick started work in my lab he had completed a typical freshman level of courses, so I suggested that he read the beginning chapters of a few introductory books on solid state physics, modern physics and quantum mechanics,” Greene said. “To my amazement, he quickly learned much about these subjects, going way beyond what I initially thought he could understand.

“Nick then asked me what symmetry is broken when a material enters the superconducting state. Since I didn’t really have a simple answer to this question, I suggested that he talk to one of my theoretical colleagues, Sankar Das Sarma.” 

Within months of raising the question, Poniatowski published a single-author paper, “Superconductivity, Broken Gauge Symmetry and the Higgs Mechanism” in the American Journal of Physics.  (

"Saying Nick is exceptionally brilliant and motivated is an understatement," said Das Sarma. "His enthusiasm and drive for doing physics all the time at the highest level are so exuberant and all-encompassing that I had to sometimes hide from him because he dropped by my office to ask serious technical questions about random research topics, which were sometimes exhausting because his questions are always challenging as his understanding of physics is deep." 

Greene notes Poniatowski’s exceptional versatility in both theory and experiment. “He very quickly learned a number of significant experimental skills, including preparation of copper oxide (cuprate) thin films by the pulsed laser deposition method and X-ray diffraction measurements to characterize the crystal structure and orientation of these films. He also became expert at various electrical transport measurements, such as resistivity and Hall Effect, which enabled him to measure these properties as a function of temperature and magnetic field. With these measurements, Nick discovered some new and surprising physical properties of the cuprates, high temperature superconductors, the understanding of which has puzzled scientists for more than 30 years. Nick’s experimental results (soon to all be published) will provide new insights into the mysterious properties of the cuprates.”

Moreover, Poniatowski can clearly convey the subject that he loves: he won a TA award as an undergraduate, and during the COVID-19 shutdown prepared a series of Zoom lectures on a topic he plans to pursue at Harvard.  “They are really comprehensive and beautiful lectures,” said Greene.

Poniatowski described his years in Greene’s lab as “a wonderful experience which drastically expanded my knowledge of physics and defined my understanding of scientific research. In addition to his invaluable mentorship, regular pontification about the stock market, and discussions about Proust, Rick offered me a number of opportunities unusual for undergraduates (from a trip to Stanford to getting to write a review article), for which I am extremely grateful.”

“I was also extremely fortunate to work with two fantastic post-docs, Tara Sarkar and Pampa Mandal, who taught me how to actually perform experiments and made day-to-day life in the lab a lively experience. Most importantly, I’ve internalized Rick’s BS-free approach to science, which will continue to guide my thinking for years to come.”


UMD to Lead $1M NSF Project to Develop a Quantum Network to Interconnect Quantum Computers

Quantum technology is expected to be a major technological driver in the 21st century, with significant societal impact in various sectors. A quantum network would revolutionize a broad range of industries including computing, banking, medicine, and data analytics. While the Internet has transformed virtually every aspect of our life by enabling connectivity between a multitude of users across the globe, a quantum internet could have a similar transformational potential for quantum technology.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $1 million to a multi-institutional team led by Edo Waks and Norbert Linke, along with Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX) Executive Director Tripti Sinha and co-PIs Dirk Englund of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Saikat Guha of the University of Arizona, to help develop quantum interconnects for ion trap quantum computers, which are currently some of the most scalable quantum computers available.

The group is one of 29 teams who were selected for the Convergence Accelerator program, a new NSF initiative designed to accelerate use-inspired research to address wide-scale societal challenges. The 2020 cohort addresses two transformative research areas of national importance: quantum technology and artificial intelligence.

“We plan to merge state-of-the-art quantum technology with prevailing internet technology to interconnect quantum computers coherently over a quantum internet that coexists with and leverages the vast existing infrastructure that is our current Internet,” said Waks, principal investigator on the project, who is the Quantum Technology Center (QTC) Associate Director and holds appointments in Physics, the Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringJoint Quantum Institute and the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics

The ability to interconnect many ion trap quantum computers over a quantum internet would be a major technological advance, laying the foundation for applications that are impossible on today’s internet.

“The NSF Convergence Accelerator is focusing on delivering tangible solutions that have a nation-wide societal impact and at a faster pace,” said Pradeep Fulay, Program Director for the Convergence Accelerator. “Over the next nine months this team and 10 other teams aligned to the Quantum Technology track, will work to build proof-of-concepts by leveraging the Accelerator’s innovation model and curriculum to include multidisciplinary partnerships between academia, industry and other organizations; as well as team science, human-centered design, and user-discovery; igniting a convergence team-building approach.”

Their project, part of the NSF Convergence Accelerator's (C-Accel) Quantum Technology Track, will develop the quantum interconnects required to establish kilometer distance quantum channels between remote quantum computing sites. The result will be the MARQI network, a local area network that will interconnect quantum computers at University of Maryland, the Army Research Laboratory, and Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX), with potential for major scalability. In addition, an MARQI Advisory Committee will be created comprising those interested in advancing the project.

“We will leverage a quantum network testbed — of our recently-awarded NSF Engineering Research Center: the "Center for Quantum Networks” led by University of Arizona in partnership with MIT, Harvard, Yale and several other institutions — for rapid prototyping, benchmarking and scaling up trapped-ion-based quantum routers to be built in the UMD-led Convergence Accelerator program,” says Saikat Guha.

Although the quantum internet was an idea previously relegated to research labs, it is now in a position to become an applied technology with transformational potential for society, science, and national security.

“This convergence accelerator program will deliver the future backbone for a fully-functional quantum internet that can enable the transmission of quantum data over continental distances,” says Waks.

The quantum technology topic complements the NSF's Quantum Leap Big Idea and aligns with the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) strategy to improve the U.S. industrial base, create jobs and provide significant progress toward economic and societal needs.

"The quantum technology and AI-driven data and model sharing topics were chosen based on community input and identified federal research and development priorities," said Douglas Maughan, head of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program. "This is the program's second cohort and we are excited for these teams to use convergence research and innovation-centric fundamentals to accelerate solutions that have a positive societal impact."


Original story here:

Gorshkov Named APS Fellow

Adjunct Associate Professor Alexey Gorshkov has been elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). He is one of 163 APS members to join the select group this year.Alexey GorshkovAlexey Gorshkov

Gorshkov, who is also a Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, a Physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and a Fellow of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, leads a theoretical research group with interests that span many areas of physics. He and his team study everything from single atoms and pinpoints of light to information speed limits and exotic phases of matter. And they often investigate all of it through the lens of quantum information theory.

Each year, APS selects no more than 0.5% of its non-student membership—currently more than 33,000 people—as fellows, a recognition by peers of their contributions to physics. Gorshkov was nominated for his “contributions to the understanding, design, and control of quantum many-body atomic, molecular, and optical systems and their applications to phase transitions, entanglement generation and propagation, synthetic magnetism, and quantum memory and simulation.”