Category: physics and astronomy

UGA engineering enrollment grows


Congratulations to the UGA College of Engineering, which is experiencing tremendous growth in enrollment. This growth was forecast long ago, forecasts themselves that were part of the rationale for offering a wider range of engineering degrees at the university in the first place, for which the Franklin College has long been an advocate and supporter:

The college now has UGA’s fifth-largest undergraduate enrollment after passing the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the School of Public Affairs this year.

“There’s a lot of demand for University of Georgia engineering,” said Donald Leo, the school’s dean.

As of Sept. 9, the college had enrolled 1,233 majors this fall, up exactly 300 more than a year ago. Adding in the 81 engineering graduate students and the 1,314 total enrollment is nearly twice what it was in fall 2012 ‑ 63 graduate students and 631 undergraduates in the college’s first year.

In undergraduates, the engineering college now ranks sixth in size behind arts and sciences (9.457), business (6,418), education (2,436), journalism (1,895) and agriculture and environmental sciences (1,488). Just behind engineering in size are family and consumer sciences, with 1,195 majors, and the School of Public and International Affairs, with 1,108.

There is a long history of engineering at UGA - long, very long, as in dating from the 1840's. All classes in the mechanical arts were once taught in Athens until those degrees were consolidated at the North Avenue Trade School in the 1930's. In the more recent era, Franklin College deans Wyatt Anderson and Garnett Stokes supported UGA engineering efforts with people and resources, funding joint-appointments between engineering and computer science, physics and astronomy, chemistry and other Franklin departments. These new, interdisciplinary positions allowed UGA to bring to campus some of the best young researchers in the country, laying the groundwork for innovative degree programs and building for the succes we see today.

And to digress a bit further, conventional wisdom has certainly coalesced around the idea that it is important for UGA to have engineering (and a medical school) for obvious reasons and these are not inaccurate. But it is at least as important for engineering to be offered in the context of a liberal arts learning environment, where future engineers can be trained alongside future historians, writers journalists, attorneys, artists, social workers and entrepreneurs of all sorts. Those are the people who will live the world they are going to design for, and the more engineers understand that world and its people, the better their design solutions will be. The folks who conceived of the UGA engineering programs, including the deans mentioned above, understood this quite well. All are to be commended.

New nanoparticle treatment for stroke victims


nano-biocleanroom zhaoGreat new work from Franklin College researchers that should garner significant attention:

Researchers at the University of Georgia and their collaborators have developed a new technique to enhance stroke treatment that uses magnetically controlled nanomotors to rapidly transport a clot-busting drug to potentially life-threatening blockages in blood vessels.

The only drug currently approved for the treatment of acute stroke—recombinant tissue plasminogen activator, or t-PA—is administered intravenously to patients after the first symptoms of ischemic stroke appear. The protein in the drug dissolves blood clots that cause strokes and other cardiovascular problems, like pulmonary embolisms and heart attacks.

"Our technology uses magnetic nanorods that, when injected into the bloodstream and activated with rotating magnets, act like stirring bars to drive t-PA to the site of the clot," said Yiping Zhao, co-author of a paper describing the results in ACS Nano and professor of physics in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Our preliminary results show that the breakdown of clots can be enhanced up to twofold compared to treatment with t-PA alone."


Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one American dies from stroke every four minutes.

"We're dealing with a huge population of patients who desperately need new treatments," said Leidong Mao, paper co-author and associate professor in UGA's College of Engineering.

Medical advances can sometime appear quite far removed from the source of their greatest need - either only focused on a small aspect of a condition or only remotely connected to a future treatment regime. Zhao, Mao and their colleagues have a special intuition about getting to the essence of a problem, drug delivery in this instance, and forging solutions with the use of technology developed in their labs. Congratulations to this team of perceptive researchers as they seek to utilize technology to improve the efficiency of the t-PA drug to help stroke and heart attack victims.

Image: Professor Yiping Zhao

Dancing about the Universe


Interdiciplinarity has long been a buzzword in higher education - and all the while it's been much more than that. Bringing expertise from different disciplines together allows to researchers, scientists and artists to reach far deeper into wide-ranging questions and phenomena than they might alone. Just because a term gains currency doesn't disallow its essential truth.

Similarly, the departments of dance, physics and astronomy, and theatre and film studies have developed a collaboration that represents so much more than the sum of its extraordinary parts:



DAAP Stellar and the Dream Chasers! 2014 featuring performances by CORE Concert Dance Company, Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 26-March 1, at 8 p.m. in the New Dance Theatre.

A large-scale collaboration by Franklin College units, the show will feature aerial, dance, film animation and spoken passages delivered by "morphed alien scientist" DAAP Stellar, a fictional composite based on UGA expertise. Ten UGA physics and astronomy professors will expound ideas reflecting leading-edge scientific research including astrophysics and black holes (Loris Magnani); elementary particles (Kanzo Nakayama); spin waves (Uwe Happek); galactic clouds (Robin Shelton); quantum levitation and superconductivity (Heinz-Bernd Schüttler); nanotechnology (Yiping Zhao); molecular dynamics (David Landau); electromagnetic spectrum (William Dennis); extra solar planets (Inseok Song); and "the search for truth in the universe" (Richard Meltzer).

Film, dance and science... a great example of working together by our very creative and motivated faculty. See you there. Tickets.

Fire walk and lecture


092013 Fire Walk lecture with studentsNice slideshow in the Athens Banner Herald on the fire walking demonstration and lecture by John Campbell at the Physics Building last night, in case you missed it. Great event - kudos to the department of physics and astronomy for sponsoring and bringing more science to the public.

And here's a great multi-media piece on the event from our colleagues at UGA Public Affairs, Andrew Tucker and Dot Paul:


Fire walk with him


The department of physics and astronomy hosts a distinguished guest to campus on Thursday sept. 19 with a very unusual bit of expertise to share with all and sundry:

To some, fire walking is an act of faith, belief or mind-over-matter, but for condensed matter physicist John Campbell, fire walking is a matter of thermal conductivity. Campbell will lecture on the subject at the University of Georgia Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. in the physics auditorium.

Campbell, a retired physicist from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, will offer a fire-walking demonstration in the quad adjacent to the physics building following the lecture. The lecture and demonstration are free and open to the public.

"I started doing this when charlatans were charging $200 to train you to control your mind such that you can walk over red hot charcoal and be fine, and that's just bunkum because anyone can do it," Campbell said. "I'm a bit of a charlatan myself because I use science to explain how and why most anyone can do it."

Campbell plans to discuss the reasons why anyone can fire walk and what the rules are, then invite those in attendance to give it try.

We all have to love this kind of general science advocacy. I spoke to Campbell by phone last week and he seems a genuinely pleasant man, with great experience sharing the joys of science with a broad community. This should be fun.

Origins Lecture Series


convection.jpgThe Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the the division of biological sciences will host a new lecture series on the UGA campus this spring: The Origins Lecture Series

Since mankind’s earliest days the story of our origins has been one of fascination and inspiration.  In an effort to share that story six of UGA’s leading scientists have come together to present the latest scientific findings on everything from our humble beginnings on the plains of east Africa to the formation of the universe itself.  The Origins Lecture Series is intended for the entire Athens community.  In clear and plain language these talks are geared for those who want to know more about who we are, how we got here, and possibly, where we are going.

We'll have much more to say about this in the coming weeks, including a preview of the first lecture in the series by Loris Magnani of the department of physics and astronomy on the Origin of the Universe on Wednesday, January 23. Congratulations and thanks to Mark Farmer, chair of our biological sciences division, for bringing this important lecture series to fruition.

UGA Observatory Open House Oct. 19


Observatory, night, with woman pointing toward the sky.Reach for the stars, or merely gaze upon them from the rooftop of the physics building:

The University of Georgia department of physics and astronomy in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences will host its monthly observatory open house Oct. 19 from 8-9:30 p.m. on the fourth floor of the physics building.


The double cluster of Perseus, which is comprised of two nearby groups of thousands of stars, and the pale blue planet Uranus will be visible if the skies are clear. Late in the evening, Jupiter rises in the east, accompanied by its four largest moons known as the Galilean satellites in honor of their discovery by Galileo Galilei in 1610.

Visitors can view the objects through the 24-inch telescope in the dome on top of the building as well as through several smaller telescopes on the roof. Faculty and students from the department will be on hand to point out the various celestial objects and to answer questions.

Talk about date night, with nature.

Image: Photo from an open house in September by John Gallagher Gonzales, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Physicist and adventurer Francis Slakey


Slakey, exterior photo in dark jacket.The department of physics and astronomy will host a lecture this week with Georgetown University's Francis Slakey:

Slakey will describe the decade-long journey that led him to become the first person to summit the highest mountain on every continent and surf every ocean during a University of Georgia lecture on Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. in room 202 of the physics building.


Slakey's talk, "Science and the Journey of Extremes," is hosted by the department of physics and astronomy in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and is free and open to the public.

As the co-director of the Program in Science in the Public Interest at Georgetown, Slakey brings an unsual variety of expertise to campus for a public lecture. This one should be good.


The expanding universe (of knowledge)



Scientists at the University of Georgia, the University of California, San Diego, UCLA, California State Polytechnic University and the Australia National University have collaborated on a study, published in the journal Nature, suggesting new information on how planets are formed.

The study:

began with a curious and unexpected finding: Within three years, the cloud of dust circling a young star in the Scorpius-Centaurus stellar nursery simply disappeared.

"The most commonly accepted time scale for the removal of this much dust is in the hundreds of thousands of years, sometimes millions," said study co-author Inseok Song, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "What we saw was far more rapid and has never been observed or even predicted. It tells us that we have a lot more to learn about planet formation."

25th Simulational Physics Workshop


In June, 2009, the College joined the department of physics and astronomy in hosting a reception celebrating a $3.2 million renovation to the 50-year-old physics building on Cedar Street, a renovation that included space for the new Center for Simulational Physics. Distinguished Research Professor of Physics David Landau established and has led the simulational physics research group at UGA since the 1970's.

The 25th Annual Workshop in the series, "Recent Developments in Computer Simulations Studies in Condensed Matter Physics" is underway  and will continue all this week at UGA.