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Department of Physics and Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy has a rich and long history dating back to the latter part of the 19th century. Our faculty and students are exploring nature at all length scales, from the subatomic (quarks and gluons) to the macroscopic (black holes and dark energy), and everything in between (atomic and biological systems).

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Scientists have been researching superconductors for over a century, but they have yet to find one that works at room temperature

THE CONVERSATION — Dr. David Nolte penned this piece for The Conversation. "If you hadn’t heard about superconductors before 2023, odds are you know what they are now. Researchers raised eyebrows early in the year with claims of operational room-temperature superconductors, though none has been substantiated, and one paper from researchers at the University of Rochester was retracted by the journal Nature at the authors’ request in November."

In an unexpected twist, high levels of mercury have been traced to particular cell types in brains of mammals

Numerous studies have focused on the exposure and effects of Hg, particularly in marine and sea creatures. It is well-known that people should limit the consumption of certain fish, like tuna, due to mercury presence. However, the question arises: can mercury ions reach the brains of terrestrial animals? Dr. Yulia Pushkar, of Purdue Physics and Astronomy, was tasked with checking for Hg in brains of mongooses collected in Okinawa Island. Surprisingly, brain scans revealed mercury in these invasive animals. Their collaborative findings were recently published win Environmental Chemistry Letters.

Neuromorphic computing will be great… if hardware can handle the workload

EUREKALERT — A joint effort between physicists believe they may have discovered a way to rework hardware…. By mimicking the synapses of the human brain. They published their findings, “Spatially Distributed Ramp Reversal Memory in VO2” in Advanced Electronic Materials which is featured on the back cover of the October 2023 edition. “The brain-inspired codes of the AI revolution are largely being run on conventional silicon computer architectures which were not designed for it,” explains Erica Carlson, 150th Anniversary Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University.

Arianna Meenakshi (Meenakshi) McNamara, 2024 AWM Schafer Prize Winner

AWM — Arianna Meenakshi McNamara is a mathematics and physics major (with honors in both) at Purdue University. She has carried out research in graph theory at Purdue and has participated in REUs in topology and discrete math at Carnegie Mellon University and in mathematical physics at Louisiana State University. Her research work led to two papers that are already published and several in-prep works. Her work was described as strong and independent by all of her mentors, and she received numerous awards for her scholarship, including a Goldwater Scholarship, an Astronaut Scholarship, and a National Merit Scholarship. She has also presented her research at various national conferences and seminars.

The James Webb Space Telescope is a giant leap in the history of stargazing

NEW YORK TIMES — Nearly a million miles away, the James Webb Space Telescope just took a picture. Since transmitting its first data in late 2021, Webb has made stunning discoveries. Take a visual odyssey through this New York Times “Webb”site which you through discoveries so far by NASA's Webb Space Telescope. The image of CasA was returned for Principal Investigator Dr. Danny Milisavljevic, of Purdue Physics and Astronomy, in the first round of returned images.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy, 525 Northwestern Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2036 • Phone: (765) 494-3000 • Fax: (765) 494-0706

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