Saturday, September 30, 2023

Faculty positions at Rice, + annual Nobel speculation

Trying to spread the word:

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University in Houston, Texas invites applications for two tenure-track faculty positions, one experimental and one theoretical, in the area of quantum science using atomic, molecular, or optical methods. This encompasses quantum information processing, quantum sensing, quantum networks, quantum transduction, quantum many-body physics, and quantum simulation conducted on a variety of platforms. The ideal candidates will intellectually connect AMO physics to topics in condensed matter and quantum information theory. In both searches, we seek outstanding scientists whose research will complement and extend existing quantum activities within the Department and across the University. In addition to developing an independent and vigorous research program, the successful applicants will be expected to teach, on average, one undergraduate or graduate course each semester, and contribute to the service missions of the Department and University. The Department anticipates making the appointments at the assistant professor level. A Ph.D. in physics or related field is required by June 30, 2024.

Applications for these positions must be submitted electronically at (experimental) and (theoretical). Applicants will be required to submit the following: (1) cover letter; (2) curriculum vitae; (3) statement of research; (4) statement on teaching; (5) statement on diversity, mentoring, and outreach; (6) PDF copies of up to three publications; and (7) the names, affiliations, and email addresses of three professional references. Rice University, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, are strongly committed to a culturally diverse intellectual community. In this spirit, we particularly welcome applications from all genders and members of historically underrepresented groups who exemplify diverse cultural experiences and who are especially qualified to mentor and advise all members of our diverse student population. We will begin reviewing applications by November 15, 2023. To receive full consideration, all application materials must be received by December 15, 2023. The expected appointment date is July 2024.


In addition, the Nobels will be announced this week.  For the nth year in a row, I will put forward my usual thought that it could be Aharonov and Berry for geometric phases in physics (though I know that Pancharatnam is intellectually in there and died in 1969).  Speculate away below in the comments.  I'm traveling, but I will try to follow the discussion.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A few quick highlights

 It's been a very busy time, hence my lower posting frequency.  It was rather intense trying to attend both the KITP conference and the morning sessions of the DOE experimental condensed matter PI meeting (pdf of agenda here).  A few quick highlights that I thought were interesting:

  • Kagome metals of the form AV3Sb5 are very complicated.  In these materials, in the a-b plane the V atoms form a Kagome lattice (before that one reader corrects me, I know that this is not formally a lattice from the crystallographic point of view, just using the term colloquially).  Band structure calculations show that there are rather flat bands (for an explanation, see here) near the Fermi level, and there are Dirac cones, van Hove singularities, Fermi surface nesting, etc.  These materials have nontrivial electronic topology, and CsV3Sb5 and KV3Sb5 both have charge density wave transitions and low-temperature superconductivity.  Here is a nice study of the CDW in CsV3Sb5, and here is a study that shows that there is no spontaneous breaking of time-reversal symmetry below that transition.  This paper shows that there is funky nonlinear electronic transport (apply a current at frequency \(\omega\), measure a voltage at frequency \(2 \omega\)) in CsV3Sb5 that is switchable in sign with an out-of-plane magnetic field.  Weirdly, that is not seen in KV3Sb5 even though the basic noninteracting band structures of the two materials are almost identical, implying that it has something to do with electronic correlation effects.
  • Related to that last paper, here is a review article about using focused ion beams for sample preparation and material engineering.  It's pretty amazing what can be done with these tools, including carving out micro/nanostructured devices from originally bulk crystals of interesting materials.  
  • The temperature-dependent part of the electrical resistivity of Fermi liquids is expected to scale like \(T^{2}\) as \(T \rightarrow 0\).  One can make a very general argument (that ignores actual kinematic restrictions on scattering) based on the Pauli exclusion principle that the inelastic e-e scattering rate should go like \(T^{2}\) (number of electron quasiparticles excited goes like \(T\), number of empty states available to scatter into also goes like \(T\)).  However, actually keeping track of momentum conservation, it turns out that one usually needs Umklapp scattering processes to get this.  That isn't necessary all the time, however.  In very low density metals, the Fermi wavevector is far from the Brillouin zone boundary and so Umklapp should not be important, but it is still possible to get \(T^{2}\) resistivity (see here as well).  Similarly, in 3He, a true Fermi liquid, there is no lattice, so there is no such thing as Umklapp, but at the lowest temperatures the \(T^{2}\) thermal conduction is still seen (though some weird things happen at higher temperatures). 
There are more, but I have to work on writing some other things.  More soon....

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Meetings this week

This week is the 2023 DOE experimental condensed matter physics PI meeting - in the past I’ve written up highlights of these here (2021), here (2019), here (2017), here (2015), and here (2013).  This year, I am going to have to present remotely, however, because I am giving a talk at this interesting conference at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.  I will try to give some takeaways of the KITP meeting, and if any of the ECMP attendees want to give their perspective on news from the DOE meeting, I’d be grateful for updates in the comments.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Things I learned at the Packard Foundation meeting

Early in my career, I was incredibly fortunate to be awarded a David and Lucille Packard Foundation fellowship, and this week I attended the meeting in honor of the 35th anniversary of the fellowship program.  Packard fellowships are amazing, with awardees spanning the sciences (including math) and engineering, providing resources for a sustained period (5 years) with enormous flexibility.  The meetings have been some of the most fun ones I've ever attended, with talks by incoming and outgoing fellows that are short (20 min) and specifically designed to be accessible by scientifically literate non-experts.  My highlights from the meeting ten years ago (the last one I attended) are here.  Highlights from meetings back when I was a fellow are here, herehere, here.

Here are some cool things that I learned at the meeting (some of which I'm sure I should've known), from a few of the talks + posters.  (Unfortunately I cannot stay for the last day, so apologies for missing some great presentations.)   I will further update this post later in the day and tomorrow.

  • By the 2040s, with the oncoming LISA and Cosmic Explorer/Einstein Telescope instruments, it's possible that we will be able to detect every blackhole merger in the entire visible universe.
  • It's very challenging to have models of galaxy evolution that handle how supernovae regulate mass outflow and star formation to end up with what we see statistically in the sky
  • Machine learning can be really good at disentangling overlapping seismic events.
  • In self-propelled/active matter, it's possible to start with particles that just have a hard-shell repulsion and still act like there is an effective attractive interaction that leads to clumping.
  • There are about \(10^{14}\) bacteria in each person, with about 360\(\times\) the genetic material of the person.  Also, the gut has lots of neurons, five times as many as the spinal cord (!).  The gut microbiome can seemingly influence concentrations of neurotransmitters.
  • Bees can deliberately damage leaves of plants to stress the flora and encourage earlier and more prolific flowering.
  • For some bio-produced materials that are nominally dry, their elastic properties and the dependence of those properties on humidity is seemingly controlled almost entirely by the water they contain.  
  • It is now possible to spatially resolve gene expression (via mRNA) at the single cell level across whole slices of, e.g., mouse brain tissue.  Mind-blowing links here and here.
  • I knew that ordinary human red blood cells have no organelles, and therefore they can't really respond much to stimuli.  What I did not know is that maturing red blood cells (erythrocyte precurors) in bone marrow start with nuclei and can participate in immune response, and that red blood cells in fetuses (and then at trace level in pregnant mothers) circulate all the different progenitor cells, potentially playing an important role in immune response.
  • 45% of all deaths in the US can be attributed in part to fibrosis (scarring) issues (including cardiac problems), but somehow the uterus can massively regenerate monthly without scarring.  Also, zero common lab animals menstruate, which is a major obstacle for research; transgenic mice can now be made so that there are good animal models for study. 
  • Engineered cellulose materials can be useful for radiative cooling to the sky and can be adapted for many purposes, like water harvesting from the atmosphere with porous fabrics.