Stephen Sekula

SMU Physics will project solar eclipse into Dallas Hall Rotunda on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017

SMU physics professors have devised a remarkable way to watch next Monday’s historic solar eclipse: They will use mirrors to turn the historic Dallas Hall Rotunda into a giant viewing chamber.

Weather permitting, Associate Professor of Physics Stephen Sekula will host for students and the public a homebrew viewing tunnel attached to a telescope on the lawn of Dallas Hall. The total eclipse of the sun will take place on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The Rotunda event is sponsored by SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and the Department Physics.

The Rotunda image and the viewing tunnel will provide crisp images of the eclipse, and also correspond to NASA’s recommendation to avoid looking directly at the sun, Sekula said. Both methods eliminate the need for certified glasses to avoid eye damage. A surge in demand has made authentic safety glasses hard to find.

“There’s no sense risking your vision, and so this way you can come out and enjoy the eclipse without damaging your eyes,” he said.

Dallas is in the secondary shadow of the eclipse, not the primary shadow, so the region will not see the total phase of the eclipse, but rather 75 percent coverage.

“That’s still quite spectacular,” Sekula said, noting that peak viewing will be around 1:09 p.m. The partial eclipse begins in Dallas at 11:40 a.m. and ends at 2:39 p.m., according to NASA.

Wherever you and your students view the 2017 solar eclipse, don’t forget to observe these safety protocols, shared by SMU Health:

On Monday, Aug. 21, a historic total solar eclipse of the sun will be partially visible in North Texas from about 11:40 a.m. to about 2:40 p.m.  NASA offers recommendations for safely viewing the event because of the potential dangers it poses to eyesight if precautions are not taken. Please see for information.

SMU Dedman College Solar Eclipse Event

Four top teachers named SMU’s 2017-19 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors

Four outstanding SMU professors have been named 2017-19 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors, as announced by the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 4, 2017.

The 2017 honorees are W. Keith Robinson, Tsai Center for Law, Science and Innovation, Dedman School of Law; Stephen Sekula, Physics, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Kumar Venkataraman, Finance, Cox School of Business; and Kathleen Wellman, History, Dedman College of Humanities and Science.

The new members of SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers will join active returning members William Dillon, Marketing, Cox School of Business; Maria Dixon, Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, Meadows School of the Arts; Elizabeth Thornburg, Civil Procedure and Alternative Dispute Resolution, Dedman School of Law; and Gabriela Vokic, World Languages and Literatures (Spanish), Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Each year since 2001, the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Awards, named for SMU Trustee Ruth Altshuler, recognize SMU faculty members for their commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning.

“These are faculty whose concerns for higher education go beyond classroom boundaries and often the boundaries of their own discipline,” according to the CTE. “They represent the highest achievement in reaching the goals of higher education.”

Each recipient receives a $10,000 award and membership in SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers for the two years of their appointment as Altshuler Professors. Members participate actively with other members of the Academy to address issues in classroom teaching.

> Read more about the 2017 Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors at the SMU CTE homepage

SMU to host international particle physics workshop April 27-May 1, 2015

DIS 2015 Dallas Hall oculus-splash logoMore than 300 of the world’s leading experts on particle physics are about to converge on Dallas for one of the discipline’s most important annual gatherings. The 2015 International Workshop on Deep-Inelastic Scattering and Related Subjects (DIS), held annually in a world-class city, will be hosted by SMU April 27-May 1, 2015,

A public panel will kick off the workshop week on Sunday, April 26. Steve Sekula, SMU assistant professor of physics, will host fellow physicists Joe Izen of UT-Dallas, Pat Skubic of the University of Oklahoma and Chris Jackson of UT-Arlington for “If the Universe is the Answer…What is the Question?” at 6:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information and parking directions, contact the Department of Physics, 214-768-2495.

> Follow the conference on Twitter: #DIS2015

SMU physicists are active in several major international scientific consortia on particle physics experiments, including one of the most notable – the Large Hadron Collider. The 23rd annual DIS workshop brings these scientists together to discuss both the results from current experiments and the theoretical advances that will guide the future.

> Learn more at the DIS 2015 homepage:

SMU scientists celebrate Nobel Prize for Higgs discovery

Particle collision from the ATLAS ExperimentSMU’s experimental physics group played a pivotal role in discovering the Higgs boson — the particle that proves the theory for which two scientists have received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today awarded the Nobel Prize to theorists Peter W. Higgs and François Englert to recognize their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass. U.S. scientists played a significant role in advancing the theory and in discovering the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field, the Higgs boson.

The Nobel citation recognizes Higgs and Englert “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.”

“A scientist may test out a thousand different ideas over the course of a career. If you’re fortunate, you get to experiment with one that works,” says SMU physicist Ryszard Stroynowski, a principal investigator in the search for the Higgs boson. As the leader of an SMU Department of Physics team working on the experiment, Stroynowski served as U.S. coordinator for the ATLAS Experiment’s Liquid Argon Calorimeter, which measures energy from the particles created by proton collisions.

The University’s experimental physics group has been involved since 1994 and is a major contributor to the research, the heart of which is the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator on the border with Switzerland and France.

Preliminary discovery results were announced July 4, 2012 at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland, and at the International Conference of High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia.

• Several contributors from SMU have made their mark on the project at various stages, including current Department of Physics faculty members Ryszard Stroynowski, Jingbo Ye, Robert Kehoe and Stephen Sekula. Faculty members Pavel Nadolsky and Fred Olness performed theoretical calculations used in various aspects of data analysis.

• University postdoctoral fellows on the ATLAS Experiment have included Julia Hoffmann, David Joffe, Ana Firan, Haleh Hadavand, Peter Renkel, Aidan Randle-Conde, Daniel Goldin and Sami Kama.

• SMU has awarded eight Ph.D. and seven M.S. degrees to students who performed advanced work on ATLAS, including Ryan Rios, Rozmin Daya, Renat Ishmukhametov, Tingting Cao, Kamile Dindar, Pavel Zarzhitsky and Azzedin Kasmi.

• Significant contributions to ATLAS have also been made by SMU faculty members in the Department of Physics’ Optoelectronics Lab, including Tiankuan Liu, Annie Xiang and Datao Gong.

“The discovery of the Higgs is a great achievement, confirming an idea that will require rewriting of the textbooks,” Stroynowski says. “But there is much more to be learned from the LHC and from ATLAS data in the next few years. We look forward to continuing this work.”

> Read the full story from SMU News

Research Spotlight: CERN scientists close in on Higgs boson

An event showing four muons (red tracks) from a proton-proton collision in ATLAS. This event is consistent with two Z particles decaying into two muons each. Such events are produced by Standard Model processes without Higgs particles. They are also a possible signature for Higgs particle production, but many events must be analyzed together in order to tell if there is a Higgs signal. (Image courtesy of CERN.)

In a giant game of hide and seek, physicists say there are indications they finally may have found evidence of the long sought after fundamental particle called the Higgs boson.

Researchers at Switzerland-based CERN, the largest high-energy physics experiment in the world, have been seeking the Higgs boson since it was theorized in the 1960s. The so-called “God” particle is believed to play a fundamental role in solving the important mystery of why matter has mass.

Thousands of scientists from around the world seek evidence of the Higgs particle through experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The researchers analyze a flood of electronic data streaming from the breakup of speeding protons colliding in the massive particle accelerator. Scientists on Tuesday announced in a seminar held at CERN that they’ve found hints of the Higgs.

SMU physicist Ryszard Stroynowski“Now we have a strong indication, but not yet a confirmation, of a discovery,” said SMU physicist Ryszard Stroynowski (left), the leader of SMU’s team of scientists working on the experiment.

Theorists have predicted that some subatomic particles gain mass by interacting with other particles called Higgs bosons. The Higgs boson is the only undiscovered part of the Standard Model of physics, which describes the basic building blocks of matter and their interactions.

Higgs bosons, if they exist, are short-lived and can decay in many different ways. Just as a vending machine might return the same amount of change using different combinations of coins, the Higgs can decay into different combinations of particles. Discovery relies on observing statistically significant excesses of the particles into which they decay rather than observing the Higgs itself.

“If indeed we are able to confirm sighting of the Higgs in the months ahead, this clearly focuses our future studies,” said Stroynowski, a professor in the SMU Department of Physics. “Now by the middle of next year we’ll know for sure if this particle exists and we can begin to study its properties. This is a very big step in the understanding of particle physics.”

Besides Stroynowski, the SMU team of researchers includes three other Physics Department faculty: Jingbo YeRobert Kehoe and Stephen Sekula, six postdoctoral fellows and five graduate students. Main contributions to the new analysis of the data were made by postdoctoral researcher Julia Hoffman and graduate student Ryan Rios.

Others in the department who have contributed include former postdoctoral fellow David Joffe, now an assistant professor at Kennesaw State University, graduate students Renat Ishmukhametov and Rozmin Daya and theoretical faculty Fredrick Olness and Pavel Nadolsky.

Stroynowski, Hoffman, and Rios are among the more than 70 scientists whose work directly contributed to the conference papers reporting the findings, said Olness, a professor and chairman of the SMU Department of Physics. While thousands of scientists worldwide participated directly and indirectly in the experiments, SMU is one of only a few U.S. universities whose scientists are named among the 70 researchers directly cited on one of the three conference papers.

“SMU’s role in the LHC experiments provides our students a chance to participate in pioneering discoveries,” Olness said. “SMU students helped build the ATLAS detector, they were in the control room when the experiment started up, and they contributed to the analysis. The results presented today are historic, and they will help shape our view of the matter and forces that comprise our universe; SMU students have played a role in this achievement.”

SMU's Ryszard Stroynowski and Ryan Rios

In Fondren Science Building, physicist and SMU Physics Professor Ryszard Stroynowski and physics graduate student Ryan Rios discuss the Higgs boson after viewing a CERN web cast Tuesday announcing evidence of the Higgs. (Photo by Hillsman S. Jackson.)

Discovering the type of Higgs boson predicted in the Standard Model would confirm a theory first put forward in the 1960s.

“This year, the LHC has come roaring into the front of the hunt for the Higgs boson and may be poised to either identify it, or refute its existence, in the coming months,” said Kehoe, associate professor in the SMU Department of Physics. “As I like to tell my students learning modern physics, ‘You still live in a world in which we do not know for sure the mechanism breaking the symmetry between electromagnetic and weak interactions. That world may be soon to change forever. We may soon see a truly new thing.’”

– Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

Tune In: Introducing the Mustang Physics podcast

Mustang Physics logoLooking for a high-energy look into science news? Now you can listen to the latest from the world of physics through the Mustang Physics podcast – hosted by Stephen Sekula, assistant physics professor in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

“Mustang Physics is your gateway into the lives, studies and passions of physics students and researchers,” Sekula says. Episodes will appear monthly, and the podcast is supported in part by an SMU President’s Partners Grant.

Find show notes and a link to subscribe through RSS at the all-new Mustang Physics blog.

Listen to the Mustang Physics podcast of November 2010 audio

Faculty in the News: Sept. 21, 2010

'Symmetry' magazine banana-peel physics photoSteve Sekula, Physics, Dedman College, wrote a brief article on “back-of-the-banana” calculations made by SMU graduate students Tingting Cao and Rozmin Daya and postdoctoral researcher Aidan Randle-Conde that appeared in the August 2010 edition of Symmetry magazine. The story was based on a post Sekula wrote for the University’s SMU @ CERN blog.

Bernard Weinstein, Maguire Energy Institute, Cox School of Business, talked about the slowdown of the Texas economy with The Dallas Morning News Sept. 18, 2010.

Mark Chancey, Religious Studies, Dedman College, wrote an op-ed about a resolution on Islam that the Texas State Board of Education is considering for textbook entries on the world’s major religions. The article appeared in The Dallas Morning News Sept. 17, 2010.

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Dedman College, has provided expertise concerning the potential impact on voters of having no 2010 Texas gubernational debate to media outlets including The Houston Chronicle on Sept. 14, 2010, and KERA Public Radio on Sept. 14, 2010. audio

Derek Kompare, Cinema-Television, Meadows School of the Arts, discussed the changing economics of TV reruns with National Public Radio Sept. 16, 2010.

SMU physics professors have devised a remarkable way to watch next Monday’s historic solar eclipse: They will use mirrors to turn the historic Dallas Hall Rotunda into a giant viewing chamber on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.