In this edition of the Friday Newsletter, we look at the next speaker series event, remind all about the restart of the Astrophysics and Cosmology Journal Club, and look at a new supercomputing resource for SMU.
CHAIR’S WEEKLY MESSAGE
“Faculty on Display”
Each Friday, Provost Elizabeth Loboa publishes a “Weekly Update” that is shared with the whole University. Two weeks ago, the update was devoted to student accomplishments and highlights. One week ago, the update was devoted to faculty. I am proud to report that many faculty from our department were prominently highlighted in that update.
Our department has twin strengths: particle physics and astrophysics. Each of these is diverse in and of itself.
In particle physics we benefit from excellent theoretical, computational, and experimental expertise. On the theoretical and computational side (which are constantly blended), we have a concentration in proton, neutron, and nuclear structure, especially as it applies to collider physics programs like the Large Hadron Collider and the forthcoming Electron-Ion Collider. On the experimental and computational side (also constantly blended), we have a concentration in collider physics, including the study of the Higgs particle, heavy quarks and leptons, neutrinos, and the development of new instrumentation.
Our more recent strength, especially growing in the last 5 years, is in astrophysics. This is diverse in that it spans observational astronomy, theoretical cosmology and astro-particle physics. Observational astronomical programs span the space from stars to galaxies with an emphasis on the time domain and what it tells us about galactic and cosmic evolution. In astro-particle physics, a bridge between astrophysics and particle physics, we have expertise in the search for dark matter’s constituents. In theoretical astrophysics and cosmology, we have expertise that spans from the birth of the cosmos to the detection of gravitational waves in the current universe. In addition, our theoretical expertise spans the space between particle and astrophysics, considering questions of what caused the “bang” in the “big bang” (e.g. inflation) and how particle physics might have generated the cosmos we know today.
Thanks to those of you who have shared highlights from your work in this newsletter. This enabled an easy sharing of faculty accomplishments, big and small, when the time came to make them more widely known to the university. From the highlights from this newsletter, the Provost was able to easily draw examples for the Friday Update. I know that many faculty are shy about (or actively eschew) “tooting your own horn” in a venue like this. However, the flip side of that is that when you never share at all, nobody knows what you do and why you do it. I urge all faculty (and students) to find the balancing act between shouting and silence that works best for them. Most importantly, share your work with others … including through this newsletter.
The mission of a university is to foster the creation of new knowledge, discoveries, ideas and expression; and to train others in the practice that leads to these acts, especially by training in critical and creative thinking. The mission of our department is, of course, closely related. Our focus is more narrow: fostering new knowledge in the structure, laws, and evolution of the universe at all scales (big and small); training of students to generate that knowledge through critical and especially scientific thinking grounded in mathematical, experimental, instrumental, and computational approaches.
Sharing news, here or in other venues (e.g. over a cup of coffee and a snack at the “Hbar Coffee Bar” on Wednesdays), fall crucially into that second part of the mission. The act of discovery – our passion for science and its application to the study of the cosmos – sets the stage for the sharing. The sharing is part of the act of teaching. You may feel shy about “tooting your own horn,” but think about it another way. You are not shy about standing in front of a group of students and dragging them screaming into a discussion of physics as a means of modeling or describing nature. Why wouldn’t you want to share you own work as a real, practical example of where these ideas lead?
Good practice leads to discovery and insight. Modeling good practice sustains the field and sets the stage for future discoveries and ideas. Our duty, as faculty at a university, is to ensure both happen.
In this week’s Friday Newsletter, we look at the next speaker series event, remind all about the restart of the Astrophysics and Cosmology Journal Club, and look at a new supercomputing resource for SMU.
Stephen Jacob Sekula
Chair, Department of Physics
Department Speaker Series Continues with Prof. Darin Acosta (Rice University) Speaking About a Proposal for a Muon-Ion Collider
Our next Department Speaker Series event is this coming Monday, Nov. 15, and features Prof. Darin Acosta (Rice University) who will speak about “A Muon-Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory.” He will discuss a proposal for the development and construction of a novel muon-ion collider (MuIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) as an upgrade to succeed the electron-ion collider (EIC) that is scheduled to commence in the early 2030s, by a joint effort of the nuclear and particle physics communities. We welcome the department, and especially students, to participate in this event.
Learn more: https://www.physics.smu.edu/web/seminars/
All past speaker series events since August 2020 are available in our YouTube playlist.
REMINDER: Astronomy/Cosmology Journal Club Resumes Nov. 15
The Astrophysics and Cosmology Journal Club resumes its brown-bag lunch meetings on November 15 with a discussion led by Prof. Bob Kehoe. The discussion will center on a paper focused on the modeling of galaxies in dark matter halos. People interested in volunteering to lead a discussion on a topic of their own interest are invited to do so.
The series’ information is maintained using the astrohep.org Dokuwiki site, https://astrohep.org/smu/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=astro_journal_club. This page should be open to view, but only site users can edit it. Members of the department can register for an account on the site, which must be approved manually by the site administrator.
As indicated in his email to the department about the resumption of the journal club,
[It] has been a valuable place for interested colleagues to come together and discuss new results or news in the wide spectrum of science from astronomy to cosmology and particle astrophysics, or to discuss recent progress in your own research. We benefit from the great prior work from Rob Calkins and Profs. Meyers and Cooley in developing and coordinating this forum.Prof. Bob Kehoe, message to the Department on November 5, 2021
SMU Announces the Launch of a Powerful New Supercomputing Research System with NVIDIA
In an announcement on November 11, 2021, SMU made public a collaboration with NVIDIA to enhance supercomputing capabilities. Here is a relevant except from the news release:
SMU is investing $11.5 million in hardware, software and training to strengthen the University AI infrastructure with an NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD™, bringing world-leading AI supercomputing capabilities to Dallas. The collaboration will give SMU faculty, students and research partners the ability to integrate sophisticated AI technology across a wide array of research disciplines, ranging from computational biology to human performance, from national defense to digital humanities.Excerpted from “SMU launches powerful new supercomputing research system with NVIDIA: NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD will fuel transformational high-performance computing ecosystem for SMU and North Texas,” November 11, 2021
SMU will increase the power and reach of its existing supercomputing system, priming it for more powerful AI applications, by incorporating a NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD connected with the NVIDIA Quantum InfiniBand networking platform into its data center and producing a theoretical 100 petaflops of computing power. A petaflop is the critical measure of power and speed in the world of supercomputing – a quadrillion operations per second. This dramatic increase in SMU’s already impressive supercomputing network will equip it to perform a blistering 100 quadrillion operations per second.
The collaboration between SMU and NVIDIA is a big step in a journey that began a decade ago with the University’s pursuit and acquisition of its first high-speed computing cluster. SMU acquired that initial system to enable University researchers to analyze data from CERN, which led to SMU’s role in identifying the probability of the Higgs boson – the so-called “God Particle.”
The Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the SMU Center for Research Computing collaborate in providing the computational and digital data infrastructure necessary to support research endeavors of SMU’s faculty, research staff and students. Students with a faculty sponsor are allowed individual access to the supercomputing system.
See the full news release here: https://www.smu.edu/News/2021/Featured-News/smu-launches-powerful-new-supercomputing-research-system-with-nvidia
What’d I Miss?
We all get too many emails from the University and College. Here are a few things you might have missed this week.
- Assistant Professors: There is an upcoming conversation about tenure that should interest you: “The Associate Provost for Faculty Success and several of the associate deans for research will co-host two conversations about promotion and tenure in November. Both sessions will be in the Chamber in the Hughes Trigg Student Center: Conversations on the Path to Associate Professor: November 16th from 1:30 – 2:30 pm; Conversations on the Path to Full Professor: November 17th from 1:30 – 2:30 pm. Additional Zoom-based conversations are planned for the spring.” (“Weekly Update: November 5, 2021,” Provost Elizabeth Loboa, sent November 5, 2021)
- Faculty: A final reminder about applications for the Sam Taylor Fellowships. If you are planning to apply, Associate Dean Renee McDonald needs a copy of your draft application not later than Monday, Nov. 15 so the support letter from the College can be written. Here is more info: “Sam Taylor Fellowship Applications: The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church announced its annual call for applications for the Sam Taylor Fellowships this week. These awards are provided by an endowment established to fund education and development of faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Texas for academic work, study, or initiatives focused on intellectual, social, or religious life. I encourage you to consider applying for this award. For more information, email email@example.com.” (“Weekly Update: November 5, 2021,” Provost Elizabeth Loboa, sent November 5, 2021)
If you have something to share please feel free to send it along. Stories of your activities in research, the classroom, and beyond are very welcome!
The department staff continue to work on behalf of Academic Operations (Lacey Breaux) and Research Operations (Michele Hill). They can be contacted for assistance, or to make appointments for input and help, through the Department Main Office (FOSC 102).
If you have something to share please feel free to send it along. Stories of students in research, the classroom, internships or fellowships, awards, etc. are very welcome!
If you are an alum of the doctoral, masters, majors or minor programs in Physics at SMU, or have worked in our program as a post-doctoral researcher, and wish to share news with the community, please send your story to the Physics Department and we’ll work with you to get it included in a future edition.