In this edition of the Friday Newsletter, we look at a major publication marking the upgrade of electronics for a key system in the ATLAS Experiment, give a heads up about some possible power outages, and glance at a number of other issues!
CHAIR’S WEEKLY MESSAGE
We are several weeks into the Spring 2022 term and just a couple of weeks from Spring Break. It’s time to think about moving ahead.
For example, the deadline for submitting courses for the summer and fall terms passed earlier this week, and we’re happy to report in this edition of the newsletter the layout of planned Physics Department courses for those periods. I want to express my deep gratitude for the faculty for providing excellent input that was essential in preparing these plans.
The University has embraced, more and more, digital procedures. This was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, when it became impossible to follow older, standard, manual, paper-based procedures. One thing that faculty and students have wanted for a long time was better digital automation of grade change processes. While this was moved to DocuSign during the pandemic, now the process has been adapted entirely to My.SMU. This is immense progress for something so essential to academic operations.
Finally, we are pleased to be able to restart departmental social events. This is based on two pieces of information. First, the level of on-campus COVID-19 cases has dropped to just a few per day, at most, with some days yielding zero cases. It’s natural to be skeptical, of course. I heard some folks talking recently before a University event, and in discussing the case counts they grew sarcastic about those reported numbers. They mused that the numbers cannot be relied upon on a college campus, as if students, staff, and faculty cannot be trusted to do the right thing.
For over two years, I have kept a daily eye (using Python!) on the COVID-19 case counts, deaths, and tests in Collin County. Collin, my home county in the Metroplex, is just north of Dallas County (where SMU is located). If case counts at SMU are being driven purely by community spread, and if community spread is similar across the counties that span the Metroplex, it might be reasonable to assume that using case counts in Collin County could predict cases on the SMU campus. Of course, if there is some kind of under-reporting problem on the campus, one would expect the numbers of cases at SMU to be anomalously (beyond statistical errors) lower than the rate predicted by Collin County.
So I crunched the numbers. The population of SMU (students + staff + faculty) is about 15,000. That of Collin County is 1.035 million. If you scale the number of cases per day in Collin County by the ratio of the two populations, you can make predictions about the case rate on the SMU campus.
I have to admit, I went into this thinking that there was not a good reason to believe that the two populations had anything to do with one another. Surprisingly, the case rate in Collin County is a strong predictor, well within statistical uncertainties, of the SMU campus case rates … at least, for the past 60 days or so.
There is every reason to believe that case counts on campus for COVID-19 have legitimately reached a significant low point. Of course, as regards strep, norovirus, and influenza … well, that is another epidemiological story.
In this issue, we look at a major publication marking the upgrade of electronics for a key system in the ATLAS Experiment, give a heads up about some possible power outages, and glance at a number of other issues!
Stephen Jacob Sekula
Chair, Department of Physics
Major Paper on ATLAS Liquid Argon Calorimeter Upgrade Submitted for Publication to JINST
Members of the SMU ATLAS group celebrated this week the submission of a major milestone paper on the upgrade of Liquid Argon Calorimeter (LAr) electronics for the “Phase I” LHC upgrade. The Phase I upgrade has been implemented over the past few years during Long Shutdown 2 (LS2), a period of hard work between the Run 2 and Run 3 data-taking campaigns.
The LAr is a major technology in the ATLAS Experiment. This system provides information about electromagnetic showers in the “central region” of the detector. Such showers are critical components of most reconstructed physics objects (e.g. electrons, photons, tau leptons, and particle jets). The speed, precision, and reliability with which energy information can be determined from electromagnetic showers is key to the success of the ATLAS Experiment across a vast portfolio of physics applications. The discovery and continued precision study of the Higgs particle, for example, relies in huge part on the LAr.
The paper, authored by a small subset of the ATLAS Collaboration (just 174, compared to the 3000 scientific authors on the collaboration), documents the upgrade of electronics readout hardware specifically for input to the trigger system. The trigger hardware is the front-line decision-making apparatus on ATLAS, deciding for each collision whether or not it is worth further processing. Of those 174 authors, almost 10% are students, post-docs, research staff, and faculty associated with SMU.
The paper was submitted to the Journal of Instrumentation (JINST). The pre-print is available online: https://arxiv.org/abs/2202.07384.
The Department offers its congratulations to all of you who have made this major upgrade campaign possible! Expect more news about LHC Run 3 as the data-taking campaign gets underway this year.
Possible Power Outages Due to Electrical Work Upcoming on Feb. 26, March 5, and March 12
Oncor will be conducting work at the Greenville electrical station on three upcoming Saturdays. The work may lead to short outages or power glitches in Fondren Science Building around 8am on any of Feb. 26, March 5, or March 12. Everyone is recommended to do the following:
- For a non-essential computer, make sure it’s powered off when you leave on the Friday preceding each day.
- For an essential computer, make sure it is plugged into a battery backup and that the battery backup is in good working order. If you cannot plug it into a battery backup system (e.g. a UPS), make sure it is plugged into a surge protector to prevent electrical energy spikes from damaging the equipment. This would also apply to any other sensitive equipment.
For more information, please contact the Dedman College Facilities Manager, Scot Montague.
A Sneak Peak of Summer 2022 and Fall 2022 Courses
The deadline for submitting proposed courses for Summer 2022 and Fall 2022 was earlier this week. For the summer, we expect to teach the following:
- Summer I
- PHYS 1105 (Guarino)
- PHYS 1303 (Scalise)
- Summer II
- PHYS 1106 (Guarino)
- PHYS 1304 (Balakishiyeva)
- PHYS 1308 (Balakishiyeva)
For Fall, the offerings are as follows:
|Honors Introductory Physics
|Electricity and Magnetism Laboratory
|Ideas of Modern Physics
|PHYS 1303 (Section 001)
|PHYS 1303 (Section 002)
|Introductory Electricity and Magnetism
|General Physics I
|General Physics II
|Introduction to Modern Physics
|Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
|Galactic Structure, Dynamics, and Evolution
|From Quarks to Cosmos
|Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
|Introductory Physics Instruction: A Practicum
|Quantum Mechanics I
|Electromagnetic Theory I
|Quantum Field Theory I
Please note that some graduate courses are listed earlier in the list (e.g. PHYS 6372) because the intent is to co-teach them as split-level undergraduate/graduate courses. PHYS 3340 (Computational Physics) has no equivalent in the graduate catalog, but graduate students wanting to take this as split-level with the undergraduates should request that a special topics graduate course be opened with Olness and Sekula as instructors.
The instructors listed for all these courses are largely finalized but may still be subject to change. Please keep up with these courses in My.SMU as the offerings are rolled out, officially, in the coming weeks and months.
No Speaker Series Event on February 21
There is no Department Speaker Series talk scheduled for February 21. It has continued to be a challenge to confirm speakers during a stressful and complex spring term, especially given the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 that remains very high in Texas.
Take advantage of the extra time in your schedules to relax, catch up on work, or other diametrically opposed activities!
Physics Department Social Events Restart the Week of February 21, 2022
After reviewing the trends in COVID-19 on campus and in the surrounding region, the Department will restart common social activities (Hbar Coffee Bar on Wednesdays at 2:30pm in FOSC 16) and Friday Department Lunch (noon on Fridays in the Umphrey Lee Dining Hall). The first of these events will be next week on Feb. 23 (Hbar) and then Feb. 25 (Lunch). All are welcome to participate in these events!
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.
- Faculty: Grade changes will now be entirely handled through electronic forms (e-Forms) in My.SMU. Emails detailing all of this were sent late this week. Please review these for information! (“Grade Change eForm Go Live Update” send by a staff member in the Dedman College Student Records and Academic Services office on Feb. 18; “New to my.SMU – Grade Change eForm,” sent by the Division of Enrollment Services on Feb. 18)
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!
Process for Grade Change Requests is Improved and Modernized
Faculty should take note that the process for submitting grade change requests has now be fully modernized and can be done entirely digitally through My.SMU. Information has been circulated by email in the last day or so, and some faculty have already been able to utilize the process to submit grade changes. Faculty are encouraged to review the emails about this and learn how to enact the new process.
The department staff continue to work on behalf of Academic Operations 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).
Benisha Young Will Join the Department as Academic Operations Coordinator (Coordinator 2) on March 1
We are pleased to announce that Benisha Young, who has held the position of Research Coordinator 1 in the Office of Research, has accepted an offer to start as Academic Operations Coordinator (Coordinator 2) in the Department of Physics. Her official start date is March 1. We’ll have more information to share about Benisha in the next weeks, but are excited to share this news with the community. She will officially begin in the position on March 1.
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.
THE BACK PAGE
Lighting Physics: Trigger Upgrade for the Liquid Argon Calorimeter for LHC Run 3
Want a quick introduction to the upgrade of trigger electronics for LHC Run 3 in the ATLAS Liquid Argon Calorimeter? Check this out!