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From sub-atomic to astronomical scales, we are working on the frontiers of science. A tradition of bridging boundaries has allowed us to probe fundamental questions at the intersections different branches of science and mathematics and to create new fields of study. Because mathematics and the physical sciences are fundamental to many pursuits, including engineering, medicine and biology, we contribute to the education of most undergraduate students at UC San Diego.

News from the Physical Sciences

$5 million to study origins of the universe

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $5 million grant to support the Simons Array, a new system of three powerful telescopes designed to study the origins of the universe. Cosmologists will use the array of three telescopes to search for the signature of cosmic inflation—the rapid expansion of the early universe after the Big Bang—by making high-fidelity maps of polarization in the cosmic microwave background. Learn more.

Fine tuning control of agile exotic materials

Physicists have found a way to control the length and strength of waves of atomic motion that have promising potential uses such as fine-scale imaging and the transmission of information within tight spaces.

The researchers measured waves called polaritons that can emerge when light interacts with matter. By combining two materials, they produced hybrid polaritons that propagate throughout many layers of a crystalline material and can be controlled with a simple electrical gate. Learn more.

Progress in building a diverse faculty

UC San Diego’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry ranked second in the nation in a new survey of professorships held by underrepresented minorities. Learn more.

Controlling currents in superconductors

A beam of helium ions can control the transport of electrical currents through high-temperature ceramic superconductors by creating an atomic scale Josephson junction, physicists have found.

The discovery paves the way for the development of sophisticated electronic devices to measure tiny magnetic fields in the heart or brain or improve satellite communications, and may also help to unravel the physics underlying superconductivity. Learn more.

Synthetic membranes grow like living cells

Chemists have designed and synthesized an artificial cell membrane capable of sustaining continual growth, just like a living cell.

The membranes, though completely synthetic, mimic several features of more complex living organisms, such as the ability to adapt their composition in response to environmental cues and will be an important new tool for synthetic biology and origin-of-life studies. Learn more.


Probe of battery particles paves path to high voltage rechargeables

Spinel particles that make up the cathodes of batteries capable of high voltage recharging shift the position of defects under strain, rather than cracking, a collaboration between physicists and engineers has found. Learn more.

Watching nanostructures form

Scientist have developed a way to watch nanoscale chemical complexes assemble in real time using a recently developed technique called liquid cell transmission electron microscopy.

The new method will allow them to better understand the stepwise formation of nanostructures by creating video recordings of the process. Learn more.

Molecular motion

Video games transport players into richly imagined alternate worlds rendered by graphics processing units, GPUs, within game controllers. Chemists have begun using arrays of these same GPUs to explore another world, this one real: the motion of molecules as they interact with each other and their environment. Jamie Schiffer, a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry, used this approach to follow the motion of two proteins that influence how much energy is available at the surface of heart muscle cells. 


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First discovered 15 years ago, metamaterials are entering the realm of practical possibilities. The three-day event will highlight history, recent advances and efforts to commercialize the technology with talks from both the scientists who first measured negative refractive indexes and their scientific descendents, who are developing commercial applications. Learn more and register.

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