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From sub-atomic to astronomical scales, we are working on the frontiers of science. Founded by Nobel laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences, our departments have all played a central role in UC San Diego’s rapid rise to national and international prominence.

A tradition of bridging boundaries long before interdisciplinary research became fashionable 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

ACSSA participates in ChemExpoChemistry students reach out, give back, win recognition

Our undergraduate chemistry association has won national recognition for the strength of its programs. Learn more about the activities of this vibrant student group.

NIROSETI team with their instrument inside the Lick Observatory domeAstronomers extend search for extraterrestrials to new realms

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has expanded into a new realm with a new instrument tuned to infrared light.

"Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication," said Shelley Wright, assistant professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego who led the development of the new instrument.

Pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from greater distances. It also takes less energy to send the same amount of information using infrared signals than it would with visible light.

Scientists have searched the heavens for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search to the optical realm more than a decade ago. But instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light have only recently become available.

"We had to wait," Wright said, for technology to catch up. "I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged."

Photo © Laurie Hatch

Chancellor Khosla hands diversity award to Tamika Franklin, director of alumni relations for physical sciences.Diversity awards honor commitment to inclusion

As director of alumni relations for physical sciences, Tamika Franklin encourages alumni to become guiding lights for the next generation.

“I help students connect with female alumni who have successfully navigated the field so that they can network with those who understand their perspective,” Franklin said. She also advises alumni councils that cultivate active participation among diverse alumni and works with student organizations to help undergraduates discover career options and learn how to overcome obstacles.

For her success with these efforts, Franklin was among five faculty and staff in the division to receive a campus diversity awards this month. Other awardees from the physical sciences include Brian Keating, Michael Norman, Skip Pomeroy and Jane Teranes.

“One of the great things about working at an institution like UC San Diego is that you get to be involved in a variety of opportunities to serve, mentor and give back to the campus,” Franklin said. “My job is to empower volunteers to get involved. I am the person behind the scenes helping someone to fulfill a dream or encouraging someone to give back or create a scholarship.”


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a sparsely connected data structure that supports fast quantum searchData structures influence speed of quantum search in unexpected ways

Quantum computers will be able to find target items within large piles of data far faster than conventional computers though the speed of the search will likely depend on the structure of the data. Intuition says that the search would be fastest in a highly connected database, but a new analysis found counterexamples of slowed search on a highly connected structure and fast search on a sparsely connected one. More.highly connected data structure on which quantum search would slow

Francesco Paesani receives CAREER Award

Francesco Paesani, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemisty, will receive a 2015 Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation for his project to develop new theoretical and computational approaches for molecular-level computer simulations.

The new methodology will enable computer simulations of condensed-phase molecular systems with unprecedented accuracy, providing information on fundamental molecular processes from ion hydration in bulk and at interfaces to proton transfer and transport in solution.