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News from the Physical Sciences

Patrick Sanan, who studied mathematics at UC San Diego, combined geometry, physics, and the tiger model from the movie "Life of Pi" to work on a computer graphics problem.

Trapped light orbits within an intriguing material

Light becomes trapped as it orbits within tiny granules of hexagonal boron nitride, a material that has increasingly intrigued physicists. Particles of light, called phonon polaritons, disobey standard laws of reflection as they bounce through the granules. Instead, polariton rays propagate along paths at fixed angles with respect to the atomic structure of the crystalline material, which at certain frequencies can lead to interesting resonances.  Learn more.

Safer delivery of high-dose chemotherapy

Chemists have designed nanoparticles that release a drug in the presence of a class of proteins that enable cancers to metastasize. A peptide coating around nanospheres of paclitaxel shields the anti-cancer drug as it travels through the circulatory system. Enzymes secreted by cancers slice open the shell. Targeted delivery allowed the scientists to safely give mice 16 times the maximum tolerated dose of the clinical formulation of paclitaxel and halted the growth of cancerous tumors. Learn more.

Simulation suggests lonelier universe

There may be many fewer galaxies in the farthest reaches of the universe than previous estimates predicted, according to simulations run by physics professor Michael Norman's group working with colleagues at Michigan State University. Using the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters supercomputer, they determined that the increase in number of faint, distant galaxies was flat rather than exponential, as previous studies had suggested.  Learn more.

$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. The project's search for these twists in the CMB was recently profiled in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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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News Contacts

Susan Brown
sdbrown@ucsd.edu
(858) 246-0161

Kim McDonald
kmcdonald@ucsd.edu
(858) 534-7572