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Department of Physics and Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy has a rich and long history dating back to the latter part of the 19th century. Our faculty and students are exploring nature at all length scales, from the subatomic (quarks and gluons) to the macroscopic (black holes and dark energy), and everything in between (atomic and biological systems).

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Purdue students earn prestigious Goldwater scholarships

Purdue University students Justin Copenhaver, Jack Dorman, and Dalton Stanley have earned the Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s preeminent scholarship for undergraduates in mathematics, natural sciences or engineering.

Dark Matter’s Last Stand

Scientists are fond of saying negative results are just as important as positive results, but after several decades of not finding something, researchers can be forgiven for feeling impatient. Back in the 1990s, experiments began trying to detect the particles that make up dark matter, the ubiquitous yet untouchable invisible material that apparently fills the cosmos. Since then, physicists have found more and more evidence that dark matter is real but not a single sign of the stuff itself. A new version of the long-running XENON experiment that started up late last year aims to finally break that pattern. One of physicists' best guesses about the identity of dark matter has long been that it is made of particles called WIMPs—weakly interacting, massive particles. These elementary bits of matter could be anywhere between the mass of the proton and 1,000 times the mass of the proton, and they would interact with regular atoms only through gravity and the weak nuclear force, which governs radioactivity. But over the years, as experiment after experiment failed to find anything, some of the enthusiasm has faded. “You do start to scratch your head and think maybe that was the wrong horse to bet on,” says Rafael Lang, a physicist at Purdue University, who has been working on the XENON experiment at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy for more than a decade.

Faculty promotions at Purdue approved by board

Purdue University's Board of Trustees on Friday (April 9) approved faculty promotions. The promotions are effective with the 2021-22 academic year and include Physics and Astronomy professors: Chen-Lung Hung, Andreas Jung, and Rafael F. Lang.

Graduate student parents persevere in spite of pandemic-induced chaos and isolation

Many graduate student parents are taxed to the limit on a good day. They juggle multiple roles: parent, student, and part-time or full-time employee. Some are the breadwinners of their families. Many live far away from familiar support systems and are building new ones. International graduate student parents have the added test of navigating a foreign culture, language, and institutions. Jeremy Cadiente is a 2nd-year PhD student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy studying quantum computing. He is also an officer in the military and works full time in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). Cadiente and his wife have two young boys, one under a year and the other just over a year old. The pandemic isolated Cadiente from his lab at Purdue, which was just getting started as he arrived to study at Purdue in the fall of 2019.

ALPHA collaboration researchers successfully laser cool antimatter hydrogen atoms

The ALPHA collaboration reported the first successful cooling of atomic antimatter using ultraviolet light in the April 1 volume of Nature. This accomplishment, which will allow for more precise determination of the properties of antihydrogen and, possibly, the first measurement of the force of gravity on antimatter, resulted from a decade long development in the trapping of antimatter hydrogen and in laser technology. To date, the gravitational force on antimatter has never been measured so ALPHA scientists are excited by the prospect of determining the gravitational force on cold antimatter hydrogen. Also, by more precisely measuring the properties of antimatter hydrogen, ALPHA scientists hope to contribute to understanding the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe. Dr. Francis Robicheaux, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University, was involved in this research as part of the ALPHA collaboration since 2005.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy, 525 Northwestern Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2036 • Phone: (765) 494-3000 • Fax: (765) 494-0706

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