Aug. 27, 2009

Five awarded NSF early career awards

Five members of the faculty have received National Science Foundation Early Career Development Awards, given periodically to junior faculty members to fund specific research projects.

The grants also support educational or outreach programs related to the scientists' research.

Rachel Bean, assistant professor of astronomy, works in the field of cosmology, which is the study of how the universe began and evolved into what it is today. Her award of $627,814 over five years will support her work understanding what astrophysical observations can tell us about dark energy, the mysterious substance that is causing the universe to expand at an accelerated rate. By establishing and improving tools and observational techniques for dark energy, Bean hopes her research will answer major questions in cosmological theory.

Bean also will use her grant to train undergraduate and graduate students; participate in a middle school program in astronomy and cosmology; give lectures on fundamental physics; and create a second online lecture for the Cornell's Adult University's CyberTower.

Peter Diamessis, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, will use his five-year, $646,700 award to continue his work on nonlinear internal waves (NLIWs), which are high-amplitude wave motions, invisible to the eye, in the interior of coastal oceans and lakes. He will use numerical modeling techniques to study the propagation of NLIWs up gently sloping seafloors and will work closely with physical oceanographers at the University of Washington. Understanding the physics of turbulent dissipation of NLIWs is a crucial missing link in understanding the fate of energy input by the winds and tides into the oceans and lakes, he says.

Diamessis' educational plan includes training students at computational methods for oceanographic work; restructuring a sophomore-level course on scientific computing; and setting up a weeklong high school course on internal wave simulation in lakes to interest more high school students in science or engineering.

Matthias Liepe, assistant professor of physics, received $800,000 over five years to develop an integrated research and educational plan for making advances in superconductivity for particle accelerators.

Superconducting radio-frequency cavities are devices found in particle accelerators, including Cornell's planned Energy Recovery Linac, that transfer energy to particle beams as they accelerate. Liepe's research program will look at improving efficiency and power of these devices, and hopefully, spawn a "transformative, broad impact" across accelerator-based sciences.

The grant also will fund summer research opportunities for local community college students to encourage them to pursue careers in science, technology or science education.

Anders Ryd, associate professor of physics, received $800,000 over five years to explore opportunities for new discoveries at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, using the Compact Muon Solenoid detector. Ryd's work involves physics beyond the Standard Model by studying the yet-unobserved Higgs particle.

Ryd also plans to bring the "excitement and challenges" of experimental particle physics to faculty and students at community colleges by providing training opportunities for data analysis.

Kyle Shen, assistant professor of physics, will use his five-year, $530,000 grant to explore exotic states of matter in correlated electronic materials. He will investigate the quantum interactions and mechanisms that give rise to such unique properties as superconductivity, magnetoresistance and phase changes -- all properties potentially useful for energy delivery and electronics.

The educational component of Shen's project will emphasize the importance of materials physics in energy storage, conversion and transport, through the existing Research Experience for Undergraduates program, as well as development of an exhibit on energy and materials at Ithaca's Sciencenter.