Carnegie Mellon University

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November 21, 2017

CMU Physicists Host National Meeting of Nuclear Scientists

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Mellon College of Science
  • 412-268-9982

Physicists from Carnegie Mellon University's Mellon College of Science helped organize the recent annual meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Nuclear Physics, held at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center, downtown.

Professor of Physics Reinhard Schumacher chaired the local committee for the four-day, science-packed conference that drew some 800 faculty, researchers and students.

City Councilman and CMU alumnus Dan Gilman welcomed the attendees to Pittsburgh and opened the floor to the meeting's plenary sessions, beginning with a talk by 2004 Nobel Laureate David Gross. Gross won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction, which led to the theory of quantum chromodynamics. His talk chronicled the history and application of the field over the last 50 years.

Invited national and international physicists and graduate students presented over 550 scientific talks about recent advances in experimental and theoretical aspects of the fundamental interactions among quarks, mesons, baryons and nuclei. Additional workshops for younger conference attendees focused on modern machine-learning methods in data analysis, theoretical approaches to hadron structure and advances in particle detectors.

"We enjoyed bringing the country's nuclear physics community to Pittsburgh for an exciting program highlighting new results and plans for future research," Schumacher said.

About 200 undergraduate physics students from around the U.S. joined the meeting as part of the 20th annual Conference Experience for Undergraduates (CEU). CEU allows students to experience a large scientific meeting, attend seminars and graduate school recruitment sessions and present their research at a poster session. Carnegie Mellon physics majors Viren Bajaj and Samuel Dai presented work with Schumacher on the photoproduction of baryon-antibaryon particle pairs at the poster session.

"I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my work with such passionate and bright minds from around the country," Bajaj said. "It was inspiring to see the quality and volume of research being done - one of the key reasons I came to the United States for my undergraduate degree."

At the closing banquet, MCS Dean Rebecca Doerge introduced Marcel Just, the D. O. Hebb Professor of Psychology at CMU. Just discussed his fMRI brain imaging studies that show how the brain encodes physics concepts such as "momentum" or "gravity" in contrast to disparate concepts such as "hammer" or "shelter."

Members of the local organizing committee for the meeting included Schumacher, Gregg Franklin, Curtis Meyer, Colin Morningstar, Diana Parno and Brian Quinn from Carnegie Mellon; Fatiha Benmokhtar from Duquesne University; Michael McCracken from Washington and Jefferson College; and Eric Swanson of the University of Pittsburgh.