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NSF Physics Frontiers Center to be Established at University of Rochester

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The University of Rochester has received $12.96 million in federal funding to host a National Science Foundation (NSF) Physics Frontier Center, in collaboration with researchers at MIT; Princeton University; University of California, Davis; University of California, Berkeley; University at Buffalo; and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures (CMAP) will focus on understanding the physics and astrophysical implications of matter under pressures so high that the structure of individual atoms is disrupted.

The establishment of the center is the first major NSF initiative in the field of high-energy-density science, and is part of the Physics Frontiers Center program. The program places the University of Rochester into a network of NSF-funded Physics Frontier Centers, supporting creative and interdisciplinary work at the frontiers of physics, said Jean Cottam Allen, NSF program officer overseeing the centers. “Researchers at the Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures are investigating a new frontier of matter at extreme pressures,” she said.

“This effort will help discover the nature of planets and stars throughout the universe, as well as the potential for new revolutionary states of matter here on Earth,” said Gilbert “Rip” Collins, principal investigator and the Tracy Hyde Harris Professor of Mechanical Engineering, a professor of physics and astronomy, and associate director of science, technology, and academics at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester.

The funding is part of a five-year cooperative agreement between the University of Rochester and the NSF.

“The world-class scientists at the University of Rochester produce groundbreaking discoveries that help advance our knowledge of the sciences, and this new federal funding will allow the university to continue that important work,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of N.Y. said in a news release. “The Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures is a pioneer institution that will prepare university students for their future as leaders in the scientific workforce.”

A new Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures at the University of Rochester will explore the physics and astrophysical implications of matter under the kind of pressures required to understand the evolution of stars and planets — a process illustrated in an artist's conception of a pair of young, still-forming stars and the fragmentation of material in a larger cloud in which the stars are born. Illustration courtesy of NSF via the University of Rochester.
A new Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures at the University of Rochester will explore the physics and astrophysical implications of matter under the kind of pressures required to understand the evolution of stars and planets — a process illustrated in an artist's conception of a pair of young, still-forming stars and the fragmentation of material in a larger cloud in which the stars are born. Illustration courtesy of NSF via the University of Rochester.
The Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures will bring together scientists and researchers specializing in areas including plasma physics, condensed matter, atomic physics, astrophysics, and planetary science to study matter under extreme conditions. Research will help scientists understand and address critical gaps in understanding of the atomic and chemical constituents of the universe.

CMAP will concentrate on four main areas of research, Collins said: how hydrogen and helium behave at extraordinary densities in the “gas giant” planets in our solar system; how other elements react at high densities; the pathways of energy transport that enable the dramatic change in properties and the energy balance of matter at extreme pressures; and the direct astrophysical implications of extreme matter properties.

Ongoing will be educational and outreach efforts to help teachers and students understand the research performed at the center.

“We are going to bring our scientific results to people in a lot of innovative ways, including radio and web stories as well as video content,” said Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at University of Rochester. Frank will lead outreach efforts for the center. Outreach will focus on bringing high-energy-density science to students in a range of settings, from high schools to graduate schools.

“This effort will use modern computational and educational tools that teachers and students will also be able to leverage in other disciplines,” said Pierre Gourdain, an associate professor of physics at the University of Rochester, a recent winner of the CAREER award from NSF, and leader of CMAP’s educational efforts.

“Establishing this new center in Rochester will support local jobs and enable UR researchers to make discoveries in cutting-edge physics while bolstering our nation’s scientific workforce to keep the U.S. as a global leader in new scientific advances,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. said in a news release.

Photonics Spectra
Nov 2020
GLOSSARY
quantum
Smallest amount into which the energy of a wave can be divided. The quantum is proportional to the frequency of the wave. See photon.
NSFfundingUniversity of RochesterphysicsCenter for Matter at Atomic Pressurehigh energy densitiescollaborationquantumBusinessresearch & developmentAmericaslight speed

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