The department offers a physics colloquium every Friday. Researchers from outside the College are invited to talk about their work, students discuss their summer research projects and their senior-exercise topics, and alumni share their latest exploits. Check regularly for upcoming talks. 

Fall 2022

A new year, a new chance to get involved in the Physics Department. Join us once again as we get together for the first Friday of the new school year to meet and share what's going on in physics! Get a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones as we say hello to all of our fellow physics faculty and students. We will also share information about what is happening in the department. Join us to learn about courses, student employment opportunities, research opportunities, joining the Society of Physics Students, and of course, our Colloquia Series.

Pizza and drinks will be available in Hayes 201 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Grab a slice and head to Hayes 211/213 for the presentation. We hope to see you there!

Since 2019, almost fifty Kenyon senior physics majors have been required to take and pass a set of "gateway" quizzes on Newtonian Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Quantum, and Nuclear Physics, and Experimental and Computational Physics. Each gateway consists of about eight questions drawn randomly from a large bank of possible questions.  Seniors must take each gateway quiz until they pass it.  Almost no students pass all four on the first try, but so far everyone has passed eventually.

When we assembled the gateway problems, we originally proposed several that were later judged to be "too evil" for the test. In this talk, we will share some of our favorites and also answer a few other questions. How are the gateways built?  What is the idea behind them?  What makes a question truly "evil"? Come and find out!

Join us on Friday, September 2, from 12 -1 p.m. in Hayes 211/213 to hear this exciting presentation on what awaits our seniors. Lunch will be available in Hayes 201 from 11:45 to 12:15. We hope to see you there!

Assistant Professor of Physics James Mertens will be presenting on new technologies and developments in machine learning. How has that changed the landscape of physics?

As technology advances, we are entering an era in which we can rapidly explore new methods for discovering and modeling physics. Emerging techniques in machine learning are enabling us to advance our understanding of physical processes across a range of scales, from turbulence in plasmas to cellular processes. In this talk I will discuss several novel techniques, a specific network architecture known as a physics-informed network, and possible implications of this new paradigm.

Join us on Friday, Sept. 9, in Hayes 211/213 from 12 to 1 p.m. for this exciting presentation. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:15.

Emily Hirsch '23 will be presenting her honors presentation on Rydberg states.

Ultra-cold Rydberg atoms, or atoms in highly excited states, cooled to near absolute zero, could hold the secret to quantum computing using neutral atoms. To use them optimally, we need to prolong the coherence time or the period during which they exhibit quantum effects. State mixing is a process where atoms resonantly exchange energy and evolve into collective states during laser excitation. This can occur through either two-body or three-body processes. We use Ramsey Interferometry, where a previously single excitation pulse is split into two pulses with varying separation. This can cause interference in the probability to excite three-atom states. This interference allows us to measure coherence times of tens of microseconds. For my honors project, I will focus on the factors that affect how long these three-atom states remain coherent. This may suggest avenues to create more robust quantum effects for computing and other applications. I will also discuss potential vacuum upgrades in the upcoming year in order to gain a higher degree of control over the excitation process.

Join us on Friday, September 16, from 12 to 1 p.m. in Hayes 211/213 for the first of our physics Honors presentations. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:45. We hope to see you there!

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a ground-based interferometer used to detect gravitational waves from some of the most spectacular astrophysical events in the Universe. Gravitational waves from these objects manifest as nearly imperceptible changes in distance (strain), requiring an unparalleled level of sensitivity in order to distinguish such signals from a noisy background. Our world is noisy, the noises we encounter are normal everyday occurrences that have little to no effect in our lives, but with LIGO, this noise does matter. LIGO's main strain channel is contaminated with loud and transient noise artifacts, called "glitches," which has required LIGO to use instruments dedicated to tracking possible causes of noise. This information is recorded in auxiliary channels. My overall goal is to develop a machine learning algorithm (MLA) that uses information from the auxiliary channels to perform real-time predictions about the presence of glitches in the strain data. Previous attempts at constructing an MLA had large variability in effectiveness day to day. In this talk, we propose to implement a “Master of Experts” method designed to account for the changing nature of glitch characteristics over time. 

Join us on Friday, September 23, from 12 - 1 p.m. in Hayes 211/213 for this second of our honors student presentations. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:15. We hope to see you then!

Time travel is, of course, impossible. (Probably.) But in quantum information theory, entanglement and quantum teleportation look almost like time travel, and we may be tempted to use that sort of idea to understand them. How far can we push such a wacky point of view? What happens when a qubit interacts with its past self? How do the rules of quantum mechanics keep us all safe from time-travel paradoxes? Join us and find out!

Professor of Physics Ben Schumacher will give this exciting presentation on September 30 from 12 - 1 p.m. in Hayes Hall 211/213. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:15. We hope to see you then!

Our own Dr. Tom Giblin will be sharing a special presentation for Family Weekend. 

"Making falsifiable predictions of the natural world is the primary duty of a theoretical physicist.  In this talk, I will discuss how the (ongoing) search for new, fundamental physics presents the opportunity to challenge mathematical models and, sometimes, lose ourselves in interpretation.  I will also discuss the Universe and why I look to it as a place to search for the next mathematical model."

Join us on Friday, October 14, from 12:10 to 1:00 pm in Hayes 211/213 for this exciting presentation. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:15. We hope to see you then!

Ever wondered what comes next? What opportunities you have in the physics world? Join us in this special presentation in collaboration with the Career Development Office.

Join Dean for Career Development Lee Schott for a short presentation followed by Q&A on CDO resources, job search strategies, and networking tools available to you as you explore opportunities to pursue after Kenyon, identify potential mentors, and reflect on the transferable skills you're learning in the classroom.

Join us on Friday, October 21, from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Hayes 211/213 for this important and exciting presentation. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:15. We hope to see you there!

We’re calling all ghouls, goblins, warlocks and witches to attend ehe Society of Physics Students (SPS) Happy Halloween Colloquium. We swear that there will be no Hocus Pocus in our presentation as it will be kept short. This leaves the rest of the time to be filled with your cackles, roars, and out-of-this-world conversation. With good friends and great music, this event is sure to be a Thriller! If that isn’t enough there will be pumpkins to paint, cookies to decorate, and candy to eat. So, grab your pointy hats, magical staffs, and burbling cauldrons, and come to Hayes 211/213 this Friday for a Mumummemberable lunch. Oh, and we almost forgot Physicists are welcome too just make sure to watch out for that failed math test in the corner!

Join us on Friday, October 28, from 12 to 1 in Hayes 211/213 for all the fun. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:15. We hope to see you then!

The brain is a distributive computational system with many neurons working together to create collective patterns. Research over the past couple of decades has indicated that the brain may operate at the “edge of chaos,” called a critical state. In biology, if the system of interest shows specific behavior, we try to explain it through the lens of evolution. So what are the evolutionary benefits of being in a critical state? The critical brain hypothesis posits that the brain functions near critical states to optimize its information-processing capacity. In this talk, I will introduce the hypothesis and describe our work on synergistic information processing on a spiking neural network.

Demian Cho, assistant professor of physics at Albion College, will join us to share this fascinating research. Join us on Friday, November 4, from 12 to 1 p.m. in Hayes 211/213 to hear the presentation. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:15. We hope to see you there!

High-energy astrophysics is now being probed using four different energetic messengers: (charged) cosmic rays, gamma rays, gravitational waves, and neutrinos. The past decade has been marked by discoveries of gravitational waves and neutrinos up to O(10^16 eV). Neutrinos in the ultra-high energy (UHE) regime (above 10^18 eV) are an important missing piece of the multi-messenger picture of the high-energy universe, and will also be important probes of new physics. Experiments using radio techniques in Antarctic ice are the most promising for the discovery of UHE neutrinos.  Results and experience from past and current radio experiments are informing the design of next-generation radio arrays that aim to pioneer UHE neutrino astronomy. After an overview of the status of the field, I will focus on important insights that we have gained so far about the Antarctic ice sheet in particular and the ways in which those insights pose both challenges and exciting opportunities for UHE neutrino detection. I will also highlight the GENETIS Collaboration, based at OSU, which uses evolutionary algorithms to optimize detector designs while accounting for our most up-to-date knowledge of the complex environment.

Professor Amy Connolly of the Ohio State University will be our guest and share this exciting research based at OSU. Join us on Friday, November 11, from 12:10 - 1 p.m. in Hayes 211/213 to hear the presentation. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 from 11:45 to 12:15. We hope to see you there!

Sigma Pi Sigma exists to honor outstanding scholarship in physics, to encourage interest in physics among students at all levels, to promote an attitude of service, and to provide a fellowship of persons who have excelled in physics. This year, we welcome four new members to this honored organization.

Join the Physics Department as we welcome our new inductees and celebrate their achievements this year in physics. Lunch will be available in Hayes 203 at 11:45 a.m. before the ceremony. The induction will begin at 12:10 p.m. Cake will be served afterward. We hope to see you there!