Physics Newsletter FAll 2021

Dear Physics Colleagues and Friends,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the new Physics newsletter with impressions of the activities in our department this Fall — the first in-person semester since the start of the pandemic! As you can see from the photos of smiling people in and around Jadwin, it has been an uplifting experience to again be able to meet, socialize and talk about physics while seeing each other in person. Luckily, the nice Fall weather made it possible to have classes and lunch meetings outside in the courtyard — this may well grow into a new tradition — and it was great to see Jadwin again filled with so many students and activities, with as highlight the successful first Dicke Symposium. In the letter, you can meet and learn a bit more about Afura Taylor, our first pre-doctoral fellowship student, about Clifford Johnson, our Presidential visiting scholar who is spending the year with us, and about the newly named undergraduate group, TiCuP! Thank you, Kim, for putting together this cheerful and hopeful Fall newsletter!

Cheers, Herman

Undergraduate News

After a long period off-campus, Physics Undergraduates have been enjoying this in-person semester, especially the opportunities to work collaboratively with each other. Many sophomores and juniors have finally met their friends "in real life" for the first time this semester, and seniors are happy to catch up with the friends we haven't seen in over a year. With the fall semester came an exciting first taste of independent work for juniors through Fall Junior Papers, and an opportunity for seniors to pursue a longer-term project through Senior Theses. Both groups have been eager to have the chance to engage with other physics majors about each other's research. If you spend time in Jadwin after hours, you can often overhear animated conversations between students explaining their projects to each other. The undergrads have also had the opportunity to mingle with graduate students and postdocs through the Princeton Physics Mentorship program (PPM) and the Research Talk Series for Undergraduates. Through these activities, undergraduates of all years were able to explore new interests and gain exposure to the wide range of research going on in the department. Overall, being back on campus or being or on campus for the first time has been a great experience for us, and we look forward to the coming semester(s) with renewed enthusiasm!

Graduate News

On September 17, 2021, a welcome barbeque was held to celebrate the arrival of 29 new physics graduate students.

One of the students welcomed this year is a pre-doctoral fellowship student, Afura Taylor. She is the first pre-doctoral fellowship recipient, which is offered to students that have been historically and are presently underrepresented in the academia. In a partnership with the Graduate School, the department awarded a one-year fully funded fellowship that includes an offer of regular admission to the Physics PhD program the following year. More information about the program can be found here

Congratulations Afura!

Congratulations to the following students who recently earned their PhDs!

Junyi Zhang, Damon Binder, Average Phan, Benjamin Weiner, Ziming Ji, Javier Roulet, Elmer Guardado-Sanchez, Fedor Popov, Sarah Marie Bruno, Ho Tat Lam, Seong Woo Oh, Preethi Pallegar, Samuel Saskin, Brian Trundy.

Clifford Johnson

Princeton University's Presidential Visiting Scholar

For the next academic year, Clifford will be on the faculty at Princeton University (as a Presidential Visiting Scholar) in the Physics department. It’s sort of funny because, as part of the business of moving forward in his research, he's been looking back a lot on earlier eras of his work. So now it seems that he's physically following himself back in time too, to when he first came to Princeton.

Clifford says, "Princeton was in a sense a true physical first point of entry into the USA: My first postdoc was here (at the Institute for Advanced Study, nearby), and I really began to know America for real during my time here. It was a base of operations for exploring the nearby cities of New York and Philadelphia, for observing and absorbing the wider culture, and for learning and getting a foothold in the US academic life. I’ve a real love for the place, the memories it holds, and the fact that it (and the colleagues I met and friends I made) helped forge me into the physicist and the person I am today."

Clifford stated, "When I first came to Princeton in (1992) I was thinking hard about the very techniques and ideas that are the foundation of what I’ve been using recently to uncover some lovely new results."

He remembers that back in the day, "I began to lock myself away for long stretches to teach myself “grown-up” string theory and field theory, attended lectures and seminars on things well outside my initial comfort zone and tried to get up to speed on them (mirror symmetry, complex geometry, topological field theory, supersymmetric Yang-Mills, etc…) and I began to learn properly about string theory’s approach to quantum aspects of black holes.

Luckily, I was able to produce some notable results in a couple of these areas. And most recently, I came to the realization that computations I’d been doing all the way at the beginning are extremely useful for quantum black holes, even though at the time they were for a completely different application! So it all comes full circle, as things so often do."

He looks forward to being able to tell more people about some of the ideas and techniques he's been working on, and maybe get some others interested in working on them too, because there’s so much that can be done, and he says "There isn't enough time to do it all myself!"


For more information about Clifford and his research

“The Physics Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Initiative remains dedicated to supporting diversity and inclusivity within our own community and to creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their identity, feels valued, safe and empowered to be successful.

The initiative has re-structured to include a newly formed Postdoc Matters working group! Two previous working groups (The Communications and social media group; Speakers and activities group) have joined forces into one cohesive Events working group. If you are interested in joining Physics EDI Initiative, please contact physicsedi@princeton.edu. See Princeton Physics Department revised Code of Conduct here.”

First Dicke Fellows Oktoberfest on October 29, 2021, and Dinner with Lyman Page at Kristines' November 12, 2021

Women in Physics

The Princeton Women in Physics group aims to provide support, mentorship, and career development opportunities for graduate students, postdocs, researchers, and faculty. We welcome all women, nonbinary, and genderqueer & gender non-conforming members from Physics and physics-related fields.

We collaborate frequently with TiCuP (Towards an Inclusive Community of Undergraduate Physicists), WiPP (Women in Plasma Physics), and the Astrophysics community on both regular and one-off events throughout the academic year.

At the start of the semester, first-year grad students signed up to be paired with older grad students in our mentorship program. Mentoring pairs and groups meet to discuss topics such as grad life, research, and graduation requirements.

On Sunday, September 19, 2021 we welcomed our new first-year grad students with a Bent Spoon ice cream social.

We are running regular (approximately bi-weekly) lunches open to Physics (including CPBF), Astro, and PPPL grad students, postdocs, and faculty.

Our kick-off lunch was on Friday October 15, 2021.
Our second was a special joint lunch with TiCuP featuring visitor Professor Aleksandra Walczak (École Normale Supérieure, Paris), on Tuesday October 26, 2021.

RSVPs are sent out in advance via listserv and the tentative schedule is on our website.

Stay tuned for a Fall joint event with TiCuP on grad school applications, targeted towards women and gender minorities!

Get involved and connect with us:

Women and gender minorities (regardless of year/position or affiliation) are welcome to join our listserve and Slack, where we plan and announce events and connect! Reach out to us by email to be added to the Slack.

RSVPs are sent out in advance via listserv and the tentative schedule is on our website. Our listserve is women_in_phy (at) princeton (dot) edu and can be self-subscribed -click on “Subscribers Corner”

Connect with us on Twitter @PrincetonWiP, and view our website and Events Google calendar (with option to export to your own Google Calendar!)

Send us any inquiries, feedback, and suggestions at wip-exec (at) princeton (dot) edu!


This year, the student organization formerly known as Undergraduate Women in Physics is undergoing changes to our group’s structure with the goal of embracing an intersectional approach to activism that more accountably and expansively serves underrepresented minorities within the physics community.

As part of this initiative, we have changed our name to TiCuP -- Towards an Inclusive Community of Undergraduate Physicists. We have expanded our board to include a joint PSPS-TiCuP Diversity Liaison, who has been instrumental in helping to ensure that the work we are doing is aligned with our goal of “collaboration without conglomeration.” We are organizing a series of “DiversiTi” focused events, in which we will be reaching out to resources on campus to learn about and discuss different axes of oppression in physics, academia, and beyond; and we will be collaborating with PSPS to lead a Wintersession course that explores fun, exciting, and intriguing physical phenomena to build community and garner interest in the major.

In our pursuit to continue building networks of support, we are hosting weekly “Study and Support” sessions for students to come and seek guidance from upperclassmen or simply do work together, and the mentorship program we have historically orchestrated is now being included as part of the department-wide mentorship program, Princeton Physics Mentorship (PPM).

Stay tuned for more new and exciting projects on the horizon and coming soon our newly designed website! Contact us at uwip@princeton.edu.

From left to right: Claire Lessler ('22), Loki Lin ('22), Nancy Xu ('24), Maya Chande ('24), Tori Edington ('22), and Sonika Bagchi ('23). : (not pictured) Rebecka Mähring ('23), and Myra Norton ('23)