Department News

Dec 23, 2020 - Kellen Lawson awarded Sigma Xi GIAR

Graduate student Kellen Lawson won an external grant from Sigma Xi's Grant in Aid of Research program, that will allow him to purchase a GPU for his dissertation work.  A brief summary of Kellen's proposal:
The light from circumstellar disks (disks of dust and gas around stars from which planets are thought to form) is normally buried beneath the intense light of the parent star. Removing this starlight requires the computationally expensive comparison and manipulation of large sets of images. Tuning of the parameters that govern this process can substantially improve results but is often prohibitively time consuming using traditional CPUs. Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), however, have been shown to speed comparable calculations by factors of 20–200.  By leveraging modern GPU operations, parameter optimization for direct imaging can be fully realized — maximizing the results of state-of-the-art direct imaging facilities and enabling otherwise unlikely detections.

Dec 21, 2020 - Nature Physics article out: Dynamics of the weakly bound helium dimer

OU postdoc Qingze Guan and OU faculty member Blume collaborated with Maksim Kunitski, Reinhard Doerner and others from Frankfurt University and the GSI in Darmstadt on the helium dimer. The helium dimer is one of the most weakly-bound “naturally” occurring molecules. Since it’s so weakly bound, the preparation and manipulation of this fascinating molecule are rather tricky. Unless you isolate the dimer and are extremely careful, it tends to fall apart… Maksim and coworkers set up an ingeneous molecular beam experiment and used femto-second lasers to probe the system. The theory calculations by Qingze do not only match the experimental data, without a single adjustable parameter, but additionally provide unique insights. Check out the article entitled “Ultrafast manipulation of the weakly bound helium dimer”, which just appeared in Nature Physics, and the accompanying “News & Views” highlight entitled “Gently stirred not shaken” by Daniel Rolles.

Dec 18, 2020 - Update from the Community and Inclusion Committee

The departmental Community and Inclusion Committee was formed in summer 2020. It currently has eight members: one undergraduate student, two graduate students, one postdoctoral researcher, one staff member, and three faculty members. The committee is proud to launch its website; please check it out at

The committee worked on a number of initiatives this semester, including creation and approval of a departmental Code of Conduct ( and a departmental “Drop Box” ( We look forward to receiving your suggestions, ideas, and feedback through the Drop Box or via email ( The Drop Box can also be used to submit anonymous comments on a sensitive subject, related to any member/aspect(s) of the department. The committee members would like to thank the faculty for comments and feedback on earlier drafts of the Code of Conduct and Drop Box.

The committee has also been working to promote the concept of shared leadership within the department. We are happy to report that the Undergraduate Studies Committee, the Graduate Studies Committee, and the Graduate Recruiting and Selection Committee now have student representation. Many thanks to Jamie Boyd, AJ Yates, Dave Hill, Geo Jose, Adam Moss, and Joe Muse for agreeing to serve on these committees!

Stay tuned for the first Town Hall meeting of the Community and Inclusion Committee, which will take place at the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester.

Dec 10, 2020 - Amber Roepe selected for APS Division of Particles and Fields Ethics Advisory Committee



This past summer, the American Physical Society’s (APS) Division of Particles and Fields (DPF) formed the Ethics Advisory Committee (EAC). The main goal of the EAC is to propose and oversee the development and implementation of ethics policies for the DPF. They will also participate in training on anti-harassment and anti-racist practices, collect and develop educational materials to support physicists at educational institutions and governmental and industrial research laboratories, and enforce the DPF community guidelines as necessary. Based on her success on many diversity and inclusion initiatives in our department, including organizing the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics in January 2020, being a founding member of our Community and Inclusion Committee, and her work in the DPF Snowmass Process, the DPF Executive Committee and the DPF Ethics Task Force selected Amber Roepe to serve on this important committee. On Nov. 20, 2020, Amber was announced as the sole graduate student member of the APS DPF EAC in the November issue of the DPF newsletter. We are very proud of her accomplishment and we know she will do an excellent job serving on this committee!


Oct 22, 2020 - Prospective Graduate Student (Virtual) Open House

We are hosting a prospective graduate student virtual open house Tuesday, November 17 and Thursday, December 3. We will have representatives from the admission committee, our Women in Physics group, our Lunar Sooners group, and our physics graduate student association in attendance.  More information about the open house can be found here

Oct 18, 2020 - Robert Lewis-Swan joins HLD faculty

Robert Lewis-Swan has recently joined the AMO group as an assistant professor of physics. Robert has expertise in non-equilibrium dynamics and quantum entanglement. Welcome!

Oct 02, 2020 - Deborah Watson selected as APS fellow

Emeritus faculty Deborah Watson has been nominated fellow of the American Physical Society "for the innovative use of group theory and graphical techniques toward the solution of the quantum many-body problem". Congratulations!

Jun 19, 2020 - OU-WSU paper highlighted in Physical Review A

A joint theory-experiment paper by the Blume group from OU and the Engels group from Washington State University (WSU) was selected as an Editors' Suggestion by Physical Review A. The theory efforts were spearheaded by OU postdoc Dr. Qingze Guan and the experimental data were taken by Thomas Bersano and Dr. Sean Mossman, both from WSU. The work explores two realizations of a two-state model in a rubidium Bose-Einstein condensate, realized through Raman coupling of hyperfine states and lattice coupling in momentum space. The difference in the two realizations is highlighted by a particularly important role of interactions in the lattice coupling case. The work can be accessed at the APS website:

Jun 02, 2020 - Maria Schutte Reports Discovery of Nearby, Young Brown Dwarf Disk System

University of Oklahoma graduate student Maria Schutte presented her findings on the discovery of the closest brown dwarf with a disk that is younger than 5 million years old Tuesday as part of a virtual briefing at the 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.  Read the full press release here

May 13, 2020 - Schwettmann and Biedermann receive DOD DEPSCOR grant

OU physics professors Arne Schwettmann (PI) and Grant Biedermann (Co-PI) have been awarded $584,418 by the Department of Defense through the Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) for their research project titled "Harnessing entanglement in ultracold atomic gases.”

Award Announcement:

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