News in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Pattern Discovery over Pattern Recognition: A New Way for Computers to See

Climate model

April 17, 2017 — Physics professor Jim Crutchfield, along with physics graduate student Adam Rupe and postdoc Ryan James, is designing new machine learning systems to allow supercomputers to spot large-scale atmospheric structures, such as hurricanes and atmospheric rivers, in climate data. 

7 Cool Facts About Math and Statistics at UC Davis

Math graduate student

April 11, 2017 — Math and statistics play a vital role in helping us understand the natural world and in technological innovation.

Long Ago and Far Away, an Average Galaxy


April 10, 2017 — Astronomers led by a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, have discovered one of the most distant galaxies in the universe, and it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

NSF Grant Funds Math For National Security

April 10, 2017Applying mathematics to detect chemical weapons, hidden explosives or other threats is the goal of an ongoing project at the UC Davis Department of Mathematics, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

Tiny Black Holes Enable a New Type of Photodetector for High-Speed Data

Black holes

April 3, 2017 — Tiny “black holes” on a silicon wafer make for a new type of photodetector that could move more data at lower cost around the world or across a data center.

New Twist on Sofa Problem That Stumped Mathematicians and Furniture Movers

Ambidextrous moving sofa

March 20, 2017 — Most of us have struggled with the mathematical puzzle known as the “moving sofa problem.” It poses a deceptively simple question: What is the largest sofa that can pivot around an L-shaped hallway corner? Inspired by his passion for 3-D printing, math professor Dan Romik recently tackled a twist on the sofa problem called the ambidextrous moving sofa.

UC Davis Scientists Boost Production in Green Cell Factories

Cyanobacteria research

March 13, 2017 — Cyanobacteria, one of Earth’s oldest life forms, offer a promising new source of petroleum-free fuels and chemicals. However, economies of scale currently make it challenging for these tiny creatures to compete with fossil fuels. Now, scientists at UC Davis are closer to meeting these challenges with a new advance that improves the production and growth rate of cyanobacteria.

New Types of Structures for Cage-Like Clathrates

Kovnir journal cover

March 6, 2017 — Cage-like compounds called clathrates could be used for harvesting waste heat and turning it into electricity. UC Davis chemists just discovered a whole new class of clathrates, potentially opening new ways to make and apply these materials.

Department of Chemistry helps minority students pursue graduate studies in STEM

March 1, 2017 — A new partnership between the Department of Chemistry and Xavier University in New Orleans will encourage students from underrepresented minority groups to pursue doctoral degrees in STEM.

Annaliese Franz Joins Undergraduate Research Center

Annaliese Franz

Feb. 23, 2017 — Annaliese Franz, associate professor of chemistry, has been named the new faculty director of the Undergraduate Research Center.

Second Ko Lecture Highlights Sustainable Energy for Everyone

Dan Nocera

Feb. 16, 2017 — Daniel Nocera, a Harvard professor who helped pioneer artificial photosynthesis, recently told an audience at UC Davis that achieving a truly sustainable Earth will only happen by helping people living in poverty. 

Conference Puts Quantum Mathematics and Physics Center on the Map

Xi Yin at QMAP Conference

Jan. 30, 2017 — Researchers from around the world recently converged at UC Davis for a five-day conference exploring emerging science in quantum field theory, string theory and quantum gravity.

Astronomers Measure Universe Expansion, Get Hints of ‘New Physics’

Quasar image split in four by gravitational lens

Jan. 26, 2017 — Astronomers have just made a new measurement of the Hubble constant, the rate at which the universe is expanding, and it doesn’t quite line up with a different estimate of the same number. That discrepancy could hint at “new physics” beyond the standard model of cosmology, according to the team, which includes physicists from the University of California, Davis, that made the observation. 

Ko Lecture Series Focuses on Sustainability

Ko Lecture 2017

Jan. 26, 2017 — Chemist Daniel Nocera, a world leader in renewable energy research, will come to UC Davis on Feb. 9 for the second installment of The Winston Ko Public Lecture Series: Frontiers in Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Hans-Georg Muller Recognized for Statistics Research

Hans-Georg Mueller

Jan. 26, 2017 — The American Statistical Association recently selected Distinguished Professor Hans-Georg Müller of the Department of Statistics for the 2017 Gottfried E. Noether Senior Scholar Award

KeckCAVES Virtual Reality Software Now for Gaming Headsets

UC Davis Keck CAVE

Jan. 25, 2017 — Virtual reality software used by scientists at the University of California, Davis, to study everything from earthquakes to molecular biology in a 3-D “cave” can now run on some off-the-shelf gaming VR headsets. Instructions and downloads are available online.  

In Memoriam: Wendell Potter, Physics Education Pioneer

Wendell Potter

Jan. 19, 2017 — Wendell H. Potter, a physics professor whose passion for teaching led to major reforms in undergraduate science education, died Jan. 8. He was 73.

Applied Mathematics Major Honored for Excellence in STEM

Joel Barnett and Matt Augustine

Jan. 5, 2017 — Joel Barnett, 22, a junior in applied mathematics, recently received an Excellence in STEM Award for transfer students during the STEM Transfer Day award ceremony.

Ice Surface Melts One Step at a Time

How ice melts

Dec. 14, 2016 — Researchers in Germany, the U.S. and Japan have used a combination of experiments and computer modeling to show how this “quasi-liquid layer” forms as layers of the ice crystal melt.

UC Davis experts to speak at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting

Grand Canyon

Dec. 9, 2016 — UC Davis scientists from fields across earth and space science will present their work during the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Dec. 12-16. This tip sheet highlights a range of UC Davis research, from the origin of Earth and the moon, to climate change impacts on the California Coast, to estimating the potential for future earthquakes.

Statistics Professor Receives China’s Highest Academic Honor

Jiming Jiang

Dec. 8, 2016 — Professor Jiming Jiang, Department of Statistics, has been named a Yangtze River (Changjiang) Scholar by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China.

Parallel Projects Bring Chemistry to the Arboretum

Chemistry in the Arboretum

Dec. 2, 2016 — Nhu Nguyen (B.S., chemistry, ’12), an artist and doctoral student in chemistry, is the mastermind behind a recent exhibit in the UC Davis Arboretum called Walking in the Woods with Chemistry.

Bringing Scientific Thinking to Public Policy

Gabby Nepomuceno

Dec. 2, 2016 — With the State Capitol right across the Yolo Causeway, UC Davis students and researchers have the unique opportunity to directly engage politicians and policymakers with their research. One such talented individual is Gabby Nepomuceno (Ph.D., chemistry, ’15).

Geology Field Camp Delivers Fundamental Skills and Modern Methods

UC Davis geology field camp

Dec. 2, 2016 — Field camp is one of geology’s enduring rites of passage. In this capstone course, juniors and seniors spend six weeks in the wilderness learning how to document complex geological phenomena.

Launching Crocker Nuclear Laboratory Into The Future

Students at Crocker Nuclear Lab

Dec. 2, 2016 — Stepping inside the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory control room can spark nostalgia for space-age design. Bakelite knobs and flashing analog switches parade across sofa-sized control banks that look like they belong on the set of a 1960s sci-fi flick. But the Crocker is far from antiquated.

Three MPS Faculty Members Elected as AAAS Fellows

Nov. 29, 2016 — Seven UC Davis faculty members are included in the newest class of fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS Council recently voted in 391 fellows in all for 2016, in recognition of their efforts to advance science or its applications.

SNO+ Neutrino Detector Gets Ready For Run

SNO+ fill

Nov. 29, 2016 — Professor Robert Svoboda and other UC Davis physicists, including graduate students Morgan Askins and Teal Pershing and postdocs Vincent Fischer and Leon Pickard, helped build SNO+ and will be working on analyzing data from the experiment.

Meet Our New CAMPOS Faculty Scholars

CAMPOS scholars

Nov. 22, 2016 — UC Davis this week welcomed six new faculty members recruited through the CAMPOS Initiativepart of the ADVANCE institutional transformation initiative at UC Davis. Established through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the UC Davis ADVANCE program aims to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in academic careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, including social sciences.

New Theory Explains How the Moon Got There


Oct. 31, 2016 — Earth’s moon is an unusual object in our solar system, and now there’s a new theory to explain how it got where it is, which puts some twists on the current “giant impact” theory.

What the Ancient CO2 Record May Mean for Future Climate Change

Fossil plant

Oct. 24, 2016 — The repeated restructuring of tropical forests at the time played a major role in driving climate cycles between cooler and warmer periods, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis, and published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Atom-by-Atom Growth Chart For Shells Helps Decode Past Climate

Foram shell

Oct. 24, 2016 — For the first time scientists can see how the shells of tiny marine organisms grow atom-by-atom, a new study reports. The advance provides new insights into the mechanisms of biomineralization and will improve our understanding of environmental change in Earth’s past.