The 21st Annual Pappalardo Fellowships in Physics Symposium

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Introductory Remarks:

Richard Fletcher
Assistant Professor of Physics, MIT
2016-2019 Pappalardo Fellow


Anna-Christina Eilers
2022-2024 Pappalardo Fellow in Physics, 2019-2022 NASA Hubble Fellow
Astrophysics Observation, Instrumentation & Experiment

“Peeking Into the Distant Past of Our Universe with the JWST”

Since the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on Christmas Day 2021, astronomers are in awe about the new lens into the ancient past of our universe.

Within the first few months of operation, JWST has revolutionized our understanding about the early history of our universe and the emergence of its first luminous sources. As part of one of the instrument teams, we were among the first astronomers to receive data using JWST’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam) to observe large regions around some of the most distant and most luminous quasars known to date.

In my talk, I will show some of the new observations and explain what stories these high-redshift quasars tell us about the first billion years of cosmic history. I will show how we unravel which sources are responsible for ionizing our universe, what type of galaxies enrich the intergalactic gas with metals, and how we can now solve a nearly two-decade old puzzle about the environment of growing supermassive black holes.

Benjamin Lehmann
2022-2025 Pappalardo Fellow
High Energy & Particle Theory

“New Tools for Dark Matter Physics”

The unknown nature of dark matter already represents one of the greatest gaps in our understanding of the universe. But the study of dark matter is now encountering a crisis: collider searches and direct detection experiments are quickly ruling out the strongly-motivated WIMP models that have guided theoretical and experimental progress for decades. 
Departing from the WIMP paradigm opens vast regions of parameter space across the scales, from ultralight bosons to objects at the Planck scale and beyond. Probing this enormous space of possibilities calls for new tools. Fortuitously, several such tools are available to us in the form of new quantum sensors, new astrophysical observables, and the new science of gravitational wave astronomy.
I will explain how these new tools will allow us to probe well-motivated dark matter candidates across an enormous range of masses, enabling us to rapidly expand our coverage of the dark matter parameter space in the coming years.

Aviram Uri
2021-2024 Pappalardo Fellow
Experimental Condensed Matter Physics

“Superconductivity in an Engineered Moiré Quasiperiodic Crystal”

Layering two-dimensional periodic materials to form moiré structures is a convenient method of constructing emergent periodicity with on-demand length scales. 

This scheme has proven fruitful for engineering new electronic structures hosting superconductivity, strong electronic interactions, and topology. In contrast, quasiperiodic crystals, without periodicity or a Bloch description, have proven more challenging to engineer and thus are much less explored. 

In my talk, I will demonstrate how moiré lattices can be used to generate emergent quasiperiodicity with both a high degree of tunability and conditions favorable for interacting electronic phenomena. 

I will discuss a graphene-based realization of a moiré quasiperiodic system that exhibits a wide array of phenomena, including superconductivity, flavor symmetry-breaking, quantum oscillations, and signatures of both periodic-like and quasiperiodic regimes in the electronic structure.


Joshua Foster
2021-2024 Pappalardo Fellow
Theoretical Nuclear and Particle Physics

“Dark Matter at the Wave Frontier”

The nature of dark matter, the otherwise unaccounted for 85% of matter in the universe, represents one of the most urgent problems in fundamental physics. After decades of effort searching for massive dark matter particles, the startling possibility that dark matter might be light and behave as a wave is only now coming to be fully appreciated in theoretical and experimental efforts. 

In this talk, I will discuss the axion, a leading wave-like dark matter candidate, and ongoing work towards its discovery.

Rohan Naidu
2022-2025 NASA Hubble Fellow; 2025-2027 Pappalardo Fellow
Astrophysics Instrumentation, Observation, and Experiment

“The First Glimpse of the First Galaxies with the JWST”

One of the last great unknowns in our history of the universe is when and how the first galaxies emerged after the Big Bang. 
These galaxies transformed the cosmos–they illuminated the invisible scaffolding of dark matter that underpins the universe, they ionized the intergalactic reservoirs of hydrogen, and they synthesized the elements that would one day seed life on Earth. 
Thanks to NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), these enigmatic galaxies are finally coming into view. In this talk, I will present early results on these systems, and preview upcoming experiments I am leading. 
I will focus on new classes of galaxies being revealed by JWST, e.g., remarkably luminous early galaxies, and how they are challenging our models of the early universe.

Other Pappalardo links:

Past Symposia

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Or Hen
Class of 1956 Career Development Associate Professor of Physics
2015-2017 Pappalardo Fellow

“Neutron Star Droplets and the Quarks Within”

Since the discovery of quarks nuclear physicists have been trying to understand the relation between the lower-resolution description of nuclei using protons and neutrons, and their underlying higher-resolution description in terms of quarks and gluons.

At the intersection of these two paradigms are Short-Range Correlations (SRC): pairs of strongly interacting nucleons whose distance is comparable to their radii.

Due to their overlapping quark distributions and strong interaction, SRC pairs reach local densities comparable to those existing in the outer core of neutron stars and serve as a bridge between low-energy nuclear structure, high-density nuclear matter and high-energy quark distributions.

In this talk, I will present results from high-energy electron scattering experiments that probe the structure and properties of SRCs across scales: from their effect on the behavior of protons in neutron-rich nuclear systems through their role in our understanding of strong interactions at short distances, and the impact of nuclear interactions on internal quark-gluon sub-structure of nuclei. 

Looking to the future I will also discuss next generation studies at the forthcoming Electron-Ion Collider under construction at Brookhaven National Lab.

Webcast recording:

  • April 4, 2021
    Katelin Schutz, 2019-2020 Pappalardo Fellow; 2020 NASA Einstein Fellow
    (Nuclear and Particle Theory)
    “Making Dark Matter Out of Light”
    Introductory remarks: Tracy Slatyer, Jerrold R. Zacharias Career Development Associate Professor of Physics
  • April 28, 2021
    Anna-Christina Eilers, 2019-2022 NASA Hubble Fellow; 2022-2024 Pappalardo Fellow
    “The Formation and Growth of Supermassive Black Holes”
    Introductory remarks: Robert Simcoe, Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics; Director, MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research
  • May 5, 2021
    Rachel Carr, 2016-2018, 2020-2021 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics)
    Chasing Anomalies with Reactor Neutrinos”
    Introductory remarks: Janet Conrad, Professor of Physics
  • May 12, 2021
    Nicholas Kern, 2020-2023 Pappalardo Fellow
    “Ushering in a New Era for High Redshift Astrophysics and Cosmology with the 21 cm Line”
    Introductory remarks: Jacqueline Hewitt, Julius A. Stratton Professor in Electrical Engineering and Physics
  • May 19, 2021
    Hoi Chun “Adrian” Po, 2018-2021 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics)
    “Topology at the Corner of the Table”
    Introductory remarks: Liang Fu, Lawrence C. (1944) and Sarah W. Biedenharn Career Development Associate Professor of Physics
  • Prof. Jeff Gore, Latham Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Physics
    Introductory Remarks
  • Dr. Taritree Wongjirad, 2014–17 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics)
    “Searching for Neutrino-less Double Beta Decay Using Quantum Dot Nanoparticles”
  • Dr. Inti Sodemann, 2014–17 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Hard Condensed Matter Theory)
    “The Nature of Spin Superfluidity and its Potential Uses”
  • Dr. Meng Su,  2012–15 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Theoretical Astrophysics)
    “From Space to the Tibet Plateau: Probing the Mystery of the Universe in Gamma Ray and Microwave”
  • Dr. Benjamin Safdi, 2014–17 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Theoretical High Energy Physics)
    “Directional Antineutrino Detection”
  • Dr. Yoav Lahini,  2012–15 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Experimental Soft Condensed Matter & Biophysics)
    Towards Optical Measurements of Virus Self-Assembly: How Does a Virus Grow?
  • Prof. Peter Fisher, Head, Department of Physics
    Introductory Remarks
  • Dr. Robert Penna, 2013–16 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Theoretical Astrophysics)
    “Spinning Black Holes”
  • Dr. Jeongwan Haah, 2013–16 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Quantum Information Theory)
    “Protecting Quantum Information”
  • Dr. Inna Vishik,  2013–16 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Experimental Condensed Matter)
    “Adventures in Unconventional Superconductivity”
  • Dr. Guy Bunin, 2013–16 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Biophysics & Non-equilibrium Statistical Mechanics)
    “From Symmetries to Probabilities”
  • Dr. Joshua Spitz,  2011–14 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics)
    “Testing Einstein with Neutrinos”
  • Prof. Marin Soljačić, 2008 MacArthur Fellow; 2000-03 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Condensed Matter Theory)
    Introductory Remarks
  • Dr. David Hsieh, 2009–12 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Condensed Matter Experiment)
    “A New Generation of Insulators for the Electronics Future”
  • Dr. Paul Chesler, 2009–12 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Nuclear & Particle Theory)
    “Applied String Theory: from Gravitational Collapse to Heavy Ion Collisions”
  • Dr. Paola Rebusco, 2007–10 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Theoretical Astrophysics)
    “Astronomers-to-be at MIT”
  • Dr. Yusuke Nishida, 2008–11 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Nuclear & Particle Theory)
    “Universal Physics with Ultracold Atoms”
  • Dr. Jeff Gore, 2007–10 Pappalardo Fellow
    “Is Evolution Reversible?”
  • Prof. Ed Bertschinger, Professor of Physics and Former Head, Department of Physics
    Introductory Remarks
  • Dr. David Tong, 2001-2004 Pappalardo Fellow
    (String Theory)
    “Is String Theory Right or is It Just Useful?”
  • Dr. Robert Simcoe, 2003-2006 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Experimental Astrophysics)
    “Playing with FIRE: The Edge of the Universe as seen from Magellan”
  • Dr. Jocelyn Monroe, 2006-2009 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Dark Matter and Neutrino Physics)
    “Particle Physics at the Dark Frontier”
  • Dr. Michael Fogler, 2000-2003 Pappalardo Fellow
    (Condensed Matter Theory)
    “Graphene Twist and Rock-n-Roll”
  • Dr. Henriette Elvang, 2005-2008 Pappalardo Fellow
    (String Theory)
    “Recent Advances in Amplitude Calculations and Their Applications”