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Students Learn from Experts in Electronic Structure at Physics Conference Hosted on Campus

July 18, 2023
Participants from this year's physics workshop.
Participants from this year's physics workshop gathered on campus for research, networking and socializing. Images by Veronica Adrover

Faculty members from the departments of Physics and Chemistry and Biochemistry recently co-hosted a conference that drew about 100 faculty members, researchers and students from around the country and around the world.

Physics Professor David Strubbe and chemistry Professor Aurora Pribram-Jones worked with faculty members at UC Berkeley to organize the 35th Workshop on Recent Developments in Electronic Structure Methods .

The conference was held in mid-June and brought together researchers to discuss new methods for computing previously inaccessible properties, including using quantum mechanics to calculate the behavior of electrons in materials, breakthroughs in computational efficiency and accuracy, and novel applications of these approaches to the study of molecules, liquids and solids.

The three-day event featured speakers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the California Institute of Technology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, CNRS/Université de Strasbourg, the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, Harvard University, the University of Ottawa Poster presentations drew interested listeners.and more, as well as two from UC Merced.

“We wanted to bring people to campus to see what we're doing here,” Strubbe said, “because we have quite a strong group of faculty, postdocs and students working in this field.” About 25 of the participants were from UC Merced.

Over the three days, students had plenty of opportunities to network with senior researchers in and outside their fields of study. Everyone was also encouraged to present posters about their research on electronic structure, whether it was methods or applications. Prizes for the students and postdocs were sponsored by the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter and Electronic Structure from Institute of Physics Publishing.

Here is a list of the winners:

  • Student prize: Xuance Jiang, Stony Brook University
  • Postdoc prize: Yueqing Chang, Rutgers University

People's choice prizes:

  • Rafael Del Grande, UC Merced
  • Shang Ren, Rutgers University
  • Adway Gupta, Arizona State University
  • Kishwar-E Hasin, UC Merced
  • Md. Mehdi Masud, UC Merced
  • Normand Modine, Sandia National Laboratory

“My favorite moments were seeing our students and trainees interact with world leaders in electronic structure theory at the poster session. That sort of discussion is such a fertile interaction, bringing together deep wells of expertise with new ideas and approaches, and it benefits the students as well as those who are well established in their work,” Pribram-Jones said.

Presenters explained their research and answered questions.The organizers used a grant from the National Science Foundation and sponsorships from the Institute of Physics Publishing, the Department of Energy and the UC Merced Graduate Division , School of Natural Sciences , Department of Physics, and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry to cover most of the costs of the conference, including housing most of the participants on campus and feeding them at The Pavilion. Graduate student volunteers and staff support from the School of Natural Sciences and Hospitality Services helped make the event possible.

The conference was held in the new Arts and Computational Sciences Building. Strubbe and Pribram-Jones said they were proud to show off the campus. They had hosted the conference in 2020, but because of the pandemic, it was virtual and limited.

“Welcoming my peers to experience this special and innovative place was the icing on the cake, as was seeing how many of my colleagues from around the world were moved by our mission and excited by our successes on the scientific side,” Pribram-Jones said. “It's exciting to see how much we've already grown in this particular area of research, and it's inspiring to have the support of the established institutions in our field.”

Strubbe is on the national organizing committee for the conference and said UC Merced may host again at some point as the conference rotates between different sites each year.

“We were very pleased with how the workshop went,” he said.