Links to Colloquia

Past years' colloquia

Eisenbud Lecture Series in Mathematics and Physics

Berko Symposium

All colloquium videos are under copyright and may not be reproduced, in part or in total, without written permission of the speaker and of the Physics Department.

Department Colloquia

Martin Weiner Lecture Series
Department of Physics Colloquium
4:00 pm, Abelson 131
Refreshments at 3:30pm outside Abelson 131

Fall 2016 Colloquia

Tuesday , September 6, 2016

Aparna Baskaran (Brandeis)
Active Materials : Applying the soft materials paradigm to Biology
Host: Department of Physics

Abstract: In this talk I will introduce and discuss a recently developed class of microscopically driven materials that have been termed active materials. Drawing lessons from both biology and in vitro experimental systems, I will discuss theoretical challenges and different approaches that have proved fruitful so far. In particular, I will discuss the physics of active brownian particles and active nematics. 

(Watch it now.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Albion Lawrence (Brandeis)
Cosmic inflation and quantum gravity
Host: Department of Physics

Abstract: A new generation of cosmic microwave background (CMB) experiments are poised to test "high scale” models of cosmic inflation which are highly sensitive to quantum gravitational effects.  In this talk I will review basic aspects of inflation and its imprint on the CMB, and then discuss the difficulties in constructing high-scale models which are not spoiled by quantum gravity.  I will describe a specific class of models which use nontrivial quantum field theory dynamics to evade these difficulties.

(Watch it now.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Chandralekha Singh (University of Pittsburgh)
Improving student understanding of quantum mechanics 
Host: Prof. Matthew Headrick

Abstract: Learning quantum mechanics is challenging, in part due to the non-intuitive nature of the subject matter. Our research shows that the patterns of reasoning difficulties in learning quantum mechanics are often universal similar to the universal nature of reasoning difficulties found in introductory physics. Our research also shows that students often have difficulty in monitoring  their learning while learning quantum mechanics. To help improve student understanding of quantum concepts, we are developing quantum interactive learning tutorials (QuILTs) as well as tools for peer-instruction. The goal of QuILTs and peer-instruction tools is to actively engage students in the learning process and to help them build links between the formalism and the conceptual aspects of quantum physics without compromising the technical content. I will discuss the effectiveness of these learning tools based upon assessment data.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ming Guo (MIT)
Title: The impact of cell volume and molecular crowding on cell mechanics and gene expression
Host: W. Benjamin Rogers
Abstract: Cells alter their mechanical properties in response to their local microenvironment; this plays a role in determining cell function and can even influence stem cell fate. In this talk, I will show a robust and unified relationship between cell stiffness and cell volume. As a cell spreads on a substrate, its volume decreases while its stiffness concomitantly increases. The reduction of cell volume is a result of water efflux which leads to a corresponding increase in intracellular molecular crowding. We find that bulk modulus, cortical shear modulus and cytoplasmic shear modulus of cells all scale with cell volume, and possibly reflect the change in molecular crowding. Moreover, we have directly measured the equation of state of living mammalian cells, and find that it can be described by a hard-sphere equation of state. Finally, we find that changes in cell volume and hence stiffness alter stem-cell differentiation, regardless of the method by which these are induced. These observations reveal a surprising, previously unidentified, relationship between cell stiffness and cell volume which strongly influences cell biology, and highlight the impact of molecular crowding.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

No colloquium (Rosh Hashanah).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Irmgard Bischofberger, (MIT)
Fingers, toes and tongues: the anatomy of interfacial instabilities in viscous fluids
Host: W. Benjamin Rogers 

Abstract: The invasion of one fluid into another of higher viscosity is unstable and produces complex patterns in a quasi-two dimensional geometry. This viscous-fingering instability, a bedrock of our understanding of pattern formation, has been characterized by a most-unstable wavelength that sets the characteristic width of the fingers. We have shown that a second, previously overlooked, parameter governs the length of the fingers and characterizes the dominant global features of the patterns.Because interfacial tension suppresses short-wavelength fluctuations, its elimination would suggest an instability producing highly ramified singular structures. Our experimental investigations using miscible fluids show the opposite behavior – the interface becomes more stable even as the stabilizing effect of interfacial tension is removed. This is accompanied by slender structures, tongues, that form in the narrow thickness of the fluid. Among the rich variety of global patterns that emerge is a regime of blunt structures, “toes”, that exhibit the unusual features characteristic of proportionate growth. This type of pattern formation, while quite common in mammalian biology, was hitherto unknown in physical systems.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Daniel Gottesman (Perimeter Institute)
Host: Matthew Headrick

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

No colloquium (Brandeis Monday).

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Jeffrey Morris, CUNY
Host: Bulbul Chakraborty

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Time: 4:00pm
Location: Abelson 131

Eisenbud Lecture Series in Mathematics and Physics
Nigel Hitchin (Univ. of Oxford)
Algebraic curves and differential equations

Euler’s equations for a spinning top are well-known to be solvable by elliptic functions. They form the first example of a much wider range of equations, in particular Nahm’s equations, which are solvable using algebraic curves of higher genus. Nahm’s equations appear in various parts of differential geometry and physics, related to hyperk ahler geometry and magnetic monopoles in particular. Loosely speaking, the equations are linearized on the Jacobian of the curve. However, there are many situations where that curve is singular or non-reduced and this viewpoint is no longer valid. The talk will discuss the geometry of what happens in some of these cases.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 (Lecture II)
Time: 4pm
Location: Abelson 333

Eisenbud Lecture Series in Mathematics and Physics, Lecture II
Nigel Hitchin (Univ. of Oxford)
Generalizing hyperbolic surfaces

Abstract: The theory of Higgs bundles on a compact Riemann surface provided a natural setting for hyperbolic surfaces within the context of an SU(2)-gauge theory with a complex Higgs field. Replacing the group SU(2) by the group of symplectic diffeomorphisms of the two-sphere provides, thanks to work of Biquard, an infinite-dimensional gen eralization of Teichm ̈uller space, but it is as yet unclear what type of geometry, generalizing hyperbolic metrics, on the surface this parametrizes. The lecture will investigate some of the questions and features involved.

Friday, November 18 (Lecture III)
Time: 4:00pm
Location: Abelson 229

Eisenbud Lecture Series in Mathematics and Physics, Lecture III
Nigel Hitchin (Univ. of Oxford)
Higgs bundles and mirror symmetry

Abstract: The moduli space of Higgs bundles on a curve, together with its fibration structure as an integrable system, forms a natural example to examine the predictions of mirror symmetry in the approach of Strominger, Yau and Zaslow. The mirror for gauge group G is regarded as being the moduli space for the Langlands dual group LG. Of particular interest is the how this manifests itself in the duality of “branes” on each side. We consider in the talk cases arising from noncompact real forms of complex groups, and also Lagrangians arising from the existence of holomorphic spinor fields.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

No colloquium (Thanksgiving week).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Raffaele Ferrari (MIT)
Host: Albion Lawrence

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Chris Santangelo (UMass Amherst)
Host: W. Benjamin Rogers

Spring 2017 Colloquia

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

No colloquium. Midterm Recess.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

David Keith (Harvard)
Host: W. Benjamin Rogers

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

No colloquium (APS).
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

John Bush (MIT)
Host: W. Benjamin Rogers
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Steve Harvey (U Penn)
Joint Quantitative Biology/Department of Physics Colloquium
Host: Michael Hagan

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Tuesday April 11, 2017 

No colloquium. Passover and spring recess.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

No colloquium. Passover and spring recess.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

James Battat (Wellesley) 
Host: Gabriella Sciolla
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Carl Haber (LBNL)
Host: Gabriella Sciolla