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Department of Physics

Welcome from the Department Chair


Dear UC Davis Physics Community,

What a fantastic time to be doing physics! Since my last Welcome Letter we have discovered the Higgs Boson, a momentous event in the history of physics (and one in which UC Davis Physicists played a major role, see our Higgs article).  In our Research Highlights article, you can learn about major developments in many fields:  Our condensed matter group has produced important advances in our fundamental understanding of magnetism in exotic materials and phase transitions of electrons in solids.  Our cosmology group has achieved new insights into the nature of dark matter and cosmic inflation, as well as bringing us a huge step closer to making the next great telescope a reality.  Environmental physicists traced the origin of deadly pollutants in the southern San Joaquin Valley and heavy ion physicists probed the nature of the quark-gluon plasma.

Professor Albrecht
Professor and Department Chair Andreas Albrecht

With so many exciting developments it is no wonder that growing numbers of students choose to study physics at all levels, a national trend that is robustly reflected in our own growing program (which is growing even faster than the national rate).  We invite all of you to share in the excitement by coming to one of our upcoming events and public lectures hosted by the department.

We are grateful to see our nation and most certainly the state of California emerging from the Great Recession.  Improvements in the economy along with the passage of Prop. 30 may stabilize UC’s financial situation.   Our department is coming out of this difficult period on a great trajectory, with a steadily growing reputation and stature (for example, as measured by extramural funding, we have enjoyed very impressive growth throughout these difficult years). We are also very grateful for our increasingly successful program of private donations that is crucial to our future success.   We are fortunate to have a new faculty search underway this year, from which we expect to hire an impressive new member of our high energy experiment group, keeping us on track for our goal of being ranked in the top 20 of physics departments by 2020. We also note the retirement of Professors Kiskis, Klein and Pines, and also our gratitude that all three remain very active and involved in our department. 

Still, major challenges face the world of higher education.  The growth of higher education costs and mounting student debt are bringing new levels of scrutiny of our costs and efficiency, and of the value of the education we provide.   In a century marked with rapid changes to societies and economies and an ever-increasing emphasis on science and technology I am confident that a physics degree is more valuable than ever.  I am also confident that our great department has talent and energy to thrive and evolve into something even better than we are today. As physicists we pride ourselves in readily facing up to and flourishing in challenging situations, a reason physics graduates accomplish all kinds of great things and yet another reason to study physics!

Best Regards,

Andreas Albrecht

Professor and Chair

NEXT: Higgs!