Latest news

Physical Sciences’ alumna becomes NASA astronaut

Jessica Watkins – an alumna of the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences – graduated as an NASA astronaut on Jan. 10. Watkins has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and collaborated on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. She joined ten other NASA candidates as the first class of astronaut candidates to graduate under the Artemis program. They are now eligible for spaceflight, including assignments to the International Space Station, Artemis missions to the Moon, and ultimately, missions to Mars.

Read more here.

Two Physical Sciences faculty receive 2020 National Science Foundation CAREER Awards

Justin Caram, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Selugi Moon, assistant professor of earth, planetary, and space sciences, are each recipients of a Faculty Early Career Development award. This is the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. For Caram, the award will support his development of new spectroscopic measurement methods to study the emission of short-wave infrared light from quantum dots. Moon will integrate research and teaching efforts through the incorporation of landslide studies in undergraduate courses.

Read about Moon’s work here and Caram’s story here.

Astronomers discover new class of strange objects near our galaxy’s black hole

Astronomers from UCLA’s Galactic Center Orbits Initiative discovered a new class of bizarre objects at the center of our galaxy, not far from the supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*. Andrea Ghez, professor of physics and astronomy at UCLA, says, “these objects look like gas and behave like stars.” These new objects look compact most of the time and stretch out when their orbits bring them closest to the black hole.

Read the story here.

Click here to read more news stories from UCLA’s Division of Physical Sciences


January 30, 2020: How to Improve Memory and Create Memorable Content

UCLA Physics & Astronomy department presents a free public talk featuring professor Mayank Mehta, from both physics & astronomy and the UCLA department of neurobiology. Mehta is also part of the Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence. The event will take place on Thursday, January 30, 2020, with the talk and Q&A at 6:00 PM and the reception to follow at 7:00 PM in UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). Click here to RSVP.

January 31, 2020: Career Counseling for STEM Professionals

Join the Physical Sciences Division for an exciting event with renowned career coach Claire Wasserman,  also one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Powerful Women. Wasserman will present a talk about leadership and productivity, specifically, letting go of perfectionism and positioning yourself for success. The event is Friday, January 31, 2020, and will begin at 10 AM, in Young Hall 2033. It is open to all and there is no RSVP necessary, however seating is first come, first served, so we recommend attendees arrive early.


UCLA ranked #1 public university

UCLA was named #1 among U.S. public universities in two significant lists: the 2019 U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings, and the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education survey.

Qualities highlighted by the publications include UCLA’s commitment to top-quality education, fostering a sense of community, and prioritizing inclusion. Click here to read the news announcements.

The DIYnamics school outreach program


Organization for Diverse Leadership in Science pioneering outreach and inclusivity

In the efforts to diversify the STEM fields of universities all across the nation, OCDS was created almost ten years ago in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department, but has since become a wide-spread STEM organization to promote multiculturalism and inclusion in the field, especially at the graduate level.

OCDS is led by graduate students who are in turn advised by a long-time faculty mentor, professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Miguel García-Garibay, who is also dean of the UCLA Division of Physical Sciences.

Click here to read more about OCDS.

Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Woods-Robinson and Elizabeth Case, Physics

Rachel Woods-Robinson and Elizabeth Case, physics alumnae, founded Cycle for Science, long distance bike rides for female scientists in an effort to promote environmental awareness and sustainable transportation.

Cycle for Science has had four rides since 2015, reaching more than 2,000 students and demonstrating the importance of sustainable transportation and advocating against the use of fossil fuels. They started with a trip across the entire US, then had trips across California’s Central Valley, New York, and even the Netherlands.

Read more here.

Faculty Spotlight: Statistics program bringing data science to high schools

Although big data is everywhere, the basics of computational skills needed for data science aren’t a requirement in grade-level school. Also, a major problem in grade-level school is losing students in the math system. To solve this problem, Rob Gould,  professor of statistics at UCLA, created a solution to both: Mobilize.

The mission behind Mobilize is to arm students with computational and analytical skills in a new way: through data science. Introduction to Data Science, or IDS, is a year-long class designed as part of Mobilize that started a movement to focus on arming students with the tools to succeed in data science. Read more here.

Student Spotlight: Center for Diverse Leadership in Science student shares her intersectionality and success in STEM

Gefen Skolnick

Gefen Skilnick, a rising senior at UCLA, is fellow in the Physical Science Center for Diverse Leadership in Science and student researcher under the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. However, she is much more than that, she is a young Jewish, Israeli, woman, and masculine of center lesbian in tech.

Skilnick is an advocate for women and LGBTQ+ folks breaking into the tech world, and has done a lot as a student, professional, and researcher to make a difference in these communities.

Read her interview with The Pride LA here.

Research Spotlight: RV Atlantis Expedition

From October 29 through November 11, a research group, including Professor of Earth, Planetary, & Space Sciences Tina Treude, Sebastian Krause, DeMarcus Robinson, and David Yousavich, was on board the RV Atlantis, with a team from UCSB (lead by chief scientist Dave Valentine) and a team from the MPI Bremen/AWI (Frank Wenzhoefer and Felix Janssen).

The goal of this expedition was to study the seasonal dynamics of giant sulfur bacteria mats in the low- to no-oxygen zone of the Santa Barbara Basin and their coupling to sulfur, nitrogen, and other element cycling. Read more here.