2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress

HiPSEC members Jason Baker, Pamela Burnley and Jasmine Hinton attended the 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress (PhysCon) as exhibitors.  PhysCon is a meeting for undergraduate physics students sponsored by the American Institute of Physics and Sigma Pi Sigma.  We brought our new demonstration DAC and showed students how to use pressure to freeze water at room temperature.  We were enthusiastically received and talked to hundreds of students about HiPSEC. 

New CO2 laser heating facilities at HPCATwp_20160915_14_01_00_rich-2
The development of a new CO2 laser heating system has been initiated by HiPSEC researchers in the Salamat group in collaboration with scientists at HPCAT. Once completed, the system will be compatible across various beamlines in APS Sector 16 and opens up the capability to perform high-pressure high-temperature experiments on wide band gap materials up to several thousand Kelvin, with in situ X-ray diffraction and spectroscopic measurements.
(L-R: Jesse Smith and Eric Rod of HPCAT, Dean Smith, Christian Childs and Ashkan Salamat of HiPSEC)

GRADUATION!  VAHE MKRTCHYAN graduated with his M.S. Physics degree August, 2016 under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Cornelius and Dr. Ravhi Kumar. His thesis work entitled “Structural Behavior of NbSexTe2-x Compounds Under High Pressure” was supported by HiPSEC. Vahe is continuing his education in the Ph.D. program in the Physics and Astronomy Department at UNLV under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Cornelius and Dr. Ravhi Kumar.

GRADUATION! DANIEL SNEED graduated with his M.S. Physics degree August, 2016 under the supervision of Dr. Michael Pravica. His thesis work entitled “Forcing Cesium into Higher Oxidation States via Useful Hard X-ray Induced Chemistry at Extreme Conditions” was supported by HiPSEC. Daniel is continuing his education in the Ph.D. program in the Physics and Astronomy Department at UNLV under the supervision of Dr. Ashkan Salamat.

Extreme Crystals Weekend Undergraduate workshopwkshop-edit

On the weekend of April 9 – 10, 2016 HiPSEC held its first annual Extreme Crystals Weekend Workshop for undergraduate students. Twenty students from around the country came to Las Vegas to learn about high pressure physics, chemistry and geoscience. The workshop included demonstrations of diamond anvil cells, laser heating, large volume high pressure apparatus, shock experiments, x-ray and electron diffraction and Raman spectroscopy. The workshop also featured talks and discussions about careers in high pressure science and information about working at the National Labs and NASA as well as in academic environments.   The workshop was a lot of fun for everyone involved. HiPSEC members enjoyed the participant’s energy and enthusiasm, the students enjoyed seeing the wide variety of science and instrumentation on display, and with the exception of a brief period of violent rainstorms and flash flooding, everyone enjoyed the mild spring temperatures.

GRADUATION! QUINLAN SMITH graduated with his M.S. Physics degree May, 2016 under the supervision of Dr. Michael Pravica. His thesis work entitled “Impedance Spectroscopy Studies of Yttria Stabilized Zirconia (3.8% mol YSZ) Under Extreme Pressures and Temperatures” was supported by HiPSEC. Quinlan took a job as a Laboratory Assistant at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

GRADUATION! ANDREW ALVARADO graduated with his M.S. Physics degree May, 2016 under the supervision of Dr. Changfeng Chen. His thesis work entitled “High Pressure Properties of Several Narrow Bandgap Semiconductors from First-Principles Calculations” was supported by HiPSEC. Andrew is continuing his education in the Ph.D. Material Science program at UCLA.

GRADUATION! CHRIS HIGGINS graduated with his M.S. Physics degree May, 2016 under the supervision of Dr. Changfeng Chen. His thesis work entitled “Ab Initio Structure Determination and Property Characterization of High-Pressure Ca-O Compounds and Li2(OH)Br Crystals” was supported by HiPSEC. Chris is continuing his education in the Ph.D. program in the Physics and Astronomy Department at UNLV under the supervision of Dr. Ashkan Salamat.

PUBLISHED! Equation of state for technetium from X-ray diffraction and first-principle calculations.Tc EoS

Technetium is the lightest radioelement, meaning that every isotope is radioactive and because of this has but the smallest natural abundance. It is however a major fission product from nuclear fission reactions and produced on the kilogram scale at nuclear reactors around the world. To date, no structural studies have investigated the high pressure behavior of this metal likely due to the implicit challenges with working with radioactive material. Utilizing HPCAT experimental facilities at the Advanced Photon Source, ANL, Ph.D. student Daniel Mast obtained the first x-ray diffraction experiments up to 67GPa. An experimental equation of state for technetium was derived compared to a theoretical compression curve. (Mast et al, Journal of Physics and Chemistry of Solids, 95 (2016) 6-11,

Sally-newsON TV! News3LV reports on “The brightest”, showcasing research projects at the UNLV Reasearch Forum, features an interview to HiPSEC student Sally Lee.

SSAP SYMPOSIUM Several HiPSEC members, including 10 students, attended the meeting in Bethesda, Maryland.


GRADUATION! DANIEL ANTONIO graduated with his Ph.D. Physics degree December 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Cornelius. His dissertation work entitled “High Pressure X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy Studies of Heavy-Fermion Cerium and Uranium Compounds” was supported by HiPSEC. Daniel took a job as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Idaho National Laboratory.

GRADUATION! DANIEL HABER   graduated with his M.S. Geoscience degree December, 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Burnley. His thesis work entitled “Predictive Modeling of Terrestrial Radiation Exposure from Geologic Materials” was supported by HiPSEC. Daniel is now a Nuclear Incident Scientist II for NSTec’s Remote Sensing Lab – Nellis, working on testing spectral shape change algorithms.

GRADUATION! PATRICIA KALITA graduated with her Ph.D. Physics degree May 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Cornelius. Her dissertation work entitled “High-Pressure Structural Studies of Ceramics and Nanocrystalline Glass-Ceramics of the Mullite Family” was supported by HiPSEC. Patricia now works as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Sandia National Laboratory.

GRADUATION! KARA MARSAC graduated with her M.S. Geoscience degree May, 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Burnley. Her thesis work entitled “Modeling Background Radiation using Geochemical Data” was supported by HiPSEC. Kara is continuing her education as a Ph.D. student at the Colorado School of Mines.

Award! The American Physical Society Division of Materials Physics has awarded MELANIE WHITE an Ovshinsky Student Travel Honorable Mention Award to attend the 2016 APS March Meeting.   This award will allow her to present her work with advisor Dr. Ravhi Kumar on a high pressure synchrotron x-ray diffraction and Raman study of rare earth pyrochlore oxide. Each year, ten Ovshinsky Student Travel Awards and ten Honorable Mention Awards are granted based on a highly competitive, international application process.   The awards enable students to participate in the APS March Meeting sessions and assist the careers of student researchers.

PUBLISHED!  Pressure induced structural transitions in CuSbS2 and CuSbSe2 thermoelectric compounds. Considerable efforts have been invested to enhance understanding of the structural, electrical, and optical properties of ternary chalcogenides with the general formula ABX2 (A, B are metal atoms and X is a chalcogen atom) because of their potential applications as possible thermoelectric materials, semiconductors for photovoltaic devices, and infrared detectors. In this study, we performed high-pressure angle dispersive powder x-ray diffraction and high-pressure Raman spectroscopy on CuSbS2 and CuSbSe2 up to a maximum pressure of 80 GPa. We observed a pressure induced structural phase transition from the ambient orthorhombic structure with Pnma space group to a monoclinic structure with P1 space group in both materials. Reported examples of an increase in thermoelectric efficiency across phase boundaries in PbX materials provides an interest in structural phase transitions in thermoelectric materials in general. As such, the identification of pressure-induced structural phase transitions in these ABX2 compounds may stimulate research interest into their thermoelectric properties at high-pressure conditions. Baker et al. J. Alloys Compd. 643, 186-194 (2015)

  December 2015 026Daniel Sneed designed and constructed a portable ruby fluoresce spectrometer. The instrument was commissioned by the Canadian Light Source and was installed in November 2015 in proximity of the IR beamlines.

This fall Emily Siska and Daniel Mast attended and presented posters at the IUCr IUCR2015High-Pressure workshop. The workshop focused on recent advances in high pressure techniques. Talks included high-pressure crystallography, new materials synthesis, physical and chemical properties, theory and computation, as well as technique developments for high-pressure studies at synchrotrons. The workshop was a good and productive experience where Emily and Daniel learned about high pressure techniques that will advance their research and had the opportunity to talk to researchers from around the world doing similar work.

AWARD! The Powder Diffraction Scientific Interest Group (SIG) of the American Crystallographic Association (ACA) has awarded Daniel Mast a 2015 Margaret C. Etter Student Lecturer Award. With this Daniel presented his high pressure work on technetium metal in Philadelphia, PA at the ACA 65th Annual Meeting, July 25th – 29th. Each SIG has the opportunity to select one student to receive an award and to present a lecture. Selections are based upon submitted abstracts and are independent of whether the student originally requested an oral or poster presentation.

 The DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications!

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science is pleased to announce that the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications for the 2015 Solicitation 2Applications are due 5:00pm ET on Tuesday December 15, 2015.

The SCGSR program supports supplemental awards to outstanding U.S. graduate students to conduct part of their graduate thesis research at a DOE national laboratory in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist for a period of 3 to 12 consecutive months—with the goal of preparing graduate students for scientific and technical careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission.

Contributing at Las Vegas Science EventsIMG_20150602_133851

HiPSEC students Chris Higgins and Andrew Alvarado volunteered as judges at the


Skybot competition held on May 23 in Las Vegas. The event was also attended by Congressman Joe Heck. Here is a synopsis of the event:  “The main goal of the Skybot Engineering and Business Innovation Challenge (SEBIC) is to inspire students to find a passion in some aspect of technical education. It will be more than just “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math”, commonly known as STEM. It will include business attributes, community service, espirit de corps, sportsmanship in the form of magnanimous competitiveness, and execution of the actual competition. Robotics have been part of competitions for many years. With the advent of airborne drones, or Skybots, it is imperative that the third dimension gets added. Nevada is the first in the nation with this competition.”

GRADUATION! Nirup Bandaru has completed his doctoral degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering with Dr. Ravhi Kumar, Dr. Rama Venkat and Dr. Clemens Heske as advisory committee chairs. His dissertation work entitled “STRUCTURE AND OPTICAL PROPERTIES OF TRANSITION METAL DICHALCOGENIDES (TMDs) UNDER HIGH PRESSURE AND HIGH TEMPERATURE CONDITIONS” was supported by HiPSEC. Nirup took a job as a Research and Development Scientist at PDF Solutions, a semiconductor fabrication company located in San Jose, CA.

AWARD! The UNLV Foundation, in partnership with Southwest Airlines, has awarded Melanie White with the Student Travel Award for her work with Dr. Ravhi Kumar on a high pressure x-ray diffraction and high pressure Raman study of pyrochlore oxide, a potential nuclear waste containment material. Melanie will use the award to travel to Philadelphia, PA, to present the research at the American Crystallographic Association’s 65th Annual Meeting, July 25th – 29th. Melanie has also received an ACA Young Scientist Travel Grant. This project was also awarded first place at the 2015 UNLV CSUN Academic Affairs- Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Poster Conference.

AWARD! Howard Yanxon is awarded with 2015 McNair Scholar Summer Internship to work with Dr.Ravhi Kumar. The McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program on our campus is administered by the UNLV Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach which received a grant from U.S. Department of Education.

compoMARCH 20, 2015. Melanie White, Nolan Regis and Kelly Seaborg poster presentations won awards at the UNLV-CSUN-OURS Poster Conference.




UNLV-HiPSEC students presented their research at the 2015 SSAP symposium in Santa Fe, NM on March 11-12, 2015. We are particularly proud of Patricia Kalita and Daniel Sneed for winning best poster presentation awards.




On February 12, 2015 the review panel came to the UNLV for the annual HiPSEC review. We had the opportunity to showcase our results to scientists of the NNSA, LANL, LLNL, Sandia and NSTec. HiPSEC students had the opportunity to discuss their research with senior scientists, establish new connections and discuss career development opportunities.