Sabbatical at Cambridge for Dr. Gus Hart

Dr. Gus Hart had a six month sabbatical at the University of Cambridge, working with his collaborator Dr. Gabor Csanyi. They are designing new techniques for constructing interatomic potentials--think of an interatomic potential as a model of how atoms interact with each other which doesn’t require all the complexity of quantum mechanics. Atomic interaction models based on quantum mechanics exist, but they are slow and computationally expensive. Interatomic potentials, on the other hand, are much faster and cheaper to run, but still accurately represent the atomic behaviors. These models have applications in material science research, allowing scientists to study new materials on the computer instead of in the lab, which saves both time and money. Dr. Hart is leveraging many ideas from machine learning in his research, a synthesis which he describes as “really exciting.”

Dr. Hart’s sabbatical experience did not go untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. He and his family lived in the Cambridge area, but sightseeing and travel outside the region was largely discouraged. He was only allowed on campus only two days a week. He met with his collaborator and other researchers at Cambridge face-to-face, but only in one-on-one meetings held outside. He was not been able to visit other scientists in the UK or Europe, as he had planned. He has only attended his local Church meetings virtually. Despite it not being the cultural experience he was hoping for, Dr. Hart still described his experience thus far as “amazing.” He and his family have enjoyed getting to know their neighbors and making a few good friends, and the atmosphere at Cambridge is exciting and “tremendous academically.”

This is the first time Dr. Hart has been able to take a sabbatical. When asked his thoughts on the experience so far, Dr. Hart shared, “I have learned so much. It has helped me in mentoring my students and helped me develop new skills and given me a broader perspective. I'm a better scientist. I am so excited about my field and the others it connects to. I wish more faculty would make the necessary effort to take a sabbatical. It isn't easy to relocate for 6-12 months, to move your kids to new schools or a new country, to make trade-offs, but for me it has been rewarding, well worth the sacrifice. I can't wait to do it again---hopefully without a pandemic.”

(Student contributors: Benjamin Szamosfalvi, Jason Saunders, and Nathan Chanhyun Pak)

News and Events

Image for Mystery of Haumea's Formation Solved
BYU Physics and Astronomy student Benjamin Proudfoot recently published research in the prestigious journal Nature Communications that solves the mystery of the icy dwarf planet Haumea's formation.
Image for Capturing Images at the New Mexico Observatory
Students and faculty from theBYU Astronomy and Physics department captured images from space at an observatory in New Mexico to research explaining the evolution of the universe.
Image for Dr. Scott Sommerfeldt Awarded an ASA Silver Medal
Dr. Scott Sommerfeldt awarded the Silver Medal of the Acoustical Society of America for work in active noise control
Image for Sabbatical at Cambridge for Dr. Gus Hart
Dr. Hart's sabbatical propels work on new techniques for constructing interatomic potentials
Image for Dr. Steve Turley -NSF Program Officer
Dr. Turley influences the future of physics education during his time as program officer for education division of the National Science Foundation
Image for Planetarium Updates
A new and improved planetarium experience
Image for How Physics Students Thrive in a Pandemic
Ways Students have Adapted to the Pandemic
Image for New Professor Dr. Benjamin Boizelle
Dr. Boizelle brings radio astronomy to the department
Image for Dr. Dennis Della Corte launches Consortium of Molecular Design
Dr. Della Corte's computational biophysics is the heart of the new Consortium of Molecular Design