San Jose State University Celebrates Historic Groundbreaking on Interdisciplinary Science Building

Media contact:

Robin McElhatton, SJSU Media Relations Specialist, 408-924-1749, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

San Jose, Calif. — San Jose State University will celebrate the historic groundbreaking for its new Interdisciplinary Science Building on Thursday, April 25, at 10 a.m. on the university’s campus in front of Duncan Hall.

The first new academic building in 30 years, the Interdisciplinary Science Building construction is the first phase of the university’s new Science Park, part of San Jose State’s commitment to dynamic research and innovation environment in the heart of Silicon Valley.

“The breadth of scientific discovery and research that will take place at the ISB and our future Science Park will be astonishing,” said SJSU President Mary Papazian. “It will truly put us on the map, and we will rightly take our place among the most modern and innovative of all science colleges in the Bay Area and, indeed, the country.”

San Jose State’s research endeavors play a critical role in preparing graduate and undergraduate students who work side by side with faculty mentors. With $60 million in annual research expenditures, SJSU is a top-200 school nationally in terms of research spending. The university’s 33,000 students—including approximately 7,600 graduate students —bring an inherent creativity and diversity of thought and experience that can address and solve the most pressing problems facing society today.

“San Jose State has been meeting the needs of our region since our founding 160 years ago,” said Paul Lanning, vice president for university advancement. “The vision for the Science Park—and the impact it will have for our students and faculty—is unparalleled in SJSU’s history.”

“Our goal is to make research, teaching and collaboration inseparable,” said Michael Kaufman, College of Science dean. “The Interdisciplinary Science Building will be a huge leap forward in San Jose State’s ability to provide modern research experiences and enhanced faculty mentoring opportunities for our students.”

An artistic rendering shows what the Interdisciplinary Science Building will look like in 2021 when it is completed.

An artistic rendering shows what the Interdisciplinary Science Building will look like in 2021 when it is completed.

The Interdisciplinary Science Building will have eight floors of modern science laboratories and research facilities, as well as collaborative, flexible learning environments. The building will be home to chemistry and biology teaching and research spaces, an interdisciplinary Center for High Performance Computing, data and information science labs, and science administration. Each floor will seamlessly integrate teaching and research. Students who move through these programs will graduate with the theoretical background, hands-on skills and collaboration experience necessary to succeed in industry and advanced studies.  

Following the ceremonial groundbreaking and program, attendees can see the future of SJSU science firsthand at the College of Science 15th Annual College of Science Student Research Day, located nearby in the Duncan Hall breezeway. More than 100 student-faculty teams will present original work in all science disciplines. In addition, SJSU’s Celebration of Research will take place 3 – 6 p.m. April 23 in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom.

Complete ISB groundbreaking event information may be found at sjsu.edu/sciencepark.


About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study—offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

SJSU Physics Professor’s Groundbreaking Research Featured in ‘Science’

Ehsan Khatami is one of two San Jose State University faculty members selected as an Early Career Investigator Award winners in 2017-18. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Ehsan Khatami is one of two San Jose State University faculty members selected as Early Career Investigator Award winners in 2017-18. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

San Jose State University Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ehsan Khatami in collaboration with a group of professors from MIT and the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms published today in the journal Science their latest experimental discovery about conduction in a tiny system of atoms in a vacuum.

Khatami, who was granted early tenure and promotion to associate professor this year, received a funding from the National Science Foundation with colleague Sen Chiao, of the Meteorology Department to build the first high-performance computing cluster on campus. The equipment has proven essential to his research as well as the work of students and faculty in other disciplines that require big data analysis.

In his most recent article, Khatami and his colleagues discuss an experiment that is impossible to perform using real materials. They were able to focus on the movement of atoms’ intrinsic magnetic field, or “spin,” across a few microns without disturbing their charge arrangement (charge is another intrinsic property of atoms) as the first of its kind with a quantum system. The results shed light on the mostly unexplored spin transport property of models condensed matter scientists use to describe the unusual behavior of solids at very low temperatures.

Atoms are like small magnets, so applying a magnetic force pushes them around, here to the left (top left). Since these atoms repel each other, they cannot move if there are no empty sites (top middle). But the atomic “magnetic needles” are still free to move, with stronger magnets (red) diffusing to the left in the image, and weaker magnets (blue) having to make room and move to the right (bottom row). This so-called spin transport is resolved atom by atom in the cold atom quantum emulator.

Atoms are like small magnets, so applying a magnetic force pushes them around, here to the left (top left). Since these atoms repel each other, they cannot move if there are no empty sites (top middle). But the atomic “magnetic needles” are still free to move, with stronger magnets (red) diffusing to the left in the image, and weaker magnets (blue) having to make room and move to the right (bottom row). This so-called spin transport is resolved atom by atom in the cold atom quantum emulator.

Khatami’s research aims to help scientists understand how superconductivity works—a finding that could potentially pave the way for a room-temperature superconductor, which would improve transportation and data storage and make homes more energy efficient by creating materials that allow better use of electricity. That is, as electricity goes through a device such as a phone or laptop, none of the electronic components would heat up. Superconductivity is the property of zero electrical resistance in some substances at very low temperatures (<-135 degrees Celsius).

The experiment was carried out using 400 atoms cooled down to just a hair above absolute zero temperature (<-273 degrees Celsius). The atoms were manipulated to be two different types and to act as if they were electrons in a solid with two species of spin. The atoms were then trapped in a square box to see how they would respond when magnetic fields keeping one species on the left side and one species on the right side of the box were turned off. Scientists watched the process by using an electron gas microscope to measure the speed at which mixing takes place and deduce the “spin” current.

Khatami compares the box of atoms to a shallow pool of water – if there was a divider in the middle with clear water on one side and water dyed black on the other side when the divider is suddenly removed the water would mix together and turn gray. The two shades of water would be similar to the two spin species in the quantum experiment, with the behavior of the atoms governed by quantum mechanics.

To support the experiment, Khatami used more than 300,000 CPU hours on SJSU’s Spartan High-Performance Computer to solve the underlying theoretical model that was emulated in the experiment to support experimental observations.

“As exciting as these findings have been, there are still so many unanswered questions we can explore using similar setups,” he said. “For example, the dependence of spin transport on the temperature or the concentration of atoms in the box can be studied.”

Khatami received the SJSU 2017-18 Early Career Investigator Award and has offered insights into his research on the web series Physics Girl. He was featured in the Fall/Winter 2018 edition of Washington Square alumni magazine.