The Department of Physics at Western Michigan University is proud of the accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff.
Professors awarded 3-year NASA grant
Dr. Thomas W. Gorczyca and Dr. Manuel Bautista have been awarded a 3 year NASA grant worth $503,151. Dr. Gorczyca, professor of theoretical atomic physics, and Dr. Bautista, associate professor of astrophysics, will work to develop the atomic, molecular, and solid-state database needed for modeling X-ray spectra of the cool phase of the intersteller medium for application to recent and future X-ray astronomy instruments.
Their theoretical atomic physics research will focus on helping to answer the following important questions in astrophysics: Where are oxygen, silicon, and iron found in the universe? What are their abundances and physical and chemical forms? These answers are found through analysis of X-ray observations using astrophysical plasma spectral models. The strategic goal of their research is to discover the origin, structure, evolution, and destiny of the universe, and search for Earth-like planets.
Physics professor receives University Distinguished Teaching Award
Dr. Lisa Paulius is a 2016 recipient of the University Distinguished Teaching Award. The honor is bestowed on faculty members who are exceptional educators and mentors and demonstrate outstanding dedication to their work.
Of the dozens of students nominating her, nearly all reported that Paulius' teaching innovations and methods, combined with her passion for physics and teaching, were instrumental in their classroom success. They also consistently praised her for providing steadfast patience and support.
A former student who is now an engineer with IBM recounted how as a freshman, she was awed by Paulius and unsure whether she would stick with physics as a career choice. Because of Paulius, the student went on to obtain a master's degree in applied optics and wrote that, "one of the best things that Western provided me with was a mentor whose friendship, support and encouragement has followed me for long after I graduated."
Physicist appointed to national group
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Charles Henderson, WMU professor of physics education research holding a joint appointment in the Department of Physics and the Mallinson Institute for Science Education, has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He was nominated by the Topical Group on Physics Education Research for “pioneering research into use of research-based instructional strategies in physics, as well as leadership and service to the physics education research community, and serving as an ambassador to science, technology, engineering and math education broadly.” Fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one's professional peers for exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise.
Physics is top-paid science major
Projected to earn an average starting salary of $65, 250, physics majors are expected to be the top-paid Class of 2016 math and sciences graduates at the bachelor’s degree level, according to results of National Association of Colleges and Employers’ winter 2016 Salary Survey.
Read additional news stories in our department newsletters.
Presidential Scholar named
Ian Brown (shown at left with President Dunn) is this year's Presidential Scholar in the Department of Physics, and the recipient of the Charles J. Wilcox award for outstanding graduating physics major. He is headed toward doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, home to the Leonard E. Parker Center for Gravitation, Cosmology, and Astrophysics. Brown’s plans include studying Einstein's theory of general relativity and the gravitational waves it predicts.
Physics graduate student is Frostic doctoral fellow
Doctoral student Jagjit Kaur has been awarded a prestigious Gwen Frostic Doctoral Fellowship by the WMU Graduate College for her exceptional contributions to research in atomic physics. Her work in theoretical atomic physics investigating the dielectronic recombination of elements in astrophysical and fusion-related plasmas is being overseen by Tom Gorczyca, Ph.D.
Staff excellence noted
Network Administrator Benjamin Gaudio has won a WMU College of Arts and Sciences 2016 Staff Excellence award for his work in assisting faculty and their research groups with computer, network and electronic systems in the Department of Physics. Gaudio has also made the Accelerator Laboratory computers function more efficiently and helped faculty and students with upgrades in data acquisition hardware and software.
New book releases physicist’s research
WMU nuclear physicist Dr. Elena Litvinova has contributed to a new book published by World Scientific. “Nuclear shell structure and response with quasiparticle-vibration coupling,” research conducted in collaboration with Professor Peter Ring, appears as part of Relativistic Density Functional for Nuclear Structure, International Review of Nuclear Physics, Vol. 10. The book gives a comprehensive review on the present status and future perspectives of the Relativistic Density Functional theories on the way to a highly predictive description of the structure of atomic nuclei. The chapter by Litvinova and Ring is about extensions beyond the traditional mean-field and random phase approximations in the relativistic framework and their successful applications to the modern aspects of nuclear structure.
Reaching out to science olympians
Students from Portage Central High School get ready to compete in “It’s About Time,” a physics event in the regional Science Olympiad, which was hosted at WMU in February. Department of Physics faculty and students volunteered to run several middle and high school events to challenge young scientists who came to campus in hopes of advancing to the state level of the tournament. Hundreds of students from 21 schools participated. Science Olympiad is an international nonprofit organization devoted to science education.
WMU joins 5+ Club for success in physics teacher preparation
WMU has joined only 29 institutions in the country that have graduated five or more physics teachers in a given year. For the 2014-15 academic year, WMU was one of only four universities to receive this honor. The Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) developed the 5+ Club to recognize institutions for their contributions toward addressing a severe national shortage of high school physics teachers.
Professor recognized for exceptional research
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Thomas Gorczyca, WMU professor of atomic and molecular physics, has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He was nominated by the organization's Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics for "advancing our fundamental understanding in the photoionization, spectra and opacities of atomic ions in astrophysical plasmas." Fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one's professional peers for exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise.
WMU physicist authors new graduate text
A new book by Dr. Arthur McGurn, Nonlinear Optics of Photonic Crystals and Meta-Materials has been released by Institute of Physics Publishing. It introduces graduate students in physics and engineering to nano-photonics, including topics relating to crystals, meta-materials, and their nonlinear optical properties.
New "Idiot's Guides" authored by WMU physicist
Dr. Paul Pancella has released two physics books as part of the popular "Idiots Guide" series. In collaboration with Drs. Marc Humphrey and Nora Berrah, Pancella wrote “Idiot’s Guides: Quantum Physics” released early last year. A second volume, “Idiot’s Guides: Physics,” written with Humphrey, was released in July. The books make physics easy to understand for students and other science enthusiasts.