Department news

Dr. John Novak awarded 2023 Alumni Achievement Award

Novak (BS ’10), Post-Graduate Fellow in the Department of Physics at Western Michigan University, boasts a dynamic career characterized by innovation and leadership. With a background in nuclear physics and quantum computing, Novak’s contributions span fields, including groundbreaking research in quantum annealing and machine learning. Rooted in a robust academic foundation, Novak earned a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from Michigan State University.

In the capacity of a Senior Data Scientist at QxBranch in New York City, from December 2016 to May 2017, Novak delved into pioneering endeavors. Novak specialized in machine learning proof of concepts, adeptly balancing classical and quantum computing paradigms. Novak’s novel research on utilizing the D-Wave 2 quantum annealer for modeling strongly coupled systems underscored his commitment to pushing the boundaries of computational science, leading to publication.

As the Co-Founder of Standard Cognition, a successful endeavor from February 2017 to July 2019, Novak showcased his entrepreneurial acumen. Guiding the startup from inception to a team of over 90 employees with global offices, Novak assisted in securing an impressive $85 million in funding. As Global Head of Hardware he oversaw diverse projects, including hardware design, data center setups and the construction of development labs.

From December 2019 to February 2023, Novak held the position of Director of Computer Vision at Rapid Robotics in San Francisco. In this role, Novak spearheaded the development of cutting-edge vision products for manufacturing automation tasks. Leading a team, he guided end-to-end research, algorithm formulation and product development. They harnessed classical computer vision and deep learning techniques, creating innovative solutions that were prototyped on robotic arms, leveraging cameras and point cloud systems.

Dr. Arthur McGurn authors third book

McGurn, professor emeritus of physics, has written his third book, An Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics for the Nanosciences, published by CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group. His first book, Nonlinear Optics of Photonic Crystals and Meta-Materials was listed as one of the ten best references in nonlinear optics. His second book, Nanophotonics, gave an introduction to the rapidly developing field of nanophotonics.

Imogen Courtney awarded the 2023 Presidential Scholar in Physics

Courtney, a member of WMU's Lee Honors College, graduated in April Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in physics. She also received the department's Charles J. Wilcox Award for her outstanding scholarly work in physics.

Dr. Paul Pancella received a national award

Pancella, professor of nuclear physics, received a City Captain Award in Plug In America's 2022 Drive Electric Awards on Oct. 27 in Manhattan Beach, California, for his leadership and unwavering commitment to the electric vehicle movement. Pancella leads the Kalamazoo Electric Vehicle Association which he helped establish in 2015.

Past news

Read about our department's prior news and accomplishments.

WMU news