Department news


Dr. Valentina Tobos awarded 2021 Alumni Achievement Award

Tobos (MA ’97, Ph.D. ’01) is the Natural Sciences Acting Director, Center of Teaching and Learning, and Associate Professor at Lawrence Technological University. She has been teaching both introductory and advanced physics classes at Lawrence Technological University since the fall of 2001. She received Lawrence’s Mary E. And Richard E. Marburger Faculty Member of the Year Award in 2006. Other honors include membership in Sigma Pi Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi, as well as membership in the American Association of University Women, and the American Association of Physics Teachers, among others. She likes to say that, "Every challenge in learning will exercise your brain."

Western Michigan University selected as a 2022 site for the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) are three-day regional conferences for undergraduate physics majors. The 2022 conference will be held from January 21 to January 23.

The goal of APS CUWiP is to help undergraduate women continue in physics by providing them with the opportunity to experience a professional conference, information about graduate school and professions in physics, and access to other women in physics of all ages with whom they can share experiences, advice, and ideas.

Matthew Cook receives the George E. Bradley Award

Cook was recognized for his exceptional overall performance with particular emphasis on excellence in research. He successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation on May 14, 2021. His name will be added to a plaque displayed in the George E. Bradley Physics Commons.

Cook’s research was in the field of experimental condensed matter physics. His work focused on growing high quality single crystals, which showed unusual properties such as superconductivity and extreme resistance changes in a magnetic field. After growing the materials, he characterized their structure using x-ray scattering and scanning electron microscopy. The properties of the materials were determined by studies of the specific heat, electrical resistivity, and magnetization. Materials studied may have applications in quantum computing or converting heat into electricity. He also mentored 10 undergraduates and high school students carrying out research in the lab.

Khushi Bhatt receives the Gwen Frostic Doctoral Fellowship

Bhatt is a recipient of the Gwen Frostic Doctoral Fellowship for 2021-22. These highly competitive fellowships are awarded annually to doctoral students engaged in dissertation research in any field. She is studying how the heaviest known p-nuclei (Hg-196) is synthesized in explosive stellar environments, by creating some of the same stellar nuclear reactions in the lab. The p-nuclei (proton-rich nuclei) are rarest of all stable nuclei known in this universe. She also received a Graduate Student Research award in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.

Ireland Armintrout is the 2021 Presidential Scholar in Physics

Armintrout will be graduating in June with a major in physics. After graduation, she plans on getting a teaching certificate. While at Western, she worked as a Learning Assistant in many of our physics courses. Armintrout also received the department’s Charles J. Wilcox Award for her outstanding scholarly work in physics.

Dr. Michael Famiano receives Dean’s Appreciation Award

On April 23, 2021 the College of Arts and Sciences recognized 12 individuals for their exemplary dedication and contributions to our students, the college and Western Michigan University. Famiano, professor in the Department of Physics, was honored with the Dean’s Appreciation Award for his outstanding work last year, from the onset of the global pandemic into August, when he organized "WMU4Students" to help students, especially international students, deal with unexpected basic needs. He coordinated many volunteers to arrange supplies of free groceries and other necessities, transportation, and assistance with rent payments, also helping them connect with a wider network of local agencies and groups.

Dr. Michael Famiano offers support for students through WMU4Students group

Since late March, a contingent of WMU faculty, staff, alumni, parents and community members has banded together to collect and deliver food and household products to students still living on or near campus. The group is led by Famiano and has grown to almost 40 people. Donations are arranged through an online form, and donors are directed to leave groceries on their front porch for a contactless pickup. Monetary donations are used by the group’s shoppers and in many cases delivered straight to Famiano’s front porch. A form has also been created for those interested in joining the volunteer effort. You can read more about the work of WMU4Students via WMU News.

Shiva Agarwal awarded 1st place in 2021 Virtual 3-MT® Competition

Each year the Graduate Student Association invites graduate students from all disciplines to present their research ideas, theses and dissertations as part of the Virtual Three-Minute Thesis competition.

This year’s winner was our graduate student Shiva Agarwal with his presentation Your Protein is Not Right,  He then went on to compete and represent the university at the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools competition where he was selected as one of the eight finalists out of 46 presentations.

Khushi Bhatt placed 4th with her presentation The Mystery of Rarest Stable Nuclei,

Past news

Read about our department's prior news and accomplishments.

WMU news