Alumni News

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How are you doing? Where are you now? How did a degree from the Department of Physics at Western Michigan University help you? 

We would love to know!

2023 Alumni Achievement Award, Physics

Dr. John Novak, B.S.’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.

Past award winners in physics

Alumni profiles

Enrique GamezEnrique Gamez

Shortly after graduating with a B.S. in physics from WMU, Gamez won a highly competitive and prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which covers three years of graduate school tuition and provides a generous stipend. 

Now pursuing his doctoral degree in theoretical particle and astrophysics at the University of Michigan, Gamez is especially interested in studying the mysteries of dark matter. Dark matter accounts for five times as much mass in the universe as ordinary matter, but has thus far evaded efforts to detect it directly.

Dr. David HoogerheideDavid Hoogerheide

With undergraduate degrees in physics and chemistry from WMU, Hoogerheide earned his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University with research in surface chemistry and the stochastic dynamics of ions in nanopores. Hoogerheide stayed at Harvard, turning to nanopore-based studies of the dynamics of DNA molecules. 

After Harvard came a joint research associateship between the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institutes of Health. His current work at the NIST focuses on neutron reflectometry of membrane proteins.

Sarah HulbertSarah Hulbert

After earning her B.S. in physics from WMU, Hulbert went on to graduate study in biophysics at The Ohio State University. During her first semester there, she published a paper with her advisor on diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease using new EEG and imaging analysis methodologies.

Hulbert’s research uses concepts from physics, such as chaos theory, to analyze complex brain signals. She hopes her work will improve the diagnosis and treatment of brain system diseases.

Dr. Marc HumphreyMarc Humphrey

Since earning his B.S. in physics and applied mathematics from WMU and his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University, Humphrey has applied his training in unconventional ways, such as working as a Peace Corps volunteer and as a computer programmer with the Centers for Disease Control in Mali.

Humphrey then turned his attention to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, working at the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Energy and most recently at the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

For more alumni profiles, see our careers page.

Alumni updates

Western Michigan University physics alumni are pursuing exciting careers around the globe.

  • Shahin Abdel Naby, Ph.D.'10, is an assistant professor at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Dan Adams, M.A.'08, is a cleaning and metrology engineer with Dow Corning, Midland, Michigan.
  • Mohammad Al-Amar, Ph.D.'11, is serving as a post-doctoral researcher associate at the University of Toronto, Canada.
  • Aeshah M A Alasmari, M.A.'15, is an assistant professor in the college of science at University of Bisha, Saudi Arabia. She received her Ph.D. in physics from UK.
  • Salem AlFaidy, Ph.D.'11, is an assistant professor at King Khalid University, Abha, Saudi Arabia.
  • Ali Alnaser, Ph.D.'02, is associate professor and chair of the Department of Physics at the American University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Katie Ballman, B.S.'12, is an applications engineer in the Advanced Optics Division of Corning.
  • Ian Brown, B.S.'16, is pursuing a Ph.D. at the Leonard E. Parker Center for Gravitation, Cosmology, and Astrophysics at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
  • Dennis Chitko, B.S.'15, builds femtosecond fiber laser systems for IMRA America in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • Susanta Das, M.A.'06, Ph.D.'09, is an assistant professor at P.K. University, Shivpuri, M.P. India.
  • Tamer Elkafrawy, Ph.D.'12, is a postdoctoral research associate at the CMS, CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Xuan Gao, Ph.D.'13, teaches at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Chongqing, China.
  • Subramanian Ganapathy, Ph.D.'13, is a postdoctoral research associate at the Centre for Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Bangalore, India.
  • Elias Garratt, Ph.D.'13, is working as a postdoctoral research associate at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
  • Khalil Hamam, Ph.D.'13, is an assistant professor in the Applied Physics Department at Tafila Technical University in Jordan.
  • M.  Fatih Hasoglu, Ph.D.'08, is an associate professor at Hasan Kalyoncu University in Gaziantep, Turkey.
  • Kevan Hess, B.S.'12, is working alongside his father in real estate with Jaqua Realtors, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
  • Mady Higinbotham, B.S.'15, is a sensing systems engineer at Evigia in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • William Hollerman, M.A.'85, is a professor of physics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
  • Darshika Keerthisinghe, Ph.D.'15, is an instructor of physics at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
  • Joan DeVries Kelley, M.A.'70, worked for IBM for 34 years as a system programmer specializing in large mainframes.
  • C. Nalaka Kodituwakku, Ph.D.'07, is a scientist with Exelis Optics in New York.
  • Katrina Koehler, M.A. 2014, Ph.D.'19, has a new position as a faculty member at Houghton College (her undergraduate alma mater).
  • Vladislav Malyshkin, Ph.D.'97, is a senior scientist at the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Scott Marley, Ph.D.'12, is an assistant professor of physics at Louisiana State University.
  • William Millar, M.A.'85, received his Ph.D. in astrophysics from James Cook University, Townsville, Australia and has retired as professor of physics from Grand Rapids Community College.
  • Manjula Nandasiri, Ph.D.'13, is a postdoctoral research associate in the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.
  • Adam Newton, B.S.'14, is employed by General Electric Aviation in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • John Novak, B.S.'10, develops analytics for auditors in his position with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Andra Petrean, Ph.D.'00, is associate professor of physics at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
  • Daniel Renusch, Ph.D.'99, is an engineer with General Electric in Fairfield, Connecticut.
  • Ayman Said, Ph.D.'04, is a staff scientist with Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois.
  • Buddhika Senarath Dassanayake, Ph.D.'11, is a senior lecturer in physics with the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.
  • Valentina Tobos, Ph.D.'01, is an associate professor of physics at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan.
  • Michelle Tuel, M.A.'04, works in business operations for Boeing in the state of Washington.
  • Lucian Undreiu, Ph.D.'05, is an associate professor of physics at University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Virginia.
  • Xue Wang, Ph.D.'07, is an associate professor in the Department of Physics at the Hebei University of Engineering.
  • Samanthi Wickramarachchi, Ph.D.'15, is an assistant professor of physics at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Not on this list? Update your contact information or let us know what you're up to.

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