Past Alumni Award Winners


Heritage HallThese graduates of our undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs have been recognized for their outstanding accomplishments with an Alumni Achievement Award by the Western Michigan University College of Arts and Sciences.

Their career paths and achievements are wide-ranging—a testament to the versatility of knowledge acquired in the study of physics.

Please note that the information we provide here was current at the time the awards were received. Detailed biographies are available on the College of Arts and Sciences alumni awards site.


Dr. Elias Garratt, Ph.D.'13, is a Diamond Crystal Growth Scientist in General Technical Services/Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland. Since his graduation, he has led a successful career in experimental condensed matter physics. His career highlights include competitive fellowships (totaling over $250,000), internal and external funding (over $1 million), publications and student mentorship. In 2012, as part of the National Science Foundation Fellowship, he studied the effects of ion implantation in nanocrystalline diamonds. From 2014 to 2017, he participated in the National Research Council Research Associateship Program as a postdoctoral research fellow studying scalable and controllable nanowire synthesis techniques through the National Institute of Standards and Technology. From 2019 to 2021, he was awarded the Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellow each year to investigate the applications of diamond color centers in quantum technology.

His work in diamond research as an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University was funded by the National Science Foundation, Air Force Research Lab, Department of Energy and Michigan State University Foundation. He has authored or co-authored over 20 publications in the areas of diamond material research and nanotechnology in top-tier journals, such as Advanced Materials Interfaces. In addition to these many accomplishments, Dr. Garratt is most proud of his student mentorship of four Ph.D. students and six undergraduates in Materials Science and Physics. His students have won competitive fellowships, presented at professional conferences and gone on to work in top diamond-growing companies.

Having developed a successful research program and lab, he was recruited by the Army Research Laboratory to expand their diamond synthesis lab, where he supports cutting-edge device research in the field of radio-frequency communication. He volunteers his time with the Materials Research Society Government Affairs Committee to advocate for continued and expanded funding for materials research in the US. In his free time, he volunteers at the local food bank in College Park, Maryland, where he currently resides.


Dr. Valentina Tobos, M.A.'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."


Dr. Ayman Said, M.S.'00, Ph.D.'04, is a physicist at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. Said has been involved in the construction and commissioning of the high and medium energy resolution spectrometers at the inelastic X-ray scattering sector of the APS, and is now the lead beamline scientist for the high-resolution spectrometer. An expert in high resolution inelastic X-ray scattering, he has designed, tested and constructed many of the optics which are used in APS beamlines. Said is the author or co-author of over 100 scientific papers. Most of his work involves studying the effects of material properties on phonons within them. His results have helped explain unusual properties of materials, including superconductivity, topological states, negative thermal expansion and protein dynamics.


Dr. David P. Hoogerheide, B.S.'04, is a research physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Center for Neutron Research. He worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard until 2013, when he went to work for his current employer. Most of Hoogerheide’s research has combined elements of physics, chemistry and biology. His techniques for controlling nanopores with pressure and voltage were patented in 2015. He has authored over 20 peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter, and serves as a referee for seven different scientific journals.


Dr. Ali Sami Alnaser, Ph.D.'02, is a professor and head of the physics department at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE. His research interests are centered around probing and controlling atomic and molecular structure and dynamics in matter on the femtosecond (10-15 s) and attosecond (10-18 s) time scales. Over the past 15 years, the findings of his research have appeared in many top physics journals. He has published more than 60 peer reviewed articles, 70 conference papers and he received the Distinguished Arab Scholar Award from the State of Kuwait in 2011.


Joan de Vries Kelley, M.A.'70, taught science, physics and mathematics for 4 years before beginning a long career working at IBM. During her time at IBM, she was promoted to Senior Technical Staff­ Member, the first woman to receive that honor in the performance organization, and was awarded a Corporate Award, the highest level of award given by IBM.


Dr. Vladislav Malyshkin, Ph.D.'97, is a senior scientist at the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia. His interests lie in energy generation and accumulation and in the dynamics of stochastic systems. For the past 13 years, Malyshkin has taught physics courses at the St. Petersburg Polytechnical University, where he has been a strong advocate of the importance of international contacts in educating scientists.


Dr. Marc Humphrey, B.S.'97, manages the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency’s network of analytical laboratories, which assess environmental and nuclear material samples collected by nuclear weapons inspectors. The laboratories are central to the IAEA’s ability to serve as the world’s “nuclear watchdog.” Humphrey has received numerous prestigious awards from the U.S. Department of State, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, NASA and Harvard University. 


Mr. R. Hugh Van Brimer, B.S.'52, has been involved in the development, manufacturing, and marketing of ink jet, electro-optical and other high technology products and systems for 35 years. Founder, president and CEO of Trident Industrial Inkjet of Brookfield, Conn., Van Brimer holds many U.S. and foreign patents in the field of ink jet technology and electro-optical instrumentation.


Dr. Robert H. Poel, M.A.'64, Ph.D.'70, is an emeritus professor of physics at WMU and remains active in the field of science education and science teacher preparation. He served as co-chair of the Michigan Department of Education's High School Science Education Project and is the co-principle investigator on a project that recently published the middle school textbook, InterActions in Physical Science. At WMU Poel was a member of the Mallinson Institute for Science Education and Director of the Center for Science Education, which provided professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers via summer short courses, workshops and extended programs with school districts. These efforts were supported by funded grants from the National Science Foundation, the Michigan Department of Education and regional and local school districts totaling more than $4 million.


Dr. Ahmad Farhat, Ph.D.'98, has been extremely successful in improving quality and processes across a wide range of automotive products. Currently a warranty business supervisor in global manufacturing quality for the Ford Motor Company, Farhat’s work involves not only advanced methods in analysis and simulation of complex systems, but also managing very large databases. His work at Ford has also included roles as technical expert in reliability and data analysis, process assurance auditor, and reliability implementation engineer.


Mr. William Sigourney Hough, B.S.'48, began his wide-ranging career with a stint as a civilian scientist developing guided-missile technology with the Department of Commerce. Later, he served as a member of the Antarctic expedition team of the International Geophysical Year of 1957. He went on to work as a researcher with the federal agency that eventually became the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, then spent 15 years as a high school science teacher before becoming a specialist in radiation safety and health physics at a naval shipyard in California. Hough finished his career as a research pioneer in gamma spectroscopic measuring techniques.


Dr. Jim Slusser, B.S.'77, M.A.'80, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.  He began his career at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory as senior research scientist of the UVB Radiation Monitoring and Research Program at Colorado State University in 1996.   


Dr. Lawrence Satkowiak, B.S.'79, has served as program director for Nuclear Nonproliferation Programs at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory since 2002. He is responsible for directing existing programs now funded at the level of more than $150 million annually, and also for managing program strategies and coordinating customer relationships. Satkowiak serves on several national and international committees that seek to safeguard nuclear materials and support the nonproliferation of weapons and weapon technology.


Dr. Michael Khazhinsky, Ph.D.'97, is principal staff scientist at Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. in Austin, Texas. Previously he worked with Digital DNA laboratories, where he was responsible for TCAD development and NVM process technologies. He has co-authored 26 external papers on ESK, process/device TCAD and photonic crystals and has been a three-time co-recipient of the EOS/ESD Symposium Best Paper Award. Khazhinsky owns two patents on ESD design and has additional patents pending.


Mr. Peter Anderson, B.S.'80, received a master’s degree in high energy physics at Notre Dame University and is the chair of the science department at Oakland Community College, Highland Park Campus. Anderson has successfully integrated modern equipment and web-based teaching technology into his courses, obtaining significant grant funding to support these efforts. He leads intensive training workshops to help other teachers use these methods, particularly the PASCO microprocessor-based equipment for demonstrations and instructional laboratories.

2003 (WMU Distinguished Alumnus award)

Dr. J. Thomas Dickinson, B.A.'63, earned master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan before beginning his career as an assistant professor of physics at Washington State University in 1968. In 2002, he was named the Paul Anderson Distinguished Professor of Physics there. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Dickinson is the founding director of the Center for Materials Research at WSU. Among many honors, he was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in recognition of his innovative research.


Dr. Leo Parpart, B.S.'80, began his career as the accelerator engineer in the Tandem Van de Graaff Laboratory at WMU. In 1985 he became the accelerator installation engineer for National Electrostatic Corporation, which involved traveling to more than 30 countries to supervise the installation of accelerator systems. He later joined Eaton Corporation as a product support engineer, primarily involved in implementing ion-implanting systems in Europe and Southeast Asia.  Since joining the U.S. Department of State in 1999, Parpart has served as the information management specialist for the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon and as the information processing officer at the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia.