Past News

The Department of Physics at Western Michigan University is proud of the accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff.


Dr. McGurn

Dr. Gorczyca

Dr. Ali Sami Alnaser with John

NSF Logo

WMU physicist authors new book

A new book by Dr. Arthur McGurn, Nanophotonics, has been published as part of the Springer Series in Optical Sciences. It gives a readable introduction to the important, rapidly developing field of nanophotonics. This is McGurn's second book and he has already started on his third. His new book will consider a general topic of nanoscience, which is not just limited to electrodynamic phenomena. McGurn’s first book, Nonlinear Optics of Photonic Crystals and Meta-Materials, is listed as one of the ten best references in nonlinear optics on the Sanfoundry blog.

Dr. Thomas Gorczyca awarded WMU Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award

Gorczyca is a first-rate theoretical atomic physicist specializing in the area of photon and electron initiated collisions. His impressive publication record lists more than 110 peer-reviewed articles, as well as more than 30 invited talks. To support his research, he has had continuous funding for more than 15 years, largely from NASA, as the principal investigator. Notably, Gorczyca was elected to Fellowship in the American Physical Society last year, a recognition awarded to less than 1 percent of the active members. You can read more about Gorczyca and his many achievements in WMU News.

Dr. Ali Sami Alnaser awarded 2017 Alumni Achievement Award

Alnaser (Ph.D. '02) is a professor and head of the physics department at American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Alnaser's research interests are centered around the use of ultra-strong lasers in photographing and manipulating experimentally the structure of matter on extremely short time scale.

He has published more than 60 peer reviewed articles, 70 conference papers and received the Distinguished Arab Scholar Award from the State of Kuwait in 2011.

Dr. Elena Litvinova awarded NSF CAREER award

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Litvinova $474,998 for her project entitled "CAREER: From Fundamental Interactions to Emergent Phenomena: Geometrical Aspects of Nuclear Dynamics”. The project will address important issues of the nuclear structure theory and include innovative outreach activities at the interface of science and visual arts. Litvinova's award started September 1, 2017.

More information, including the award abstract, can be found on the NSF website.

Pile of MoneyDepartment grants, one new and one renewal

Dr. John Tanis received word that his NSF grant, titled “Radiative Double Electron Capture (RDEC) of Ions with Quasi-free Electrons”, was renewed and will be funded at the level of $120,000 for another three years.

Dr. Michael Famiano and Dr. Zbigniew Chajecki have been awarded an NSF grant worth $420,000 to study how heavy elements were formed and provides further constraints on the characteristics of dense nuclear matter.
Students gathering near front of classroom

Department of Physics Award Ceremony

In April 2017, the Department of Physics honored undergraduate and graduate students during their awards ceremony. Students were selected based on their outstanding work during the 2016-17 academic year. Congratulations to all the winners.
Group of presidential scholars

Spencer J. Henning is the Presidential Scholar in Physics

Henning is a graduate of the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center, Kalamazoo Central High School and a recent graduate of Western Michigan University where he majored in physics and minored in astronomy and mathematics. Henning is a Kalamazoo Promise Scholar who came to WMU on a Medallion Scholarship. He has conducted research in WMU's particle accelerator laboratory and worked on astrophysics data analysis with faculty members.
Science olympiad students in a lab at WMU

Science Olympiad draws 400 hundred students to WMU

In February, over 400 middle and high school students competed in the Region 10 Science Olympiad at WMU. Many faculty, staff and students from the department volunteered to help with this event. Students blew away the department in demonstrating their skills and knowledge in the Wind Power event, and enlightened us with tests and demonstrations in Optics. Many teams geared up to show off their Rube Goldberg machines in Mission Possible. Special thanks to the WMU Physics Club for volunteering for this event.
Dr. Marc Humphrey

Physicist melds scientific, humanitarian drive at UN's 'nuclear watchdog'

Since earning his B.S. in physics and applied mathematics from WMU and his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University, Dr. Marc Humphrey has applied his training in unconventional ways. A recent article featured on WMU News delves into how Humphrey uses his training in physics while working at the International Atomic Energy Agency's Department of Safeguards. Humphrey’s story was also featured in the WMU Magazine and the Western Michigan University Brand Book.

Dr. Koretsky with Portage Northern middle school students

Engaging young minds

The Department of Physics was thrilled to welcome about 200 eighth graders from Portage Northern Middle School on November 21, 2016. The students got to experience the best of Western's STEM-based programs during a field trip on campus. (Image left: students with College of Arts and Sciences dean, Dr. Carla Koretsky, in front of the Tandem Van de Graaff Accelerator.)


NASA logoProfessors 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.

Dr. Lisa PauliusPhysics 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."

Dr. Charles HendersonPhysicist 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.

Stacks of MoneyPhysics 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.

Newsletter imageNewsletters

Read additional news stories in our department newsletters.

President Dunn and Ian BrownPresidential 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.

WMU signPhysics 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.

Benjamin GaudioStaff 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.

Elena LitvinovaNew 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.

Girl at Science OlympiadReaching 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.

Physics Teacher Education logoWMU 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.

Thomas GorczycaProfessor 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.

Arthur McGurnWMU 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.

Paul PancellaNew "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.

Additional student success news