Another busy year for the department comes to a close as we enter finals week Spring 2011.
Although we'll say goodbye to nine graduating seniors and three masters candidates, our total number of majors has increased somewhat overall to just over 50 students, and we're expecting to have 15 masters students in the fall.
Among this year's graduating standouts are Casey Sanchez, headed in the fall to UCSD for a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering with a four-year full-ride San Diego Fellowship, Jacqueline Lee, entering the Masters program in Electrical Engineering in the fall here at CSUF, Chris Johnstone, entering the Masters program in Medical Physics in the fall at San Diego State, and masters student Rehab Al-Baridy, returning home to Saudi Arabia this summer to take a lecturer position in physics at King Saud University.
We celebrated our other student standouts with this year's scholarships and awards selections at the college's annual Awards Reception.
Morty Khakoo was this year's recipient of the CNSM Distinguished Faculty Award for his dedication and commitment to his students and his profession for the past 22+ years here at CSUF. Morty was also selected for this year's department Faculty Achievement Award for recent publications with his students. Morty had a remarkably productive sabbatical this past fall including collaborations in England and Brazil resulting in several publications.
Mike Loverude has been named Director of the CSUF Catalyst Center, whose mission is to coordinate research in science and math education across the college and with the College of Education. Mike is also currently serving on the campus-wide WASC Accreditation Steering Committee.
Josh Smith has been named chair of the LIGO Detector Characterization Group and will oversee LIGO-related activities and the work of some 50 participating scientists from around the country.
Josh is our newest faculty member specializing in gravitational-wave astronomy with LIGO. He arrived last spring and has worked this year to put the finishing touches on his lab in Dan Black Hall and already has several students working on a variety of LIGO detection technologies. He has received funding for his research and his students from NSF and Research Corporation, and his links with LIGO will provide additional research opportunities for CSUF students to travel to LIGO facilities.
Greg Childers was asked to serve on the newly formed Advisory Board of the new campus Academic Technology Center established as a partnership between the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Information Technology.
Ionel Tifrea and Greg Childers collaborated this past March with visiting faculty from Osaka University as part of an International Faculty/Teaching Development program organized through Extended Ed.
Greg Childers and Dave Bowman, chair of Geology, updated the public in special seminars this past March here on campus and at Fullerton Library on the Sendai tsunami disaster. Dave presented details on the earthquake and the resulting tsunami while Greg gave perspective and prognosis on the fate of the nuclear reactors to allay public concerns.
Heidi Fearn was granted a sabbatical leave for the coming fall semester to pursue her research interests with light in stong (black-hole) gravitational fields and with the origins of the Aharahnov-Bohm effect.
Greg Childers will participate in an outreach program this summer with visiting faculty from Duy Tan University, Vietnam, to share with them an intensive overview of our introductory physics curriculum for engineers.
Ionel Tifrea will cohost an international workshop this July in Brasov, Romania, on the nano science of low-dimensional systems.
Leigh Hargreaves joined the department in January from Australia as a visiting NSF scholar to work with Morty Khakoo and lecture part time in the department.
We have had two huge retirements this year. Roger Nanes finishes up five years of FERP and 35 years of exemplary department service. Roger is a past CSUF Outstanding Professor and along with his lengthy and productive career in physics education research, he helped create and for the past 10 years has directed our Dan Black Phys-Bus Program.
Staff tech Fred Engelhard finished up 20+ years of dedicated service to the department last December and is looking forward to touring the country with his wife Debbie in their new trailer.
Budget permitting, the department is looking to open a search in the fall for a new full-time faculty member who can contribute to the more theoretical elements of our upper-division undergraduate and masters curriculums while complementing and strengthening our department research. Technically, this new person would be a theorist, rather than an experimentalist, and thus should require minimal startup resources. Although we would search for a good overall fit for the department, we would favor someone with interests in gravitational-wave astronomy who could collaborate with Josh and take advantage of the federal funding available with LIGO.
The department continues to work to expand our introductory Phys 211 and 212 offerings to better serve the life-science curriculums across the college. Department tech Steve Mahrley has worked this year planning and purchasing the equipment and instrumentation needed to clone our Phys 211 lab so that this coming fall we can run two separate lab facilities concurrently throughout the week. This will be a first for the department. We thereby hope to almost double this fall the number of students we teach life-science physics to compared to just two years ago. Budget permitting, we intend to expand this effort into next spring to include our 212 lab offerings.
The department initiated a rudimentary supplementary-instruction (SI) program this past spring semester for our life-science courses Phys 211 and 212. Physics majors Kevin Ralphs, Bobby Wright, and Casey Sanchez along with chemistry major David Fann coordinated throughout the semester with our 211 and 212 course instructors and with COHORT program director Christina Goode. These student SI instructors attended 211 and 212 lectures and held their own classes twice a week throughout the semester to give students in those courses opportunity for additional instruction and help with the course material. We hope to expand these efforts in the fall.
The department is also looking to strengthen and expand our general education offerings, in particular our astronomy curriculum. Both Pat Cheng and Josh Smith, our department astronomers, will be teaching Phys 120 Introduction to Astronomy in the fall. Josh and Mike Loverude have recruited physics major Gabriela Serna to work in Josh's class as a peer assistant and to help assess student learning by administering and analyzing special tests. Josh will be adopting an innovative research-based curriculum for his course, the Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy, and Gaby will be working to help evaluate the extent to which the course has changed student thinking on topics known to be difficult, as well as on the impact of student reasoning skills. The department hopes to use their project as a model for assessing student learning in other courses in our lower-division curriculum.
In a related effort to strengthen and expand our general education offerings, Greg Childers has fully redesigned and modernized our Phys 301 Energy & Environment and has taught it this past year online as Energy & Sustainability. The course has proven to be extremely popular especially among science-teacher candidates in Vikki Costas' Science Ed program.
Greg Childers and Josh Smith have spent the past year renovating our key upper-division lab courses Phys 380, 481, and 482 and investing in new technology, especially TeachSpin instrumentation, to establish a new teaching lab facility in Dan Black Hall. This new state-of-the-art department resource has been made possible with the continued generous support of Dan Black.
Former masters student and current lecturer Colin Campbell along with physics sophomore Cris Navarro have been working for the past year to reorganize, refurbish, and expand our extensive lecture demo collection top to bottom, another effort which has also been made possible with the generous support of Dan Black. Colin received a Special Appreciation Award from the department for his efforts this year, while Cris received this year's Eiker-Adams Creativity Award. Our new tech Patrick Meras will be taking over this effort in the coming year, as Colin is looking to enter a PhD program next year. Cris was this year's Eiker-Adams Award recipient for his new contributions to the collection, and we are looking to extend the Eiker-Adams Award as a fairly substantial scholarship for a physics major or masters candidate to focus on continued development of our lecture demo collection.
The department and the chair, through the superb efforts and IT talent of Josh Smith and Greg Childers, fully overhauled this website this past year. The new webpages feature a content management system that allows faculty and staff to access page content on the fly with wysiwyg email-like editing from any browser. The website along with our 'csufphysics' Facebook and Twitter pages have become a real-time snapshot of department activity along with the familiar archives and university links.
The department has worked hard this past year to establish an ongoing and regular colloquium series, and with the generous support of Dan Black we have been able to bring in renowned researchers from around the country throughout the year. The series has been extremely popular with our students and we are planning to continue the effort in the coming year.