The physics department has been growing. We now have over 100 majors, almost double what we had five years ago. More students than ever are doing research with faculty and entering careers in STEM.
The Year in Review 2013-2014
We said goodbye to nine Physics majors and 11 Masters candidates this spring, the department's biggest Masters graduating class ever. Seven of these Masters students have been accepted to PhD programs. The department conferred $37,500 in scholarships and awards this past academic year.
We have been working hard to meet demand and eliminate bottlenecks in our lower-division introductory physics courses and labs. Our enrollment index FTES was 375 this past spring, up from 314 a year ago, and we're expecting about the same increase in the fall. Accordingly, we expect to be teaching some 80 sections of lower-division lab this coming fall, roughly double what we could offer five years ago.
We have hired new full-time faculty member Leigh Hargreaves. Leigh becomes our 12th member of the department and increases our ranks to a record level. Leigh joins the department's atomic, molecular, optical physics group, which includes Morty Khakoo, Greg Childers, and Jim Feagin. With his CSUF startup funds and a significant instrumentation gift from his home university Flinders in Adelaide, Leigh will begin building his laboratory for the advanced imaging of electron-initiated molecular reactions.
The Orange County Register has included Josh Smith on their 2014 roster of 40 top professionals under 40 in a feature article appearing in the May edition of OC Metro. Josh is director of the department's gravitational-wave center GWPAC and was singled out for his NSF CAREER Award and was the only academic in this year's group.
This past fall Assembly Member Diane Harkey and Senator Mimi Walters sponsored a resolution congratulating Josh for his recent achievements at CSUF.
Shovit Bhari has been selected by the college to receive the 2014 Staff Excellence Award.
Graduating senior and Physics Club and NSM-ICC President Bobby Wright helped bring Bill Nye to campus as our keynote speaker for the college's two-day Science and Math Symposium Thursday March 20.
Last summer, Greg Childers and Shovit attended a workshop at Colgate University on designing advanced lab experiments built on single photon detection and quantum entanglement. This past year, the department purchased four ultramodern photon detectors and supporting instruments with generous funds from our Ray Adams endowment to install in our advanced lab course Phys 481. Students Eric Tran and Cris Navarro helped Greg and Shovit introduce to the course a set of new experiments built around these detectors. The Eiker-Adams endowment also provided scholarships for Eric and Cris.
The Research Corporation for Science Advancement has awarded Jocelyn Read and Geoffrey Lovelace $75,000 for the two year project to simulate numerically gravitational waves from merging black holes and neutron stars.
Kamil Fedus on leave from his home Institute of Physics at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland joined our department this spring as a visiting Fulbright Fellow working in Morty Khakoo's group.
Along with prolific student-centric research, the department continues to have seven of our 11 current faculty members funded federally.
We have been approved for a strategic hire in Physics Education Research (PER), a legacy strength in the department currently led by Mike Loverude, director of the campus Catalyst Center for the Advancement of Research in Teaching and Learning Math and Science.
Geoffrey Lovelace taught our introductory Phys 225 course for engineers this spring as a "flipped" classroom with support from the Provost and the Chancellors Office. Geoffrey used the University of Illinois smartPhysics courseware and coordinated throughout the semester with Mike Loverude and Catalyst post-doc scholar Sissi Li to implement a course redesign to replace part of the traditional lecture format with learning activities based on class discussion and peer instruction.
PER expert and Chancellors Office spokesperson Professor Homeyra Sadaghiani from Cal Poly Pomona was on sabbatical from Pomona to collaborate with Mike, Sissi, and Geoffrey throughout the semester. Ionel Tifrea will be teaching this course again this summer.
We expanded our Supplemental Instruction offerings this past year throughout our introductory life-science and engineering physics courses, and Pat Cheng began her tenure as our SI faculty coordinator.
This spring, we assessed our upper-division Experimental Physics PHYS 481 as a capstone course for our BS in Physics program using a rubric we developed this year based on our student learning outcomes. We expect program assessment and department growth to be a key focus for us in the coming year.