Gina Passante ends her first year with her first NSF proposal funded! The department streak of new faculty funding continues.

Gina with Sissi Li and students and Mike Loverude

Gina’s new grant supports a collaborative four-year effort with Steven Pollock from University of Colorado Boulder and Homeyra Sadaghiani from Cal Poly Pomona to develop curricula and bridge teaching paradigms in quantum mechanics. It is a four-year project funded by NSF-IUSE (Improving Undergraduate STEM Education) at $840K with $276K coming to CSUF.

Gina's project will leverage education research into student learning and the challenges associated specifically with learning quantum physics. Her project will develop new research-based educational materials to be easily adoptable by faculty from a diverse range of institutions and student populations. The outcomes of their work will target student preparation for the growing number of careers in quantum technologies and research.

Jocelyn Read with co-PIs Geoffrey Lovelace and Josh Smith here at CSUF along with Duncan Brown and Stefan Ballmer at Syracuse have been funded at $937K for five years by NSF-PAARE (Partnerships in Astronomy & Astrophysics Research and Education) to create a CSUF-Syracuse partnership for inclusion of underrepresented students in gravitational-wave astronomy.

The researchers will work to formalize a collaboration between Citrus College and CSUF and Syracuse University to create a research and education pathway to double the number of students from GWPAC that enter and complete PhD programs. The collaboration will establish a group of PAARE fellows, who will be recruited from CSUF students, Citrus College and other colleges, and high schools.

The project have an external advisory board to review the program. They are Sissi Li from CSUF’s Catalyst Center, John Tillotson associate professor of Science Education at Syracuse, Gabriela Gonzalez the LIGO Scientific Collaboration’s spokesperson, and Lynn Cominky, professor and chair of physics and astronomy at Sonoma State.

The project will also fund a summer research experience for community college students to work in GWPAC, modeled after STEM^2. The summer researchers and PAARE fellows will be mentored by CSUF and Syracuse faculty and senior students and as they progress to the BS. PhD students from CSUF at Syracuse will be supported with PAARE fellowships. For CSUF physics, this will provide a big increase in student research opportunities and funding for the next five years.


Morty Khakoo has been funded at $402K for three years by the NSF Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics to continue his laboratory studies of Low Energy Electron Impact Excitation of the rare gases, H2 and N2. The award is for continuing support for undergraduate student research as well as for a postdoc.

Morty intends to develop an electron-photon coincidence instrument to look at Xenon, H2 and N2 radiation excited by electrons relevant to radiation damage and biofuel refinement among other basic science applications. Morty and his students will also develop an electron time-of-flight spectrometer to measure state-of-the-art reaction cross sections.

Geoffrey Lovelace has been renewed at $135K for three years by the NSF-RUI to continue his work with his students on computational gravitational-wave research. Geoffrey’s group uses high-performance computing to model merging black holes and the gravitational waves they emit, focusing both on helping to make sure that LIGO will be able to observe rapidly spinning, merging black holes (if they exist) and on modeling the black-hole binaries that Advanced LIGO does observe.

Geoffrey's award also supports a new research direction: numerically modeling thermal noise in LIGO mirrors with crystalline coatings, with the goal of helping LIGO to design next-generation mirrors to increase LIGO’s reach, enabling it to detect more gravitational waves from farther away.

Josh Smith has been included as part of a recent NSF grant to team Citizen Science with Machine Learning to deepen LIGOs view of the cosmos. The grant gives Josh and one student Isa Patane $68K of support me for three years.

Their collaborators include gravitational physicists and machine learning scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago, the Zooniverse team from the Adler Planetarium, and information scientists from Syracuse University. The group will develop a citizen science project in which thousands of users will help LIGO to search for gravitational waves by identifying and classifying noise artifacts in the instruments.

Josh and Isa are working with the team to prepare time-frequency representations of LIGO data, create a golden set of pre-classified data to start the process, and then use the citizen and computer classified data to improve the LIGO instruments.