Zachary Free helps attendees understand the orbit of planets around the sun in the above picture (All photographs curtesy of Ikaika McFadden).

On Friday March 9th, the OSU Astronomy Club and the Department of physics held the first Astronomy Open House of 2018! The Astronomy Club under Emily Simpson, Rachel Hausmann, Samantha Carrothers, Nathanial Miller, Leon Linebarger, Tyler Parsotan and many dedicated volunteers invited OSU students, adults and children to Weniger Hall to have fun with hands on demonstrations that help explain how astrophysical phenomena work.

Emily Simpson helps attendees determine which scientist they are most like.

Some of the activities included a room dedicated to Mars landing sites, by Rachel Hausmann, an activity dedicated to the mythology behind constellations, by Samantha Carrothers, a test created by Emily Simpson to determine which historical scientist you would be. We also had a presentation on remote telescope observations by local astronomers Tom Carrico, a presentation on telescope tuning by Stephen McGettigan, and the OSU Robotics Club show off their Mars rover!

The OSU Robotics Club show off their rover in Rachel Hausmann’s Mars Landing Sites Room.
Astronomy Tom captivated the attendees with how easy it is to get amazing astronomy photographs.

Over 100 people attended the event and got a free NASA poster for completing each activity! While we weren’t able to have telescopes out for this event due to the weather, future events will have night observations; especially as the weather gets better and better here in Oregon. In order to hear about our next event like us on We hope to see you there!

Undergraduate volunteers from the Department of Physics took some of their favorite kid-friendly demonstrations to share with families at the annual Family Science Night at Franklin School, Corvallis, on January 25th. The demonstrations included exploding balloons in a vacuum chamber, the dielectric breakdown of air, target practice with a vortex cannon, rainbow effects with diffraction glasses and the department’s home made hover craft.  Many thanks to volunteers, Zack Colbert, Lincoln Worley, Mirek Brandt, Garrett Jepson, Hanna Hansen, and Mattia Carbonaro.

OSU Physics undergraduates were busy in research labs all over the U.S. and the world during the summer of 2017.  Many of them had National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) positions, others were working in laboratories in REU programs sponsored by other agencies, and some had industrial internships. All of them helped create new knowledge and they all had a wonderful time doing research!

This level of participation in cutting-edge research by OSU undergraduates is very impressive – congratulations to all of you! Some of this work will be presented at seminars in the Physics Department during the year, so there will be an opportunity for the younger students to learn about the process and the fun of working in a research environment.

Yousif Almulla participated in an REU program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with Dr. Jacek Jakowski. He used density functional theory to understand how qubits work.

Hassan Alnatah developed a protocol with Dr. Bo Sun of OSU Physics to construct a 3D printed cell model based on confocal imaging.

Hazel Betz did an internship in the Fault Isolation and Failure Analysis Laboratory at Intel in Hillsboro, OR. She analyzed samples with a scanning electron microscope and designed to proof-of-concept experiments to improve device probing characteristics, and developed and documented procedures to improve the process.

Mirek Brandt received a fellowship to study at the Kupcinet-Getz International Science Summer School at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. During his 8 weeks with Dr. Boaz Katz, he modeled the spectrum of type 1a supernova, given some arbitrary explosion model. The intent is to eventually test the supernova detonation models studied by Dr. Katz.  Mirek highly recommends the program! Mirek then returned to OSU to take up his Goldwater Fellowship in the lab of Dr. Matt Graham of Physics. A very busy summer!

Katelyn Chase participated in an NSF-REU program at the University of Utah in the group of Dr. Michael Vershinin in the Physics and Astronomy department.  She studied the effect of Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) on the stability of kinesin-1 motor proteins as a function of temperature.

Aaron Dethlefs worked in Dr. Janet Tate’s OSU lab commissioning the new PPMS system in EECS for transport experiments on semiconductors.

Patrick Flynn solved partial differential equations with applications to bacteria migration, with Dr. Arnd Scheel in the Math Department at the University of Minnesota.

Ian Founds studied students’ use of the chain rule in thermodynamics with Dr. Paul Emigh and Dr. Corinne Manogue of the OSU Physics Physics Education Research group. Ian presented his work at the PERC conference this summer.

Cassandra Hatcher had a SURE Science Fellowship to work with Dr. Davide Lazzati of OSU Physics. She studied X-ray polarization from Compton scattering in asymmetric supernova remnants.

Garrett Jepson worked in Dr. David Roundy’s group in the OSU Physics Department. He evaluated a new Monte Carlo code written in rust for use in studying fluids.  He also worked with Dr. Guenter Schneider of OSU Physics using machine learning techniques to locate and identify cells in a cell microscopy image. He has a SURE Science award to support his work.

Ryan Lance developed a new analysis for optical spectroscopy of thin films in Dr. Janet Tate’s lab in the OSU Physics Department.  He received an honorable mention for his presentation at OSU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Conference.  Ryan shows his award in the picture below.

Chris May, working in Dr. David Roundy’s group, developed an improved code for studying the Weeks-Chandler-Anderson fluid.

Dublin Nichols is an OSU College of Science SURE Science fellow and this summer, he built a microscope rig that enabled him to stack atomically thin crystals for further study. He worked in the lab of Dr. Ethan Minot of OSU Physics.

Gabriel Nowak had a Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) in the Atomic, Molecular, and Optical sciences group in the Chemical Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).  He investigated laser-generated nanoparticle array formation and the dynamics of charge transfer in the process.

Jesse Rodriguez modeled plasmas in the lab of Dr. Mark Cappelli of Stanford’s Mechanical Engineering Department.

Nikita Rozanov characterized the interaction between cytochrome c and 3-mercaptopropionoic acid (MPA) coated gold nanoparticles using molecular dynamics simulations. He worked under the supervision of research scientist Dr. Caley Allen in the group of Dr Rigoberto Hernandez at the Johns Hopkins Department of Chemistry. This work was part of an NSF-REU at the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.

Tanner Simpson worked in Dr. David Roundy’s group testing broad histogram Monte Carlo methods using the square well fluid. He presented his work at OSU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Abe Teklu was part of a DOE-funded program at General Atomics in San Diego with mentor Dr. Richard Moyer. Abe analyzed divertor footprints in the DIII-D tokamak to determine whether computational models describe the divertor region accurately. Here are pictures of Abe  discussing his results at a poster session (below left, the taller person) and gathering data in the tokomak (below right, the person in the back row).


Attila Varga had a SURE Science fellowship to work with Dr. Kathy Hadley of OSU Physics on modeling rotating star-disk systems.

John Waczak tested and developed a model for the dynein motor protein worked in Dr. David Roundy’s group.

Physics faculty also worked with students from other disciplines. Dr. Weihong Qui and Dr. Bo Sun, who both study biological physics, hosted SURE Science scholars Youngmin Park (BB) and Theresa Dinh (Biology) in their  labs this summer.



This year’s winner of the WIC Culture of Writing Award in Physics is Jeremy Meinke, for his thesis entitled, “Single-Molecule Analysis of a Novel Kinesin Motor Protein.” Jeremy worked under the direction of Prof. Weihong Qiu.  He was with the Qiu research group for two years and in 2016, he received URISC and SURE awards to support his work. Jeremy says of the OSU Physics Department, “I enjoyed the range of physics topics the upper division classes offered, which kept me constantly thinking about new concepts.  Overall, it was a great place for me to study physics. I truly benefited from the research experience.”

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Physics graduate student Carly Fengel shows a Timber Ridge Elementary School student the beautiful spectral lines of hydrogen, helium, argon and neon lamps. When viewed through diffraction grating glasses, the various wavelengths of light are split apart, revealing a unique signature for each gas. “So we could tell what stars are made of!” remarked the student.

Family Science Nights have been a yearly staple in Corvallis schools for more than a decade, but May 16 was only the second one for Timber Ridge School, a combined middle and elementary school serving a rural area on the northern edge of Albany. About 200 students of all ages attended the event, with middle-school students acting as guides and selling snacks as a fundraiser.

In addition to volunteers from the physics department, OSU was represented by other departments, including the College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Non-departmental groups also showed up, such as the Dairy Club, Geology Club, and Fisheries and Wildlife Club. For the first time, nursing students from Linn-Benton Community College made an appearance, rounding out the science offerings with tables focusing on exercise, vital signs, CPR, and hand-washing.

Other physics demos included classics like levitating ping-pong balls with a hair dryer and the ever-popular hovercraft. As usual, the line for the hovercraft rarely dropped below a dozen students, continuing to draw a crowd to the end of the hall throughout the evening. Many were eager to learn how the hovercraft worked and several times kids remarked: “I want to make one!”

(Prof. Ethan Minot explains the design of the hovercraft)

As the last Family Science Night of the school year, this event ended the semester on a high note, with several new groups and a new physics demonstration. Both volunteers and families will be looking forward to next year’s school outreach events.

A big thank you to the physics student volunteers Evan Peters, Garrett Jepson, and Carly Fengel.

Story by Monica Bennett.

Story by Monica Bennett

Physics was one of nearly a dozen departments and groups that came together to create the attention-grabbing, educational smorgasbord of OSU Discovery Days.

The event is coordinated by Prof. Margaret Haak of the Department of Chemistry, who took over in 2003 and expanded the program from its predecessor, “Museum Days”. Prof. Haak estimates that about 1,800 children flooded into LaSells over the course of two days, enjoying science demonstrations and trivia games from science departments and other groups, including the sorority Sigma Delta Omega, the Physics 111 course, and local business Brad’s World Reptiles.

The Department of Physics claimed the majority of one of the rooms in the LaSells center, mostly for the sake of the rotating chair that sat in the center of the room. Here students lined up to take a spin, using hand weights to test how concentrating their center of mass increased their speed of rotation, while extending their hands slowed it.

Having discovered some principles of angular momentum, the dizzy students then staggered over to the tables, which contained more physics demonstrations. The demos, all hands-on to some extent, included ping-pong balls supported by a hair dryer, as well as a large tank of water in which students tested their predictions on the relative buoyancy of regular vs. diet soda and cucumbers vs. grapes. A particular favorite was the table of vacuum experiments, featuring not only a chamber that demonstrated the effect of vacuum on balloons and bubble wrap, but also a steel ball that students tried to pull open, discovering the pressure difference when the air inside was evacuated by the vacuum pump.

Physics demos were on display from other groups as well—a contingent from Physics 111 (taught by Prof. Emily van Zee) showed off their skills as future teachers with an array of optics demonstrations, showing students how refraction changes the apparent location of an object submerged in water and how reflectivity varies in different materials. Elsewhere, students watched a Geiger counter detecting uranium in old Fiestaware and observed changes in surface tension with soap and water, being introduced to a variety of physics concepts in addition to the department’s own offerings.

Prof. Haak’s hope for Discovery Days is for students to feel involved, seeing that “science is something you do, not just something you read about.” She believes that major outreach events are valuable to the volunteers as well as the visitors, stressing the importance of communicating science well and encouraging hands-on exploration. With these guiding values and contributions from the fields of physics, biochemistry, botany, herpetology, and more, the spring 2017 Discovery Days were a delight for students and scientists alike.

A big thank you to the physics students who volunteered their time: Ikaika McKeague-McFadden, Willis Rogers, Kelby Petersonm, Zach Colbert, Abe Teklu, Isaac Hodges, Tymothy Mangan, Ian Goode, Ryan Bailey Crandell, Katy Chase, James Haggerty, Carly Fengel, David Rivella, and Nikita Rozanov.

Physics students and faculty have received a total of 7 SURE Science Awards.

The SURE Science Awards support an undergraduate student for a summer of research in a faculty member’s lab.

our student and faculty awardees are:

Cassandra Hatcher (Physics) in the Lazzati Group
Garret Jepson (Physics) in the Schneider Group
Michelle Zhou (Physics) in the Johns Lab (Vet-Med)
Youngmin Park (BB) in the Qiu Lab
Theresa Dinh (Biology) in the Sun Lab
Dublin Nichols (Physics) in the Minot Lab
Attila Varga (Physics) in the Hadley Group

Congratulations to all – we’re looking forward to hearing your reports at the end of the summer.

Physics Major Mirek Brandt was just named a National Goldwater Scholar!
Press release:

OSU’s last Goldwater Scholar winner was in 2013; most years there are only a couple successful nominations statewide (3 this year).   OSU also had a second successful nominee this year, True Gibson, a Life Sciences major. Congrats!

The Goldwater Scholarship was established by US Congress in 1986. Each year all universities nominate up to four undergraduates in science or engineering for one of ~240 Goldwater Scholarships.  As all nominees are academically near the top of their school, the primary consideration at the National level becomes “the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to his or her field. This is judged by letter of references, essays written by the student, and prior research experience.”

Mirek will graduate in June 2018 as a Physics and Math major and plans to pursue graduate studies. Since his freshman year (Fall 2014), Mirek Brandt has been a member of Prof. Matt Graham’s  Micro-Femto Energetics Lab.  His research contributions are very substantial and we thank  URSA-ENGAGE and SURE Science Summer Scholarship programs for funding his research.  He will defend his undergraduate senior project thesis later this year entitled “The Impact of Crystal Morphology on Opto-Electronic Properties of Amorphous and Organic Crystalline Materials”.

To top off this National honor, Mirek was recently recognized internationally by being selected to attend the Kupcinet-Getz International Science School. This program matches top-undergraduates with leading research mentors at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.  Mirek will join a Theoretical Astrophysics group at Weizmann this summer before returning to Oregon State Physics to take-up his Goldwater Scholarship.

On behalf of the OSU Physics Department, congratulations Mirek!

The Oregon State University Society of Physics Students (SPS) made a strong showing at the Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Congress, which was held on November 2-6, 2016 in San Francisco. In cooperation with LBCC students and faculty, SPS secured funding to send 1 graduate student and 7 undergraduates from OSU and 3 LBCC students to the Congress. The students presented posters, toured scientific facilities, networked with professionals, and listened to talks by the leaders in Physics.

Michael Forkner and Tym Mangan (pictured with their posters) were among the undergraduates who presented the innovative research being done at Oregon State University. During the poster sessions, students discussed their work with other physics students from across the country and received feedback from professional physicists on their presentations. They also toured the Stanford Linear Accelerator or the Google X facilities, and listened to talks by professional scientists while looking at the sort of labs they might work in one day.

There were exciting plenary talks, including one by Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell who discovered quasars. She thinks that the climate in physics for women has improved considerably since her days as a young scientist. Eric Cornell, Nobel Laureate (and former Yunker lecturer) gave a characteristically upbeat and interesting talk about what the life of a real scientist is like. Between plenary talks, PhysCon conducted workshops that allowed SPS members from across the nation (and beyond!) to network and discuss important topics faced by chapters and individuals during their physics journeys. Grad student Kelby Hahn was a panelist who discussed life as a graduate student. The students were delighted to made connections that will last well beyond their short stay at PhysCon.

OSU/LBCC Participants:
Kelby Hahn, Michael Forkner, Evan Peters, Tym Mangan, Elliot Capek, Hazel Betz, Gabe Nowak, Nikita Rosanov; Osvaldo Galvez, Delphine LeBrunColon, Eric Slyter.

Michael Forkner presents his research at PhysCon
Tym Magnan at PhysCon 2016
Delphine LeBrunColon and Elliot Capek at PhysCon
Students at PhysCon


Three Oregon State undergraduates went to the APS Division of Nuclear Physics conference in Vancouver BC in mid-October 2016.

Senior Evan Peters shows how to calibrate neutrino response in the MINERvA detector.
Senior Evan Peters shows how to calibrate neutron response in the MINERvA detector.

Undergraduates Gabe Nowak, Tymothy Mangan and Evan Peters gave posters on their work.  Dept. Head Heidi Schellman gave a talk and provided transportation.  All 3 students had won travel awards from the American Physical Society to cover their hotel costs.

Evan’s poster was placed with theoretical posters presented by students also working on neutrino scattering, leading to much discussion among the neutrino community.

Tymothy Mangan showing his work from Los Alamos last summer.

Tymothy Mangan showed results from a test stand he built at Los Alamos National Lab last summer.

Gabriel Nowak presented preliminary studies of Lorentz invariance that he did as a SULI student at Jefferson Laboratory.

After the poster session we went on a tour of the TRIUMF nuclear laboratory at the University of British Columbia.

Touring the ARIEL facility at TRIUMF. This room will be filled with equipment very soon.
Touring the ARIEL facility at TRIUMF. This room will be filled with equipment very soon.