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.

SPS 2016 Applications Workshop

Report by Evan Peters SPS chapter President

Randy Milstein talks about NASA
Randy Milstein talks about NASA and the Oregon Space Grant

OSU’s Society of Physics Students chapter held an applications workshop on Saturday (11/19), where students got excited about summer internships, scholarships, and graduate school admissions. Beginning at 11:00 am, over twenty physics and science students passed through during the six-hour event to grab a snack and get to work.

Application frenzy
Application frenzy

Supported by unlimited coffee and a pizza lunch provided by OSU SPS, students began the morning by sifting through lists of REUs and scholarships compiled by the chapter.

Delicious food.
Delicious food.

As the afternoon came around, invited presenters arrived and shared their insights and experiences with students. Dr. Sujaya Rao, director of undergraduate research at OSU, discussed the URSA research program and ways to put together a stellar application. Dr. Randy Milstein from the Oregon Space Grant Consortium office discussed internship and scholarship programs at NASA and OSGC, and shared bios of OSU students who had been successful in the past. Finally, Dr. Janet Tate discussed career professionalism and how to get the most out of interactions with professors and professionals.

Janet Tate talks about professionalism.

The workshop was successful in raising lower-division students’ awareness of research opportunities and getting students to think ahead about career-building opportunities—we hope to hold another one in the future!


Steven Ellefson graduated from Oregon State University in 2014 with a B.S. in

Physics Alumnus Steven Ellefson with with the ViewRay (the world’s first MRI-guided radiation therapy system) and the ArcCHECK-MR (a diode array used for radiation dosimetry measurements of complex therapy plans) that he worked on for his dissertation at UW Madison.
Physics Alumnus Steven Ellefson with with the ViewRay (the world’s first MRI-guided radiation therapy system) and the ArcCHECK-MR (a diode array used for radiation dosimetry measurements of complex therapy plans) that he worked on for his dissertation at UW Madison.

Radiation Health Physics and a minor in Physics. While at OSU, Steven did computational radiation physics research with Dr. Todd Palmer in the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering, completed a summer internship in medical physics at the Samaritan Regional Cancer Center, and was awarded the School’s Lower Division and Upper Division Student of the Year Awards in consecutive years.

After graduation, Steven went on to the Medical Physics graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he focused on the physics of radiation therapy. As a graduate student, Steven researched issues with using the ArcCHECK, a commercial silicon diode array widely used for radiation dosimetry of complex radiation therapy plans, for dosimetry on the ViewRay, the world’s first MRI-guided radiation therapy system. His research on the anomalous behavior of the ArcCHECK device under the influence of the ViewRay’s large magnetic field was presented at the annual conference for the American Association of Physicists in Medicine in 2015 and is currently under review for publication in the Journal of Applied Clinical Medical Physics.

Steven graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016 with his M.S. in Medical Physics and, through a competitive application process, was chosen for the Medical Physics Residency Program at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, which he is currently attending.

Steven says the fundamental problem-solving skills and ability to think outside the box developed in the Physics program at OSU were essential to his success.

He points out some special courses here.

“K.C. Walsh and the general calculus-based physics sequence: Dr. Walsh made the fundamental concepts so easy to grasp and his enthusiasm is contagious. He was able to simultaneously encourage and challenge me to be a better physicist. He was also always willing to talk about interesting extracurricular physics problems and even try to work them out if a student requested (such as why a motorcyclist will turn into or away from a corner depending on the speed).

“Dr. Tevian Dray and Vector Calculus II: I feel that I did not truly understand calculus until I took Tevian’s class. Taking his class made a collection of seemingly unrelated facts about calculus learned in previous courses coalesce into a singular paradigm in my brain. I am very thankful for his dedication to helping physicists and engineers understand vector calculus and the integral (no pun intended) role it plays in describing the physical world.”

“Dr. Corinne Manogue: While Corinne is amazing at teaching, what I remember most is her encouragement of students. She truly tries to bring out the best in students and challenges them to be better than they think they can be. I will never forget her telling us all before a final that our performance on the test does not determine our value as human beings.”

“Last but not least, Dr. David Roundy’s computational physics course was a great preparation for graduate school. So many problems are approached with computers today that being able to translate theories/models into a computer program ended up being an essential skill for me.”


Congratulations to a physics major Alexander Quinn who received an Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Creativity (URISC) Award for Fall/Winter 2016-2017 sponsored by the OSU Research Office. Alex (pictured while performing experiments) will work with Prof. Oksana Ostroverkhova on a project titled “Investigating Xylindein, a Fungus-Derived Pigment, as a Candidate for use in Sustainable Optoelectronic Devices”. Alex is planning to graduate in the Spring of 2017 and continue his education as a graduate student in physics. His longer-term plan is to work in the area of sustainable materials and renewable energy.


Scott Clark, B.S. 2008, was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in 2016:

After graduating from OSU (where he earned 3 BS degrees in Physics, Math, and Computational Physics), Scott went on to a Ph.D. in Mathematics at Cornell, worked for Yelp, and then started his own company called SigOpt.
Thanks to Janet Tate for the news!

Scientists from the Physics Department visited the first grade classes (about 100 students) at Clover Ridge Elementary School. Atul Chhotray and Davide Lazzati used solar telescopes to give students an introduction to astronomy. Nicole Quist, Jacob Bigelow and Ethan Minot used an assortment of interactive demos to explain the amazing things we can do with air. From pushing a sail boat with giant air molecules, to floating on a hover craft. Nicole: “Raise your hands if you want to say something.” Student: “That was awesome!”

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