Dear Physics community,

The Physics Beavers are studying remotely this quarter.

Oregon State Physics is still operating, although our labs are in standby mode and our teaching is now all remote.   We’re using online channels like Zoom and Slack to maintain our tradition of student interaction in courses.  Students are still working together on problems and the Society of Physics Students  is launching an online game night.  We could not have done this without herculean efforts by faculty and students to create online labs, videos, and sophisticated live classes in 3 weeks.  Grad students are writing new labs and undergraduates are serving as learning assistants in the Virtual Wormhole.  See this video on vectors produced in our Lightboard studio to see what our students see.

On campus, research is on standby. Biophysicists Weihong Qiu and Bo Sun led the Physics effort to collect personal protective equipment (PPE) that Oregon State then donated to Oregon Emergency Management agencies.  But, you can’t grow carbon nanotubes or cancer cell lines at home so on-campus research is now on hold.  In the short run, we can work on writing things up, doing the literature searches we never have time for and analyzing data, but we’re eager to get back to our labs. 

If you are interested in helping students financially in the short term, Oregon State has set up an emergency fund for students in need.  Many students (or their parents) have lost their jobs and are struggling with basics like books, rent,  food and the now vital internet connection. Please consider donating to the Beavers Care fund which is providing emergency funding to OSU students (You can designate the College of Science) or to the Human Services Resource Center (HSRC) which provides food boxes, loaner computers and other emergency supplies for students.  

We’ll be providing updates as things progress. 

Heidi Schellman

With departmental funding and an SPS travel grant, undergraduate student Acacia Patterson attended PhysCon, the 2019 Physics Congress, in Providence, Rhode Island 11/14-11/16. Over 1000 people attended the conference, which is hosted by the jointly by Sigma Pi Sigma and the Society of Physics Students and has occurred every 4 years since 1928. A group of OSU students attended the last conference in San Francisco, California.

Acacia Patterson at PhysCon 2019

The 2019 Congress began with tours at Harvard, MIT, and Brown physics departments and at Optikos Corporation, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Naval Submarine Base New London, and Rhode Island Hospital. The conference included speeches on the work of Einstein and Eddington from Dame S. Jocelyn Bell-Burnett and on the projects of GoogleX and how physics majors can prepare for a career in industry from Sandeep Giri. In addition, there were talks on the use of disruptive technology to mitigate climate change from Ellen Williams, on intellectual property rights from Jami Valentine Miller, and on the Big Bang and the future of astronomy from John Mather. Finally, Jim Gates shared a talk on how to use physics to become like Indiana Jones. A Congress workshop was held in which students brainstormed solutions to the issues that they and their organizations face.

The most important issues which the conference identified were imposter syndrome, mental health, and inclusiveness in physics. Two breakout sessions were offered with topics including science policy and communication, physics careers, physics and astronomy outreach, inclusivity, climate change, and graduate student panels. 

Acacia, who is a member of Janet Tate’s research group, was among the 150 students who presented their research during two poster and art exhibit sessions. Other activities included a lunch with scientists, a demo show at Brown and a tour at the LADD Observatory, a game night with Brown’s SPS chapter, and career and graduate school fairs. Acacia is grateful for this rewarding experience and looks forward to bringing what she learned to OSU. 

Jim Ketter at a Dept. Picnic, photo by Randall Milstein

Jim Ketter, who served as lab guru and instructor for many years, passed away on June 6th 2018. Jim joined our department in 2005 after a varied career as a geophysicist, high school teacher, graduate student and physics instructor at LBCC and Oregon State.  He was a warm and sensitive instructor and the go-to gadget guy who kept our labs running and our department presentable. In addition to the considerable load of teaching and keeping our labs humming, he loved doing outreach – Discovery days, supervising the SPS and generally bringing his enthusiasm for physics to everyone he met.

There will be a  celebration of life for Jim on July 14th from 2pm-5pm at Deluxe Brewing: 635 NE Water Ave. Albany, Oregon.

has more details and an obituary.

His family requests that donations in his memory go to Albany Parks and Recreation Foundation in lieu of flowers.

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!

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


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!