At the most recent Astronomy Open House, on February 17th, many tried to reach for the… planets?

The newly formed OSU Astronomy Club and the Department of Physics hosted the most recent Open House with invited activities by the Corvallis Public Library and the Corvallis Arts Center. The event also featured Tom Carrico of the local amateur astronomer club: Heart of the Valley Astronomers who talked about how to view an eclipse safely.

At the event, parents, college students, and children alike, learned about how telescopes work, how astronomers identify what stars are made of, what causes the seasons, and the different types of shadows formed by an eclipse! Once each person completed their activity sheet, they were able to get a free commemorative eclipse poster about the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse in August.

Everyone seemed to love the event, and the OSU Astronomy Club is working to make the event even better than it already is, especially with anticipation growing for clear weather for the next Open House! So be sure to keep an eye on to hear about the next exciting Astronomy open House! 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


Elementary school students at Franklin School, Corvallis, enjoyed the wonders of riding a frictionless craft across the school gym on Thursday night. They also learned how to make their own hovercraft using an old cd, and checked out other “wow” physics demos. Many thanks to the student volunteers from the Department of Physics who gave over 150 kids a super fun experience with physics. More school events are coming up soon.

A paper just published in Nature Communications by the Single-Molecule Biophysics Laboratory of Assistant Professor Weihong Qiu reports an unexpected mechanical property of a “motor” protein that offers new insights into how motor proteins help build and maintain the mitotic spindle, the American football-shaped macromolecular structures that animal and fungi cells depend on to ensure accurate chromosome segregation during cell division. Located inside cells, motor proteins are tiny molecular machines that convert chemical energy into mechanical work. They interact with train-track-like structures called microtubules to transport cargos or exert forces.

[continued below]

The motor protein KlpA moves in one direction on a single microtubule track and switches to the opposite direction between a pair of microtubules. Illustration credit: Kuo-Fu Tseng, Oregon State University.
[click on image to see the motion] The motor protein KlpA moves in one direction on a single microtubule track and switches to the opposite direction between a pair of microtubules. Illustration credit: Kuo-Fu Tseng, Oregon State University.
In this study, Qiu and colleagues focused on a particular motor protein called KlpA, and used a high-sensitivity microscopy method to directly visualize the motion of individual KlpA molecules on microtubules. The Qiu team shows that, while all other KlpA-like motor proteins are believed to move in only one direction on the microtubule track, KlpA has a “reverse” gear that allows it to go in different directions. This enables KlpA to behave differently in when it is operating at different locations within the mitotic spindle. This research may open the door to understand the similar KlpA-like motor proteins in mammals that are implicated in cancer cell proliferation. Understanding the design principle underlying the bidirectional motion of KlpA may also guide the engineering of motor protein-based molecular devices for targeting drug delivery in a controllable manner.

Math (and Physics) Professor Tevian Dray has been awarded the MAA University Teaching award.

2017 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), in recognition of his exemplary mathematics teaching and his positive influence on college mathematics curriculum development and teacher training on a regional and national level.

See the IMPACT article below!

Math professor receives national award for teaching excellence

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.

image1The annual Fall Meeting of the Materials Research Society’s “best poster” awards are eagerly anticipated, and this year, James Haggerty garnered his second one. James presented a poster on his work on titania polymorphs at the Fall 2016 meeting in Boston, MA. The poster, entitled “The effect of amorphous precursors on the crystallinity of TiO2 thin films using pulsed laser deposition,” is a collaborative effort between Tate group researchers and scientists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, MIT and the Colorado School of Mines.  The researchers are trying to understand why a particular metastable form of TiO2 called brookite is difficult to grow. James’s poster presented evidence that the presence of sodium ions, thought to be important in the growth of bulk crystals, is not necessary in thin-film growth.  Bethany Matthews and Janet Tate were co-authors on the poster.  Last year at the Fall MRS meeting, James and Bethany both won best poster awards – maybe a three-peat in 2017?!

Pavel Kornilovich is a runner-up in the “Physics in 2116” essay contest run by AIP’s “Physics Today”. Pavel’s essay, “African Arrow sees hints of structure in the fabric of space”,  imagines the result of a giant accelerator experiment 100 years in the future that probes energy scalepavels at which the four known forces would be unified.  Of about 200 entries, four essays were chosen for publication in the December 2016 edition of “Physics Today”.  The other essays speculated about the implications of future technologies for privacy, emergent consciousness, and a future telescope, the “Asteroid Belt Astronomical Telescope”, built from polished asteroids.  Happy reading!

Pavel Kornilovich is a Courtesy Professor of Physics at Oregon State University and a Senior Technologist at HP Inc in Corvallis.

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.”