Congratulations to Prof. Davide Lazzati , Head of Physics, who garnered the 2021 Impact Award for Outstanding Scholarship at OSU’s University Day Award ceremony on September 14th. Davide was cited for his ground-breaking work on gamma-ray bursts and neutron star mergers.

Davide Lazzati

Davide and his co-workers were the first to correctly predict the electromagnetic signature of the binary neutron star merger GW170817, which was first detected through gravitational wave emission and faint gamma ray emission, then across the electromagnetic spectrum from optical to radio through various follow-up observations. This was the first event of its kind, and ushered in the era of “multi-messenger astronomy.” Lazzati & co. had laid the theoretical groundwork for this prediction over the years, most recently with two papers published before the observation of GW170817 [1,2].

After the observation of GW17081, he published the explanation for how a binary neutron star could result in the observations made. The puzzling part of the observation was that the gamma ray burst observed accompanying GW170817 was faint, and it was unclear how such faint emission could be used to associate GW170817 with a binary neutron star merger model for gamma ray bursts; the latter are observed to be very luminous and involve highly relativistic emission. Lazzati realized that a structured highly relativistic jet surrounded by slower and less energetic material produces afterglow emission that brightens characteristically with time, exactly as was observed in GW170817. Furthermore, he showed how to constrain the geometry of the jet and surrounding material using the observational data. This confirmed a single origin/explanation for short gamma ray bursts and binary neutron star mergers [3].

The nominators noted Davide’s impact not only on science, but also on students through his teaching and mentorship. His astrophysics research program draws many students. Two of his most successful graduate students are McNair Fellow Tyler Parsotan, who also received a NASA FINESST grant and is now a postdoc at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland; and Black student leader, Isabel Rodriguez who graduated with an M. S. in Physics and received the Harriet “Hattie” Redmond Award for her groundbreaking work to improve diversity in Physics and beyond. He has also mentored over a dozen OSU undergraduate research dissertation projects and undergrads enthusiastically line up to join his research group.

The full list of award recipients is on the Awards Day website at

[1] D. Lazzati, D. Lopez-Camara, M. Cantiello, B. J. Morsony, R. Perna, J. C. Workman, “Off-axis Prompt X-Ray Transients from the Cocoon of Short Gamma-Ray Bursts,” The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 848, L6 (2017) (

[2] D. Lazzati, A. Deich, B. J. Morsony, J. C. Workman, “Off-axis emission of short γ-ray bursts and the detectability of electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational-wave-detected binary mergers,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 471, 1652 (2017) (

[3] D. Lazzati, R. Perna, B. J. Morsony, D. Lopez-Camara, M. Cantiello, R. Ciolfi, B. Giacomazzo, J. C. Workman, “Late Time Afterglow Observations Reveal a Collimated Relativistic Jet in the Ejecta of the Binary Neutron Star Merger GW170817,” Physical Review Letters, 120, 241103 (2018) (

Rosalyn Fey, OSU Astronomy Club Secretary

On May 17, 2021, the Astronomy Club hosted a virtual star party featuring Tom Carrico, local amateur astrophotographer and instructor of astrophotography at OSU. Tom used his telescope in Dark Sky, New Mexico to remotely image the night sky and give everyone a chance to make astronomical observations from the comfort and safety of their homes.

The party started with a presentation from Elaine Swanson, a post-baccalaureate student and founder of OSU’s Astrobotany Research Group, and continued with 2 hours of real-time astrophotography image capture and processing. Tom imaged some classic astronomical objects, such as the Sombrero Galaxy (M104), and also took requests from participants. Favorite objects included the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), the Owl Nebula (M97), the Ring Nebula (M57), and the Great Globular Cluster (M13). Other objects of astronomical interest included M87, the galaxy which hosts the supermassive black hole first imaged in 2019 by an international collaboration using the network of telescopes known as the Event Horizon Telescope.

Participants learned about each imaged object, and about the equipment, software and procedures used for remote astrophotography. Tom covers many of these topics in PH299: Astrophotography and Astronomy, currently offered in spring term.

The Astronomy Club plans to continue hosting virtual star parties with Tom in the future to increase accessibility of night observations, and engage more people in this exciting experience! Please join us at our next virtual star party! For information about our club and events, visit our website at

Messier 51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy. It is the sum of 7 each 1-minute exposures imaged with a 4″ telescope and an SBIG STT 8300 8.4 Mpixel CCD camera. (Image acquired by Tom Carrico and displayed with his permission.)

Messier 101, sometimes referred to as the Pinwheel Galaxy. It is the sum of 7 each 1-minute exposures imaged with a 4″ telescope and an SBIG STT 8300 8.3 Mpixel CCD camera. (Image acquired by Tom Carrico and displayed with his permission.)

Congratulations to Isabel Rodriguez, M.S. for being the 2021 recipient of the Harriet “Hattie” Redmond Award! This award celebrates a member of the OSU community who works as an agent of change in service of racial justice and gender equity. This ” Breaking Barriers” award  is sponsored by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCOSW), the Office of Institutional Diversity (OID), the Office of the Provost and OSU Athletics. 

Isabel is a brilliant example of a scientist who works tirelessly and effectively for change in service of racial justice and gender equality. The STEM culture at Oregon State University is changing profoundly because of her influence. As a Black woman in astrophysics, she has expertly navigated the terrain in this white-male-dominated field to emerge as a powerful example to other marginalized people of how to be successful on their own terms and teaching her mentors to change the ways they interact with their students.

Isabel has been a powerful agent of change in our Department and College. She has challenged her research group, her peers, her mentors and the administration to look at our workplace differently and through the eyes of those marginalized. As an elected member of the graduate student committee, she helped lead discussions among the faculty and students in a series of Town Hall meetings that ultimately resulted in significant changes to the physics graduate program to make it more fair, flexible, and inclusive. She has also been an important member of the departmental DICE committee and a founding member of CoSMAC, the College of Science Multidisciplinary Antiracism Coalition, which advocates for the adoption of antiracist policies, practices, and actions in the College. She was also Vice President of the Black Graduate Student Association, where she organized regular on-campus events to foster a sense of community and belonging for Black undergraduate and graduate students. For her positive, measured and always relentless advice and guidance, Isabel is a worthy member of a spectacular group of leaders that have been recognized with the Harriet “Hattie” Redmond Award.

Thank you for your service Isabel, and for raising our collective consciousness.

Briony Horgan (B.S. OSU Physics, 2005), Associate Professor of Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, is a member of the science team that will launch the NASA Mars rover Perseverance in the next few weeks. The rover will travel to Jezero Crater, which preserves evidence of a time when rivers flowed on Mars. Prof. Horgan led a study of the mineralogy of the site, which produced one of the major results that contributed to its selection. She was also on the team that designed the camera that will be the scientific eyes for Perseverance. Well done Briony – and best of luck with the mission!
For the full story and image credit, see this link.


The Physics Department at Oregon State University stands with the Black community. The continued murders of Black people by police are a consequence of long-standing, unacceptable social and economic systems that dehumanize people, particularly the Black community.

We recognize that the academy, and our department by extension, is complicit in these structures of racism. The conspicuous dearth of Black department members points to the racism and structural inequities that exist within our hiring and recruitment processes, our teaching and mentoring, and our broader social culture. Removing these structures is long overdue. We will strive to promote equity across all areas, including but not limited to: race, gender, gender identity or expression, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, and economic status. We are committed to making our workplace and classroom environments supportive of all community members by: (i) creating policies and a culture that work against historical oppressions, and (ii) seeking a diversity in the recruitment, selection, promotion, and celebration of students, staff, faculty, and other scientists, that is representative of the global community.

One of the most recent steps the department has taken is forming the Diversity Inclusion Climate and Equity (DICE) Committee. This committee is composed of members representing all subsets of the physics community – from undergraduates to faculty and staff – and is charged with recommending policies and resources that will help foster a more welcoming and inclusive physics environment. The DICE Committee is seeking new members this academic year.

If you would like to get involved, or would like access to the department’s antiracism resource list, please contact

Current DICE members

Acacia Patterson (graduating)

Isabel Rodrigues

Xavier Siemens

Evan Thatcher

Physics students and faculty are well-represented in the College of Science 2020 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Awards. These awards provide 11-week employment in the summer for students, though this year, because of closures during the covid-19 pandemic, the research may have to be stretched out over the academic year.

This year’s physics student awardees are:
Hunter Nelson advised by Tuan Pham (Mathematics)
Rohal Kakepoto advised by Janet Tate
Alan Schultz advised by Hoe Woon Kim (Mathematics)
Alexander van Balderen advised by Liz Gire
Jessica Waymire advised by Matt Graham
Ryan Wong advised by Bo Sun

Students from other departments working with Physics faculty are:
Emily Gemmill, (Biochemistry & Biophysics), advised by Weihong Qiu
Ruben Lopez (BioHealth Sciences) advised by Bo Sun

Congratulations all!

Physics professor Weihong Qiu with Haelyn Epp, a BioHealth Sciences SURE awardee in 2019, in Prof Qiu’s biophysics laboratory at OSU (image from the CoS SURE website).

Three OSU Physics alums are among 2,046 graduate students nationwide to receive the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships Program award that pays stipend and partial tuition for 3 years. Congratulations to all three! See the Impact article from the College of Science for some more details about other College of Science GRFP recipients.

Head shot of Mirek Brandt at Oregon State
Mirek Brandt in 2017

Mirek Brandt (BS in Physics & Mathematics 2018) worked in the Graham group while at Oregon State. His thesis was on The Impact of Crystal Morphology on the Opto-Electronic Properties of Amorphous and Organic Crystalline Materials. He won a Goldwater Scholarship as an undergraduate and then moved on to the University of California at Santa Barbara where he is doing his doctorate in Astrophysics.

Katelyn Chase (BS in Physics 2018) worked in Bo Sun’s biophysics laboratory during her time at OSU and wrote her thesis on Synchronized Cellular Mechanosensing due to External Periodic Driving. She is now a Ph. D. candidate at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, conducting research in the Gitai bacterial biology laboratory, studying cytoskeletal proteins. She is interested in proteins involved in bacterial cell shape formation and maintenance. Her photo shows her in Iceland in January.

Patrick Flynn (BS in Physics and Mathematics, 2018) did his senior thesis project on Localized structures in a diffusive run and tumble model for M. xanthus, as part of the Complex Systems REU at the University of Minnesota with Arnd Scheel (Bo Sun was the local advisor).  Patrick also contributed to the linear solver code for the Monte-Carlo simulations performed in David Roundy’s research group in Physics.  Patrick is now a Ph. D. candidate in the Department of Applied Mathematics at Brown University. He is studying the Euler- and Vlasov-Poisson models appearing in plasma and astrophysics. His NSF GRFP proposal was about answering questions such as the existence and stability of solitary waves, or the existence of solutions containing many interacting solitary waves, for the Euler- and Vlasov-Posson equations.  Patrick says he is “very enthusiastic about being able to address questions that have been partially addressed by the physics community to discover new mathematics, and in turn inform scientific discovery. Of course, my time at Oregon State was very formative in this regard, and I still heavily rely on what I learned in the mathematics and physics programs there. After all, I first learned what a dispersion relation was from David Roundy!” The accompanying picture shows Patrick on the Brown Campus.

See the Impact article from the College of Science for some more details about College of Science GRFP recipients.

Drivers on OR34 now see Senior Instructor Randy Milstein smiling at them.

OSU Astronomer in Residence, Senior Physics Instructor and man-about-Corvallis Randall Milstein has been featured by Samaritan Hospital in an article and a huge billboard on OR34. See for the full article. You can meet Randy in person in Physics 104 (Descriptive Astronomy), the class he teaches to hundreds of students every term at Oregon State.

Prof. Bo Sun

In December 2019, Associate Prof. Bo Sun received the Richard T. Jones New Investigator Award from the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon for his work on the biophysics of collective behavior in cells.

For more details on the award see the MRF awards site and the longer College of Science IMPACT article about Bo’s work.

And check out his research group at to read about the successes of the large number of graduate and undergraduate students working in his lab.

Congratulations Bo!