For International Women’s Day, I’m reposting a history of one of our most distinguished alumni, Dr. Chung Kwai Lui. Dr. Lui was the first woman to receive a doctorate in any field from OSU and was nationally recognized for her work on the Manhattan project and at Westinghouse on phosphor development. The Wei Family Private Foundation has established a scholarship in honor of her and her husband Hsin Hsu Wei.

This was originally posted on our website as  OSU’s First Woman Physics PhD by Ken Krane.

There is more information about Dr. Lui and legacy provided by the Wei Family Private Foundation in this article from the College of Science.

Dr. Chang Kwei Lui

Chung Kwai Lui was born in Canton, China in 1909. In 1929, she enrolled at Lingnan University, which had been established as a Christian college in 1888 by American missionaries in Guangzhou. The reputation of the college grew quickly, and by 1918 the leading U.S. universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, were accepting its students for graduate programs. Miss Lui chose physics as her major and completed her undergraduate degree in 1933. In addition to the regular curriculum of physics courses, she also took courses in science teaching, and from 1933 until 1936 she taught physics at the middle-school level. At the same time she enrolled in graduate courses in physics at Lingnan University.

In 1936, the Oregon State chapter of Phi Kappa Phi (an academic honor society) offered Miss Lui an exchange scholarship, which covered her tuition and room. She moved into Snell Hall, which was then a women’s dormitory. She was one of thefirst two students to enroll in the newly formed physics graduate program at Oregon State. Within one year, she had completed and defended her M.S. thesis, Diffusion Phenomena in Strong Magnetic Fields, under the supervision of Professor Willibald Weniger, who was also chair of the Physics Department. Her experimental work studied the magnetic field and temperature dependence of the time for the diffusion of aqueous dye solutions. She continued on to study for a Ph.D. inphysics, which she completed in 1941 under the supervision of Professor James Brady. Her thesis, The Crystal Photoeffect in D-Tartaric Acid Single Crystals, concerned a process analogous the better-known photoelectric effect in metals, in which light shining on certain crystals causes a current to flow. She immediately published her Ph.D. thesis work in the Physical Review, the leading U.S. journal of physics research, as a single-authored paper (vol. 60, pages 529-531).

Following the completion of her Ph.D. she taught as an instructor at Oregon State for several years, and then she was hired by the Westinghouse Lamp Research Laboratory in New Jersey, where she studied phosphors and fluorescent lamps. Westinghouse was also investigating materials for possible use as filaments in incandescent lighting, among which was uranium. So during the Manhattan Project, which was the highly secret U.S. effort to develop the atomic bomb during World War II, the Westinghouse expertise in purifying microscopic quantities of uranium was instead applied to kilogram quantities, and Dr. Lui turned her skills to that project.

Although she had originally entered the U.S. on a student visa, which would normally have required her to return to China to apply for admission as a permanent resident (the path to citizenship), the U.S. government did not want her knowledge of the atomic research program to fall into the hands of the Communist Party, which had taken over control of China. So in 1949 the Congress passed, and President Harry Truman immediately signed, a bill “for the relief of Doctor Chung Kwai Lui,” which read in part “the Attorney General is authorized and directed to record Dr. Chung Kwai Lui as having entered the United States in 1936 for permanent residence.” This bill in effect retroactively changed the status under which she had entered the U.S. and thus permitted her to stay. Also in 1949 she married Mr. Hsin Hsu Wei, who had emigrated from China after the war, received a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University, and also was employed by Westinghouse.

Dr. Chung Kwai Lui Wei remained at Westinghouse, mostly doing research into the properties of phosphors, until she retired in 1974. She published several papers in physics journals on her work with phosphors, and she is the holder of 2 patents, one in the U.S. and the other in Canada. She died in 2008 at the age of 98. She and her husband (who died in 2000) recognized the value that higher education had played in their lives, and they left their estate to establish the Wei Family Private Foundation, which supports scholarships for students of Chinese ancestry who are studying engineering or science at Oregon State or electrical engineering at Columbia. This wonderful legacy will continue to provide support for students at OSU who hope to follow the exemplary path established by the first woman to earn a physics Ph.D. at Oregon State.

It was a banner day for Physics at the College of Science Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 (lots of twos, too).

Liz Gire won the Frederick H. Horne Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching Science. A master innovator in teaching, Liz earns accolades for her skill in communicating difficult topics and her ability to pitch physics at the right level for her students. A student wrote, “Her level of dedication to the genuine support and inclusion of the students in her courses is something I’ve never seen in an educator before. She backs that up with her skill and experience in education and communication that makes difficult content still accessible and enjoyable to learn.” Read more at the College of Science Impact Magazine.

Matt Graham was presented with the Industry Partnership Award for his work on harnessing waste heat. Matt has worked with several companies over the past several years on projects that have led to Ph.D. theses for his students.

Davide Lazzati earned this year’s Milton Harris Award for his outstanding work in the field of high-energy astrophysics. His pioneering considerations of electromagnetic signatures of neutron star mergers hav produced some of the most detailed predictions of compact binary mergers, perhaps one of the most exciting topic in astrophysics in the past decade. Read more at Impact Magazine.

Heidi Schellman is this year’s Gilfillan Awardee. The F.A. Gilfillan Award for Distinguished Scholarship honors faculty members in the College of Science whose scholarship and scientific accomplishments have extended over a substantial period of time, especially faculty whose research careers have had a significant impact on his or her field. Heidi’s work in neutrino physics is just part of her work leading to 700 peer-reviewed publications and an h-index of 113. She has contributed to several well-known scientific collaborations and currently serves in a leadership position for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). Read more at Impact Magazine.

Sept. 29, 2021

Oregon State Physics is leading a Department of Energy Office of Science funded project to design computing and software infrastructure for the DUNE experiment.   DUNE is a future neutrino experiment that will aim a neutrino beam from Fermilab, in Batavia Illinois, at a very large detector in the Homestake mine in Lead, South Dakota.  The experiment is currently under construction with a 5% prototype running at CERN in 2018 and 2022 and the full detector expected in 2029. These experiments generate data at rates of 1-2 GB/sec, or 30 PB/year which must be stored, processed and distributed to over 1,000 scientists worldwide.

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The LBNF neutrino beam traveling (right to left) from Fermilab in Illinois to the Sanford Lab in South Dakota

The project “Essential Computing and Software Development for the DUNE experiment” is funded for 3M$ over 3 years, shared among 4 Universities (Oregon State, Colorado State, Minnesota and Wichita State) and three national laboratories (Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory). The collaborators will work with colleagues worldwide on advanced data storage systems, high performance computing and databases in support of the DUNE physics mission.  See for more information on the experiment.

PI Heidi Schellman (Oregon State Physics) leads the DUNE computing and software consortium which is responsible for the international DUNE computing project. Physics graduate student Noah Vaughan helps oversee the global grid processing systems that DUNE uses for data reconstruction and simulation and recent graduate Amit Bashyal helped design the DUNE/LBNF beamline.  Graduate student Sean Gilligan is performing a statistical analysis of data transfer patterns to help optimize the design of the worldwide data network.  Postdoc Jake Calcutt recently joined us from Michigan State University and is designing improved methods for producing data analysis samples for the ProtoDUNE experiment at CERN.

One of the major thrusts of the Oregon State project is the design of robust data storage and delivery systems optimized for data integrity and reproducibility.  30 PB/year of data will be distributed worldwide and processed through a complex chain of algorithms. End users need to know the exact provenance of their data –  how was it produced, how was it processed, was any data lost – to ensure scientific reproducibility over the decades that the experiments will run.  Preliminary versions of the data systems have already led to results from the protoDUNE prototype experiments at CERN which are described in and

As an example of this work, three Oregon State Computer Science Majors (Lydia Brynmoor, Zach Lee and Luke Penner) worked with Fermilab scientist Steven Timm on a global monitor for the Rucio storage system shown below. This illustrates test data transfers between compute sites in the US, Brazil and Europe. The dots indicate compute sites in the DUNE compute grid while the lines illustrate test transfers. 

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Data transfer diagram for DUNE data.

Other projects will be a Data Dispatcher which optimizes the delivery of data to CPU’s across the DUNE compute systems and monitoring of data streaming between sites.

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.

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!

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

Physics research isn’t just for Physics majors. Biophysicist Weihong Qiu hosts students from BioHealth Sciences and Biochemistry in his lab as well.

Haelyn Epp and Weihong Qiu preparing motor protein samples in the lab.

BioHealth student Haelyn Epp used her #SUREScience scholarship to work in a biophysics lab on motor proteins. “My scholarship replaced one of my jobs, [and] allowed me to focus on research in a way I had not been able to,” says Haelyn. Read the full article at:

Prof. Bo Sun has received an NSF CAREER award for his biophysics research. Please look at the longer IMPACT article for details. (And he’s also the 2019 Richard T. Jones New Investigator Award for the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon, more details on that after the ceremony in Portland later this term.)

Jake Jacobs (far right) and his family.

Robert  “Jake” Jacobs has been awarded a NASA Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) award for 2019 in the competitive Earth Science Division. With this award, he is developing a method to analyze latitudinal circulation utilizing satellite measurements of ocean surface vector winds measured by the QuickSCAT and ASCAT scatterometers. Our objectives are to improve understanding of climatological atmospheric circulation patterns and how surface winds in the tropical Pacific influence El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. Latitudinal circulation plays an important role in weather and climate variability as it shapes where precipitation falls and how heat moves from the equator to polar regions. Improved accuracy of the boundaries between large-scale atmospheric cells can advance our understanding of climate and weather models.

Robert “Jake” Jacobs has been awarded a NASA Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) award for 2019 in the competitive Earth Science Division.  With this award, he is developing a method to analyze latitudinal circulation utilizing satellite measurements of ocean surface vector winds measured by the QuickSCAT and ASCAT scatterometers.  Our objectives are to improve understanding of climatological atmospheric circulation patterns and how surface winds in the tropical Pacific influence El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events.  Latitudinal circulation plays an important role in weather and climate variability as it shapes where precipitation falls and how heat moves from the equator to polar regions.  Improved accuracy of the boundaries between large-scale atmospheric cells can advance our understanding of climate and weather models.

This type of work while exciting is not new, as astronautical projects have been a driving force in Jake’s life. His passion for space has taken him from an undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering, from Purdue University, to satellite remote sensing at Oregon State University (OSU) where he is completing a PhD in Physics. Before arriving at OSU, Jake obtained a master’s degree in physics from Eastern Michigan University (EMU). While there, he worked with funds from the NASA Space Grant to develop an ion source that would be used in sputtering experiments to model the solar wind.

Connecting with his advisor, Dr. Larry O’Neill at OSU, has created an excellent partnership, as they bring different strengths to the table.  Dr. O’Neill’s wealth of experience has helped Jake to greatly advance his knowledge of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.  While Jake’s physics and math background have assisted with advancing spatial derivative analysis techniques.  This newest project has combined Jake’s passion for physics and math with a novel astronautical venture. He greatly looks forward to continuing this project with the support of the FINESST Fellowship.

In his limited free time, Jake enjoys reading, hiking, swimming and playing disc golf with his two small children, wife and two dogs.  An extra joy in his life is watching his children grow to love the universe and all its boundless opportunities.  The family also enjoys star gazing, which can be difficult in Oregon, so they use a home star theater system to learn about space, stars and the world above.