Dr. Walsh received College of Science Faculty Scholar award for recognition of his exceptional contributions to his discipline and Oregon State University. This is a three-year titled endowed position. See more details at https://internal.science.oregonstate.edu/faculty-and-staff-awards/college-science-whiteley-faculty-scholar-teaching-excellence-award-and-osu

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.

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 https://universityday.oregonstate.edu/award-recipients.

[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) (https://arxiv.org/abs/1709.01468)

[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) (https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.01157)

[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) (https://arxiv.org/abs/1712.03237).

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 https://blogs.oregonstate.edu/astronomyclub/.

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.)
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 https://www.samhealth.org/randallm 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.

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.