Congratulations to a physics major Alexander Quinn who received an Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Creativity (URISC) Award for Fall/Winter 2016-2017 sponsored by the OSU Research Office. Alex (pictured while performing experiments) will work with Prof. Oksana Ostroverkhova on a project titled “Investigating Xylindein, a Fungus-Derived Pigment, as a Candidate for use in Sustainable Optoelectronic Devices”. Alex is planning to graduate in the Spring of 2017 and continue his education as a graduate student in physics. His longer-term plan is to work in the area of sustainable materials and renewable energy.


Scott Clark, B.S. 2008, was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in 2016:

After graduating from OSU (where he earned 3 BS degrees in Physics, Math, and Computational Physics), Scott went on to a Ph.D. in Mathematics at Cornell, worked for Yelp, and then started his own company called SigOpt.
Thanks to Janet Tate for the news!

Scientists from the Physics Department visited the first grade classes (about 100 students) at Clover Ridge Elementary School. Atul Chhotray and Davide Lazzati used solar telescopes to give students an introduction to astronomy. Nicole Quist, Jacob Bigelow and Ethan Minot used an assortment of interactive demos to explain the amazing things we can do with air. From pushing a sail boat with giant air molecules, to floating on a hover craft. Nicole: “Raise your hands if you want to say something.” Student: “That was awesome!”

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Hiral Patel and Kyle Vogt are Physics Ph.D. students in the Graham Lab.  Both contributed to a major conference called CLEO in San Jose (4,600 attendees) that is sponsored by APS, OSA and IEEE.  Kyle presented his paper as a talk.   Hiral’s poster received the highest traffic and the most votes, and the Optical Society of America awarded her the “Outstanding Student Poster Presentation Award” from the OSA Optical Material Studies Technical Group.


Congratulations to a physics major Graham Founds who received an Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Creativity (URISC) Award for Summer 2016 for his project titled “Optical Tweezers-Based Probing of Charge Transfer in Organic Semiconductors at Microscopic Scales” ! The URISC program is a university-wide competition of undergraduate proposals sponsored by the OSU Research Office. Graham’s proposal was among 8 compelling undergraduate proposals that were selected for funding. Graham (pictured below) has been a member of Organic Photonics and Optoelectronics Group led by Prof. Oksana Ostroverkhova at OSU Physics department since September 2015. With the URISC funding, he will continue working with Prof. Ostroverkhova over the summer towards demonstrating a new experimental technique for measuring charge transfer between molecules with elementary charge resolution. Graham is planning to graduate in the Spring of 2017 and to continue his education as a graduate student in physics. His longer-term plan is to join the US Air Force laboratories as a research scientist.

Physics undergraduate student Graham Founds setting up his experiment.
Physics undergraduate student Graham Founds setting up his experiment.

The Department of Physics is proud to announce that four undergraduate students are recipients of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in Science (SURE Science) Scholarships. Jeremy Meinke will be working in Prof. Weihong Qiu’s Lab to determine how OsKCH2 –a nanometer-sized biological motor protein– moves on the filamentous microtubule track using high precision single-molecule microscopy. Mirek Brandt and Ikaika Mckeague-McFadden will be working in Prof. Matt Graham’s Lab on the novel electronic and optical properties of two-dimensional and organic materials. Katelyn Chase will be working in Prof. Bo Sun’s lab to develop microfludics endothelium-on-chips devices for studying the collective endothelium shear stress sensing during embryo development. Many thanks to the College of Science and to the scholarship donors that made theses full-time summer-Science research scholarships possible.

On May 9th, Mercury transited the Sun and the crack physics solar telescope team (Randy Milstein and Jim Ketter) took a chance on a break in the clouds and set up 3 telescopes in the quad.  The sky cleared and over 40 people stopped by to see the transit before it ended right before lunch.  If anyone has a photo taken at this event, send it along and we will post it.


Randy Milstein helps visitors see Mercury transit the sun.
Randy Milstein helps visitors see Mercury transit the sun.

On April 12, Physics cohosted the Science Pub at the Old World Deli.

Crowd waiting for the talk to start.
Crowd waiting for the talk to start.

Shane Larson of Northwestern University/Adler planetarium ( BS Physics 1991)  presented the latest news on gravitational waves from the LIGO experiment to over 170 enthusiastic attendees after a pub quiz that no-one, including Shane and Physics Chair Heidi Schellman got 100%.  VP for Research Cindy Sagers won a prize for being one of 3 people to get 8/10!



Physics alum Shane Larson demonstrating gravitational interactions.
Physics alum Shane Larson demonstrating gravitational interactions.

Shane’s talk is posted at This location.


Prof. Shirley Dow Stekel, who graduated from our department in 1961 has sent us the following eye-witness history of the move to Weniger hall.  You can find more about Prof. Stekel at our blog post about her recent visit.

Weniger Hall, soon after its construction.
Weniger Hall, soon after its construction.


Shirley Dow Stekel

February 2016


When I arrived on the Oregon State College campus as a freshman in September 1954, the Physics Department was housed in a building attached to the old (1913) Mines Building (now ‘Batcheller Hall’). This addition, constructed in 1928 for the growing Physics Department, was referred to as the ‘Physics Building’. After the Physics Department moved to its current location, this building was named ‘Covell Hall’. My recollection of the Physics Building is that it seemed very old fashioned with an abundance of very dark woodwork. My brother1 has a similar recollection of this building.

In 1954, the Physics Department office was on the main floor with two lecture rooms at the end of the hall; a larger one and a smaller one. A few professors had offices on this floor, but office space was scarce and those who taught specialty labs had a desk in their lab instead of a proper office. The specialty labs were on the second floor. Some non-physics offices, such as the School of Science Office and the KOAC radio station studio and record library were on the third floor. By this time, the KOAC transmitter had been moved to an off campus site. The basement was also well used. The General Physics lab and Modern Physics lab were there and I think there was a small shop. One otherwise unused lab room with large wooden tables and wooden chairs served as a “home room” for all of the graduate students. (When I was a first year graduate student, I found the library a much quieter and more pleasant place to study.) At this time, there was no calculus-based Engineering Physics course so the first year ‘General Physics’ course was large. With only one room for the many lab sections, Saturday morning lab sessions were needed to accommodate all of the students. (Space was short all over campus and many multi-section, 3-credit courses had Tue-Thur-Sat AM sections. I remember having General Physics labs and Calculus classes on Saturday mornings.)

An essay in the Physics Department section of the OSU archives contains the following description: “During the last decade of occupancy of the Physics Building, the department was in serious need for space. Office space was so short that two full professors occupied a 10 foot by 10 foot room and many of the faculty had their offices in teaching laboratories. There was not even a laboratory for staff research and only four for graduate student research. Furthermore, there were no recitation rooms in the Physics Department, although the three lecture rooms served as recitation rooms at times.”2

A new building for the Physics Department was a wonderful idea! We watched the new building slowly rise via ‘lift-slab’ construction. First the support pillars were installed, then concrete was poured to form a floor and then that floor was slowly raised by electric motors placed atop each pillar. And then the process was repeated. Something malfunctioned when one of the floors had been lifted about two feet and the floor broke into two parts. This floor was repaired and was successfully lifted on the second attempt. In March of 1959, the Physics Department began to move into the new ‘Physics – Chemistry’ building although painters were still working inside. Graduate students were expected to stay on campus during Spring Break to help with the moving. I was a first year graduate student at this time. Much of the small equipment was loaded onto lab carts and pushed up to the new building. The large freight elevator in the new building was much appreciated when a load needed to be taken to one of the upper floors.

The new building was a delight with lots of windows, good lighting, bright new labs with storage closets, many comfortable offices and a library/meeting room. Each professor had his own office and other offices were shared by two graduate students. My own desk and a blackboard on the wall provided a fine place to study and grade papers. It was a great morale booster to have office space.

In 1961, the second half of the building was completed to form the building now called ‘Weniger Hall’. Other departments shared the space in the new building. These included the School of Science, Science Education, General Science and Agricultural Chemistry. “Built at a cost of five million dollars, this unit gives Oregon State University one of the largest and best equipped science teaching and research centers in the United States.” “Part of the construction and equipment cost was paid by generous grants from the U.S. Public Health Service and by the National Science foundation.”3

The dedication for the Physics – Chemistry Building was held on October 26 and 27, 1962. The distinguished guests included two representatives from the Oregon State System of Higher Education and the previous Dean of the Oregon State University School of Science. The three invited speakers for this event were well known scientists: Dr. Edwin M. McMillan, Director of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and Nobel Prize winner; Dr. Willard F. Libby, former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Nobel Prize winner; and Dr. Homer Newell Director of Space Sciences for the National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration.3

‘Weniger Hall’ became the official name of the Physics – Chemistry Building in 1966. This name change honored Dr. Willibald Weniger who spent most of his career at Oregon State College. Dr. Weniger was born in Milwaukee, WI and received his PhD in 1908 from the University of Wisconsin. “The Department of Physics at Oregon Agricultural College was started in 1908 with the appointment of Dr. Willibald Weniger as Assistant Professor of Physics by President William Jasper Kerr. Dr. Weniger was at that time, the only PhD on the staff of the College.” 4 After an absence during World War I, he returned to Oregon State College in 1920 as head of the Physics department. Dr. Weniger was Dean of the Graduate Division at the time he reached mandatory retirement age in 1949.5 After retiring from Oregon State College, he spent four years at the University of Alaska. He passed away in Corvallis on March 14, 1959.5


  1. Wayne Dow: BS engineering 1963; MBA 1970
  2. The Second New Physics Building. An essay written by a Physics faculty member in 1966. In the ‘History of the Physics Department’ section of the OSU digital archives.
  3. Dedication of Physics – Chemistry Building. An essay written by a Physics faculty member. (Probably Dr. James J. Brady) In the ‘History of the Physics Department’ section of the OSU digital archives.
  4. Introduction to the ‘History of the Physics Department’. OSU digital archives.
  5. Biographical Note, ‘Willibald Weniger Papers’. OSU digital archives.