Tyler Parsotan
Tyler Parsotan

Tyler Parsotan has been awarded a NASA Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) award for 2019 in the extremely competitive Astrophysics category. His proposal, titled “Demystifying the Interplay between Explosion Dynamics and Electromagnetic Radiation in Gamma Ray Bursts”, was one of the 11% of selected proposals in this category.

Originally from NY, Tyler is a first generation student. His family is from the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. He acquired a BS in Space Physics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is now working on a PhD in Physics at Oregon State University.

Tyler is currently a fourth year graduate student working with Dr. Davide Lazzati on understanding the most powerful explosions in the Universe known as Gamma Ray Bursts. These events are so energetic that in the first few seconds of the explosion, they release more energy than our sun will emit in its entire lifetime. Understanding these events allows us to get a better handle on how matter behaves in extreme conditions and may eventually lead to using these Gamma Ray Bursts as tools that can uncover new cosmological truths.

Besides working on his research project, Tyler is the president and co-founder fo the OSU astronomy Club. The club is focused on fostering interest in astronomy at OSU and the community of Corvallis in general. Tyler, with the help of many other undergraduate and graduate students, has hosted the Astronomy Open House events where members fo the public are invited to Weniger Hall to learn about astronomy though interactive demos and rooftop observations. More information regarding OSU Astronomy can be found at: https://physics.oregonstate.edu/astronomy-club

The Apollo Chronicles: Engineering America’s First Moon Missions” (Oxford University Press) is Professor Brandon R. Brown‘s second book, published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first moonwalk by the astronauts of Apollo 11 in 1969. Brown’s book chronicles the work of the engineers driving the endeavor, and his family was part of that experience – his father was an engineer at NASA working on the Apollo missions at the time.

The book made its debut June 13 and there was a launch party at Folio Books in San Francisco. The Apollo Chronicles is reviewed in the “Books and Arts” section of the July 8 edition of Nature and by American Scientist, which said, “Brown shows the engineers meeting tough deadlines and performing technical miracles, drawing schematics around the clock, making mistakes, coping with warning lights that blinked at the worst possible time, and regrouping after the tragic death of three astronauts in a fire that broke out in the capsule during a simulated countdown early in 1967.”

 Now Professor and Chair of Physics at the University of San Francisco, Brandon is a graduate of our department. He earned his Ph.D. degree in Physics from OSU in 1997, studying vortex depinning in single-crystal YBaCuO in Janet Tate’s group. He subsequently spent a year studying science writing at the University of Santa Cruz, earning a post-doctoral certificate in Science Communication. After joining USF as an Assistant Professor of Physics, he pursued research in biosensing, and published several well-received articles on how sharks perceive temperature changes using a sensitive gel present in their noses. He has taught many, many different courses and is a gifted teacher. He has done several stints as department chair and has also served as Associate Dean for Sciences.

In 2015 Brandon published his first book, Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War (Oxford University Press), a biography of Max Planck and his path through World War II. From Planck to the Apollo missions – where will he go next?!

[Images from Professor Brown’s web page and Oxford University Press.]

Addendum, July 15.
Prof. Brown has recently published two short columns discussing aspects of his book.
Scientific American 7/12/19: Celebrating the Engineers behind the First Moon Landing
Smithsonian Guest Blog 7/12/19: Apollo Engineers Discuss What It Took to Land on the Moon

In January 2019, undergraduate students McKenzie Meyer, Austin Mullins, Acacia Patterson, Elena Wennstrom and Kasey Yoke, accompanied by graduate students Mackenzie Lenz and Nicole Quist, participated in the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) at the University of Washington. The conference is a venue for students to share their research, to hear from successful women in physics, to learn about graduate school and employment, and to meet other physicists. The participants heard from keynote speaker Dr. Fabiola Gianotti of CERN, and others who discussed their careers and addressed the barriers to the success of women and minorities in STEM. The group also toured condensed matter labs in UW’s physics department and labs at the Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics, which are interested in dark matter, accelerator physics, nuclear physics, and gravity. During the “Physics Slam,” faculty members competed to deliver the most entertaining presentation of their research, and one of the many attendees to present posters was OSU’s Kasey Yoke who authored “Validation of Anti-Neutrino Data from the MINERvA Experiment at Fermilab” co-authored by physics department head Dr. Heidi Schellman. The group also heard from a career panel highlighting the diverse employment opportunities for physicists, and they had the opportunity to meet with representatives of employers in small groups. The participants attended sessions including those on impostor syndrome, applying and succeeding in graduate school, participating in undergraduate research, applying to jobs in the industry, and writing in science. This annual conference is open to all undergraduate physics majors and proved to be an invaluable experience for the attendees. There are several venues around the country where the CUWiP conferences are held simultaneously. OSU hosted the Pacific Northwest CUWiP conference in 2016 and in 2020, the Pacific Northwest CUWiP will be at Washington State University.

Congratulations to Okan Agirseven of the Tate lab! Okan received the $500 Graduate Student Travel Award from the OSU Graduate School to attend the 30th International Conference on Defects in Semiconductors.  ICDS-30 will be held in Seattle, WA, in July 2019 and is one of the premier international conferences in the field.  Okan will be giving a contributed talk at the conference about his work on amorphous titania thin films.  Okan has learned how to make specific polymorphs of crystalline TiO2 from sputtered amorphous precursor films. This project is part of a larger effort to study metastable materials in the Department-of-Energy-sponsored Energy Frontier Research Center led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  Co-authors on the work are Janet Tate, Tate group alums David Rivella and James Haggerty (who started the project as part of his doctoral research) and current undergraduates Patrick Berry, Kelda Diffendaffer and Acacia Patterson. Collaborators are  Brian Gorman and John Mangum from Colorado School of Mines, John Perkins from NREL and Laura Schelhas from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Weimin C. Han

Congratulations to Weimin Han (OSU Physics, Ph.D. 1992) who has been selected as an Intel Fellow! Weimin joins a select group of people so honored by one of the world’s largest tech companies. He is currently Director of Thin Film Technology at Intel’s campus in Hillsboro, OR, and has been with Intel since 1992.

Weimin remembers his time at OSU very fondly. “I am proud of OSU Physics and had a great, fun time while I was at OSU 30 years ago!” he said in a recent email. We remember that Weimin was an excellent student and that he has been a wonderful ambassador for our program.

Weimin’s Ph.D. dissertation was on the NMR of GaAs at high temperature. His thesis advisor was Prof. John Gardner, who has since retired from OSU to start ViewPlus Technologies, an industry-leading manufacturer of high-definition tactile graphics. John says, “I am really proud of Weimin. He and I are much more than teacher/student. We are good friends.” John credits Weimin with helping him through a particularly difficulty period in his life. When John lost his sight in 1988, Weimin took him to the hospital several times and even took him on his first skiing trip as a blind person. “He is one of the nicest people on earth,” says John. One of the nicest people on earth is also one of the most technically and intellectually talented, and deserves such an honor! Well done, Weimin!

Elaine Yunker Whiteley

Elaine Yunker Whiteley passed away in Portland on January 4, 2019. Elaine and her husband Ben Whiteley were long-time supporters of OSU Physics, the College of Science and the University. Elaine was the daughter of Edwin Yunker, former chair of OSU Physics. Elaine and her brother Wayne Yunker and other family and friends of Ed Yunker established an endowment to support the Yunker Lecture series, which has brought many distinguished speakers to the Physics Department to share their passion for science. Elaine and Ben also established the Whiteley fellowship, supporting graduate students in Materials Physics and Chemistry. Elaine and Ben received the College of Science Distinguished Service Award in 2016.

Elaine was also a patron of the arts, an avid reader and she loved the outdoors. At her memorial service in Portland, Elaine was fondly remembered by her sons Stephen and Ben Jr as a kind, generous, intelligent and determined woman. That’s how we remember her, too. We will miss Elaine and Ben’s presence at the Yunker Lectures, but their gift lives on.


Link to the obituary of Elaine Whiteley in the Oregonian.

Graduate Student Jihan Kim has won the 2018 Physics Department Graduate Research Award

Jihan Kim in the lab

Jihan Kim works with Prof. Bo Sun on biophysical problems. Jihan’s research focuses on the mechanics of cancer-extra-cellular medium (ECM) interactions, which is one of the major factors dictating the physiology of tumors. This is a particularly fertile ground for interdisciplinary research, as physicists are  trained to analyze forces in complex systems. Jihan takes advantage of his physics knowledge in understanding deep biological questions.

Jihan’s first project is to measure the force exerted by cancer cells in 3D collagen matrices, which simulate a realistic tissue environment. He quickly learned MATLAB programing, and wrote a sophisticated image analysis algorithm to enhance images, and to determine the 3D deformation field caused by cancer cells. After publishing his first paper in PLoS ONE, Jihan noticed that a pair of cancer cells can permanently remodel a collagen matrix by creating a bundle of concentrated collagen fibers between them. He talked to a friend during the APS meeting about the observation, which eventually evolved into a collaborative project published in Nature Communications.

Having studied the forces generated by cancer cells and how these forces modify the cells’ environment, Jihan is working on his latest project. In this project, he studies how the environment direct cancer migration. Once completed, his PhD thesis will have a completed loop indicating the feedback between cancer cells and their physical environment.

A belated post from last Fall:

Ethan Minot, associate professor of physics, received the Milton Harris Award in Basic Research for his impressive accomplishments as a scientist. At Oregon State, Minot has built a world-class materials physics laboratory for the study of the structure and properties of carbon nanomaterials and devices for nanoelectronics.

Ethan Minot (center) receiving the award with Prof. Janet Tate (left) and Dean Roy Haggerty (right).

His research at Oregon State has pushed the limit of fundamental properties of nanoelectronic devices, which have a broad range of applications to biosensing and solar energy harvesting. Some of his achievements are: identifying the fundamental noise mechanism that limits the performance of graphene biosensors in liquid environments; becoming the first to electrically generate and detect single point defects; reaching a new level of control over point defect chemistry; and other pioneering advances in the development of high-quality nanodevices and biosensors.

Reposted from http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2018/10/recognizing-research-and-administrative-excellence/

Scanning electron micrograph of a carbon nanotube (white filament) connecting metal electrodes (shaded yellow).

Undergraduate volunteers from the Department of Physics presented kid-friendly demonstrations at the annual Family Science Night at Franklin School, Corvallis, on January 24th.


The hands-on demonstrations focused on the electromagnetic spectrum, from invisible infra-red wavelengths to ultra-violet wavelengths, and everything in between. With an infra-red camera, kids could see through black plastic bags and discover warm hand prints on the table, and show their parents the heat leaks in a model house. At the other end of the spectrum, kids played with fluorescent markers and brought their artwork to life in a UV light box.

Many thanks to our undergraduate volunteers Rosemary Williams, Garrett Jepson, Christian Wood and Hunter Nelson.

Physics will attend several more Family Science Nights at local schools in the upcoming weeks.

Oksana Ostroverkhova, Professor of Physics at Oregon State University, and a leading expert on organic electronics, is the editor of the  second edition of Elsevier Publishing Company’s “Handbook of Organic Materials for Electronic and Photonic Devices”.  This 911-page handbook provides an overview of the materials, mechanisms, characterization techniques, and structure property relationships of organic electronic and photonic materials and describes the latest advances in the field. Oksana selected the topics, solicited contributions from the authors, and edited the entire book. and the result, at least a year in the making, is a comprehensive overview of a quickly-developing field.

This is the second handbook that Oksana has edited. The first, “Handbook of Organic Materials for Optical and (Opto)Electronic Devices“, appeared in 2013 and was published by Woodhead Publishing.  Oksana also wrote an extensive review of her own on a related topic that was published in Chemical Reviews in 2016: “Organic Optoelectronic Materials: Mechanisms and Applications”
Chemical Reviews 116, 13279 – 13412 (2016). This review is already her most highly cited publication from her time at Oregon State University.