Department Head's Corner
Dean Zollman
 

Our Department continues with transitions and recognition while building for a strong future.  This past year was notable for a number of state-wide and national awards as well as the addition of new faculty and staff.  At the same time a couple of long-time staff members decided to start enjoying their retirement.  So, we continue to do well and to make changes.

During the first two months of 2004 both Bob Geering and Dea Richard retired.  Dea had been the Administrative Assistant for the Macdonald Lab for over twenty years.  She kept things in order for the Lab (and particularly for its faculty) during 7 or 8 Department of Energy reviews and even held the Lab together when it went through a major upgrade in the 1980s.  Bob had been on the staff of our machine shop for twenty years.  During that time many of us came to depend on both the quality of his work and his advice in designing and building some very unique devices.  Some pictures of Bob’s retirement affair in the Department are available at http://web.phys.ksu.edu/Retirements/Geering/index.htm.  At that site you can see photos of a very rare event – Bob Geering wearing a coat and tie.  Bob and Dea are still in the Manhattan area so we have the pleasure of seeing and talking to them from time to time.

When Dea retired, Treva Singleton, who had been the Main Office receptionist, moved down the hall to become the Administrative Assistant for the Macdonald Lab.  She was replaced by Gisselle Wilson-Rivera, who now must help students figure out who their physics instructor is. 

This was the year that Pat Richard stepped down as Director of the Macdonald Lab.  Pat remains on the faculty and is enjoying research and teaching without a major administrative load.  Lew Cocke is now Lab Director.  I think that he is still enjoying research and teaching and is providing us and the Department of Energy with a major service by directing the Lab.

Two new faculty joined us this year.  In January Igor Litvinyuk became an Assistant Professor with a research specialty in atomic, molecular and optical physics.  Prior to coming to KSU Igor was a researcher at the Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences which is part of the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa.  He received his Ph.D. in 1997 from Florida State.  Glenn Horton-Smith came here as an Assistant Professor in August.  Glenn joined the High Energy Physics Group and is specializing in neutrino physics.  Glenn’s Ph.D. is from Cal. Tech. and he completed post-doctoral research work in Japan and at Cal. Tech.  Both Glenn and Igor have started well at KSU.

Glenn Horton-Smith

Igor Litvinyuk

We also recognized faculty who have been serving well in our Department.  Zenghu Chang, Associate Professor, earned tenure while Bharat Ratra was promoted to Professor.

We had a slight decrease in the number of graduates during this past year.  Four undergrads received BS degrees while we granted five MS and seven Ph.Ds.  Three of the undergrads went on to graduate school – three in physics and one in finance.  One MS student is now enrolled in a Ph.D. program where she expects to complete her dissertation with Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman.  See “This Year’s Graduates” in this newsletter to see who these graduates are and what they are doing now.

The most satisfying events of the year were the state, national and international recognitions which were received by our students and faculty.  Most gratifying is that the majority of these awards went to students and young faculty.  Mindy Koehler, a junior physics student, received a Claire Booth Luce Scholarship.  This program “promotes the advancement of American women through higher education in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics” (http://www.hluce.org/3cblfm.html).  Mindy’s scholarship provides substantial funds for her last two years as an undergraduate.  At the graduate level Matthew Berg received a NASA/Goddard Graduate Student Fellowship.  This Fellowship provides one year of funding and access to some research facilities at NASA.  Matt is working with Chris Sorensen and Amit Chakrabarti.

Mindy Koehler

Matt Berg

Two Assistant Professors received very significant awards this year.  Most recently, Eckhard von Toerne was awarded the Sophia Kovalevskaja Prize, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany.  “The aim is to give award-winners an opportunity to concentrate on high-level, innovative research work of their own choice…” (http://www.avh.de/en/programme/preise/kova.htm).  Eckhard will receive a stipend of 900,000 Euros to be spent over the next four years.  Unfortunately (for us) he needs to be in Germany to collect the prize.  Eckhard will be taking a leave-of-absence from KSU while he conducts high energy physics research in Bonn.  We are already looking forward to his return.

Sanjay Rebello received the Presidential Early Award for Scientists and Engineers.  The awardees are nominated by Federal agencies which fund science and engineering.  The White House then makes the final selection.  This year the awards were presented by John H. Marburger III, Science Advisor to the President at a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Kristan Corwin received an EPSCoR First Award.  These highly competitive grants are available only to new faculty who are just starting their independent research careers.  Kristan is a second-year faculty member and is using this award to establish her research lab in Ultrafast Metrology and Optical Spectroscopy.

Lew Cocke became the third member of our faculty to receive the Olin Petefish Award for research achievement in the basic sciences.  This award is part of the Higuchi Awards which are open to all faculty members at Regents’ institutions in Kansas.  Lew’s life-long work in atomic, molecular and optical physics was recognized by this award.

The final award, a National Science Foundation Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars went to me.  This award recognizes … who exemplify the ability to integrate their research and educational activities” (http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/ehr/due/programs/dts/).  It is described in more detail elsewhere in this newsletter.

While we old folks always feel good when we are recognized beyond the University, the most gratifying awards are those to the young faculty.  When we hire new faculty, we always hope that they will be so good that they make us look bad.  It seems like our young faculty are doing that well.

I cannot write one of these messages without discussing funding of the Department.  The State’s contribution to the KSU budget continues to decline.  For the past few years the State appropriation has been essentially constant, not corrected for inflation.  Thus, the State’s contribution in real dollars continues to decline.  In 1988 Kansas provided 42% of KSU’s total budget; today it contributes 27%.  To make up for this decline in public funding, the University has increased tuition substantially in the past few years and is likely to continue to do so in the near future. 

The Department’s finances are similar to the University’s.  We have a total annual budget of over $10 million.  Of that amount about $3 million comes from the University sources.  Most University money pays the staff and the 9-month salary of the faculty.  Essentially all research funding comes from Federal grants.  Of course, the dollars available for research outside the fields related to health research are also declining.  Our faculty has been competing very well for those dollars and our research funding has continued to increase slowly.

One of the most difficult types of funding to raise is money for undergraduate scholarships.  Such funding usually comes from contributions by alumni.  We rely on you to help us and in recent years you have been generous.  Thanks!!