Department Head's Corner
Dean Zollman
 

Writing for our annual newsletter is an opportunity for me to look back at the past year’s accomplishments in the KSU Physics Department.  At the same time our primary task is education, so we are always looking at how we are preparing ourselves and our students for the future.  We think that our accomplishments of this past year will, indeed, be an important contribution to a foundation on which the Department will continue to build.  Of course, we are always thankful that we have strong and successful alumni who continue to support our efforts in many ways, including financially, spreading the word about our programs and recommending that students consider K-State Physics for their education.  

This year we were able to add two new faculty members.  Yurii Maravin is an Assistant Professor who conducts research in high energy physics.  He has been working on the D0 experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Lab and has focused much of his work on photon identification.  He is an important component in our preparations for future high energy work which will center on a new accelerator at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.  Yurii’s Ph.D. is from Southern Methodist.  Prior to coming to KSU he was a post doc at Fermi Lab. 

Brian Washburn, also an Assistant Professor, joined us following a post doc at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.  His research area is atomic-molecular-optical physics with a specialty in ultrafast and nonlinear physics.  Brian uses fiber lasers which emit light pulses with very short time duration to study nonlinear optics.  His efforts will lead to a better understanding of phenomena involved in lasers and promise to have many practical applications.  He will be collaborating on many efforts with Kristan Corwin who joined our faculty a couple of years ago. 

We have two new staff members this year.  Russ Reynolds now works in our machine shop.  He has significant experience as a machinist and thus is immediately contributing to developing and building instruments for both teaching and research.  Robert Sumners has joined our computer support staff as a computer information specialist. 

The research staff includes four new post-doctoral research associates and three visiting scholars. 

The number of departures has been rather small this year.  As I mentioned last year Eckhard von Toerne was awarded the Sophia Kovalevskaja Prize, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.  Eckhard is now on a leave-of-absence from KSU while he conducts high energy physics research at the University in Bonn.  I visited Eckhard in July.  He is off to a good start and will be learning a lot that will contribute to his research program when he returns to KSU. 

Treva Singleton who worked in the main office and then for the Macdonald Lab left when her husband was transferred from Fort Riley to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  She is doing well there and certainly enjoying the warmer weather. 

A relatively large number of students completed a physics degree during the past year.  Nine students earned B.S. degrees.  As is typical of our students they are almost evenly split between continuing their education in graduate school and obtaining employment.  Five of the students are now enrolled in graduate studies.  Four students finished MS degrees.  All but one of them is continuing for a PhD.  An additional four students earned PhDs.  Three of them now hold post-doctoral research positions while the fourth is conducting research in a government laboratory. 

At the input end we have the largest class of freshman physics majors that any of us can remember -- fifteen students.  We also have 15 new graduate students.  As usual the incoming graduate students come to KSU with very diverse backgrounds.  Seven of the students completed undergraduate work in the US while the remaining are from Asia, Europe and the Middle East.  This year, seven of the new graduate students are women. 

We have received a number of reports about the activities of our alumni.  They are included elsewhere in this newsletter.  One award from KSU went to Joe Gray who received his Ph.D. under the direction of Jim Legg in 1972.  The KSU Alumni Association honored Joe for his work in cancer research by selecting him as one of two Alumni Fellows from the College of Arts & Sciences.  More information appears in an article in this newsletter. 

Bill Romig who received a BS in physics in 1966 is the Ernest Fox Nichols Lecturer for 2005.  Because of scheduling conflicts (primarily mine not Bill’s) his visit to campus and lecture will occur early next semester. 

Those of you who are members of the Alumni Association may recognize the photo of one of our alumni in the most recent K-Stater magazine (see page 23).  Jonathan Winkler who received a BS in physics in 1998 was a Rhodes Scholar.  He continued to study at Oxford and is now finishing a doctorate in economics and social history. 

Our students and faculty continue to bring accolades to themselves and our department.  One of our graduate students, Mark Smith, received an award to meet with a group of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany.  Mark was one of only 60 science graduate students to receive this expenses-paid trip.  A physics minor, David Thompson from Burlingame, is a new Goldwater Fellow.  I believe that David is the first physics minor to receive the prestigious national award.  Six physics majors have also been recipients. 

Young and not-so-young faculty have also garnered national and international honors again this year.  Kristan Corwin, Assistant Professor, received an NSF CAREER Award.  This five-year grant is “the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.”  (NSF Web site)  Kristen is the third KSU Physics Assistant Professor to receive this award in recent years. 

Also prestigious is the Department of Energy’s Outstanding Junior Investigator Award.  This award is to “identify exceptionally talented new high energy physicists early in their careers and to assist and facilitate the development of their research programs.”  (DOE Web site)  One of this year’s recipients is Glenn Horton-Smith who joined our Department just last year.  Glenn is also the third KSU Physics Assistant Professor to receive this award in recent years. 

Senior faculty have also been recognized.  Bharat Ratra was selected for Fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  AAAS bestows fellowship on scientists to recognize “meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications.”  Bharat was recognized for his contributions to cosmology.   

Lew Cocke has been selected as the 2006 recipient of the American Physical Society’s Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics.  The award recognizes Lew’s “sustained record of novel experimental developments and new insights into interactions of ion and photon beams with atoms and molecules.”  While this award is awarded by the APS, scientists from all parts of the world are eligible.  The Davisson-Germer Prize is the highest international award given specifically for work in atomic physics.

 

Most recently Talat Rahman’s work on “walking molecules” was cited by the American Institute of Physics as one of the 25 top physics stories of 2005. 

Our research funding has held steady at slightly more than $7 million from external funds.  Thus, the lion’s share of the funding for the department comes from sources different from state appropriations.   

I am now in the fifth year of a five year appointment as Department Head.  While I am accepting a second term, I will also be taking sabbatical beginning in the summer of 2006.  I will be spending the 2006-07 academic year in Munich and Kiel, Germany, and hope to thoroughly enjoy being able to concentrate on issues of teaching and learning of physics. 

As you can see from this summary of the year’s activities, we continue to focus on our teaching and research missions.  Our faculty and students are doing very well.  Our success has always depended on your help.  State financial support for higher education continues to drop in Kansas and throughout the country.  KSU, as with most other state universities, has no choice but to significantly increase tuition.  At the same time the number of physics students seems to be growing.  Thus, we need to provide more scholarships and increase their amounts.  We can do so only with your continued support.  All of our faculty and students are very grateful for all of the generous support that our alumni have given in the past.  We hope that you will continue to think of us and support us in the future.