Department’s Head Corner
The past year had some significant ups and downs. The downs involved the weather, the budget, and the departure of some long-time faculty. The ups were continued excellence in learning, teaching and research, outstanding students, and the arrival of two faculty who are taking our condensed matter research in a new direction.
During the night of June 11 a serious tornado moved through Manhattan. Major damage but no serious injuries occurred in the western side of town before the tornado “skipped” and came back down near the western edge of the campus. Cardwell Hall was directly in the path of the storm. We lost about 40 windows, a couple of ceilings, part of a roof and some of the air handling system. Internal damage was somewhat small but certainly very annoying. The University responded quickly. Windows were boarded over and then replaced within a few days. A temporary and then permanent roof replacement was finished by the end of the summer. The faculty, staff, and students took a very positive approach and helped get things back together quickly. (Well, a few tempers did flare when the University Safety Office closed the building for two days to test for asbestos. Physicists don’t like to be forced out of the lab.)
As with most of the country Kansas is experiencing serious financial problems. We, as a University, are now working to maintain the essential features of our teaching and research programs while responding to decreases in State funding. So far, the University has been very supportive of our Department. We are one of the few departments who are being allowed to hire new faculty this year.
At the end of the summer Hongxing Jiang and Jingyu Lin moved to Texas Tech where they will be the basis of a new multi-million dollar research and development effort in semiconductor research. Each of them holds an endowed professorship in the Texas Tech College of Engineering.
Their departure enabled us to make a major change in the direction of the Condensed Matter research effort. Except for semiconductors, most of our condensed matter research has been in soft condensed matter. Building on the soft matter theme we have hired two people who bring research related to biological systems. Bret Flanders joined us as an Associate Professor. He was previously on the faculty at Oklahoma State. Robert Szoszkiewicz came from a post-doc position at Columbia. They are off to a good start. More information about them and their research is contained in other articles in this newsletter.
We occasionally have hosted get-togethers for alumni in particular geographical areas. However, you are scattered throughout the country and the world), so very few parts of the country have a sufficient number to warrant organizing such an affair. One of our alumni has suggested that we should have a combination reunion and conference at K-State. We could learn about each other’s work after many (or a few) years and generally catch up. If you would be interested in coming to Manhattan for such an affair, please let me know.
Our students continue to do well. Once again two of the four students who have been nominated by KSU for the national Goldwater Scholarship competition are physics students. All science, math, and engineering students are eligible for this nomination, so physics students make up less than 1% of those eligible. Yet, frequently 25-50% of the nominees are physics majors or minors. Even better, more than 10% of K-State’s recipients have been physics majors or minors.
Our alumni and friends continue to play a major role in the successes of our students. Your support of undergraduate scholarships and research forms the foundation for the funds that we can provide to students. With the difficult economic times ahead, we plan to maintain our scholarship program as close to our past levels as possible. Because of your continued generosity we should be able to maintain our student support. Once again, thank you.