Alumni - News
Department Alumnus Shares Breakthrough 2015 Prize
Congratulations to Department Alum, Dr. Ron Gilliland (BA ASTR, MATH, PHSX 1974), for being one of the scientists awarded the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. This prize was awarded to two supernova teams for their discovery of Dark Energy. The Breakthrough Prize was started in 2012 by a group of tech giants that includes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The prize awards $3 million each to researchers who have made fundamental breakthroughs in life sciences, physics and mathematics.The complete press release can be accessed at this link.
Birth of Planets Revealed in Astonishing Detail in ALMA's 'Best Image Ever'
Astronomers have captured the best image ever of planet formation around an infant star as part of the testing and verification process for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array's (ALMA) new high-resolution capabilities. This revolutionary new image reveals in astonishing detail the planet-forming disk surrounding HL Tau, a Sun-like star located approximately 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. "These features are almost certainly the result of young planet-like bodies that are being formed in the disk. This is surprising since HL Tau is no more than a million years old and such young stars are not expected to have large planetary bodies capable of producing the structures we see in this image," said ALMA Deputy Director Stuartt Corder (KU ASTR, PHSX BS, 2001). The complete NRAO press release can be found at this link.
First Recipients of New KU Scholarship Named
Two University of Kansas juniors have been named the first Gene R. Feaster Physics Scholars. Emily Ann Smith, majoring in physics and interdisciplinary computing, and Daniel Rhodes, majoring in physics, were awarded the scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year. The scholarship covers tuition costs for one year for each recipient. The scholarship was established by alumnus Gene Feaster, who invented a medical device called Superflab that is used in radiology clinics across the country. The complete press release can be found at this link.
Dr. Surujhdeo Seunarine (Ph.D. Physics 2001) has joined the physics faculty at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. He continues as a collaborator with the IceCube neutrino telescope project. He and his wife, Carla, now have a boy, Liam (3) and a girl, Lily (4 months). Sleep is rare, he says.
Mary Davidson 1926-2014
Martin Gutzwiller 1925-2014
The Department was saddened to hear of the passing of two individuals with deep connections to the history of the program, Dr. Mary Davidson , widow of Dr. Jack Davidson, long-time faculty member and Department Chair in the 70's and 80's, and Dr. Martin Gutzwiller, internationally reknown physicist and member of the National Academy of Sciences who received his PhD in Physics from KU in 1953 under the direction of Max Dresden. Detailed obituaries can be found at this link for Dr. Davidson and this link for Dr. Gutzwiller.
Dr. Stephen Floor (BS Physics, Computer Science 2005), married Liz Montabana in 2012 and became the father of a baby son in June of last year. Steve writes that he has been working with Jennifer Doudna at Berkeley on the structure and function of proteins that change the folding of RNA since 2011 as is "really excited about phase separation in the cell cytoplasm lately - a really interesting intersection of physics and biology. Regarding his son, he says "Miles was born in San Francisco and is growing up in Berkeley, so basically we read him Marx and Mao as bedtime stories. I anticipate he'll be dreadlocked by 3 years old and living in a yurt in the backyard at 8."
Dr. Floor is featured in an alumni profile accessible within the KU Center for Undergraduate Research website at this site.
Julie Feldt (BS Astronomy 2009) has started a job as an educator at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, working with the citizen science group on education research involving the different projects provided by Zooniverse.org. The work is meant to understand participant motivation and how the experience could be improved educationally. Julie will also be involved in other education-related events with the citizen science group, such as school visits, hack days, development of educational tools for the projects to be used in classrooms, and teacher professional development.
Pioneer of Atomic Physics: L. Worth Seagondollar 1920-2013
A substantial portion of the current issue of Radiations, the magazine of the Sigma Pi Sigma physics honorary society, is devoted to Dr. L. Worth Seagondollar, who passed away in Sept. Dr. Seagondollar earned an AB degree from Kansas State Teachers College at Emporia, Kansas in 1941, and a PhM (1943) and PhD (1948) in physics from the University of Wisconsin. Between 1944 and 1946 Seagondollar worked with the Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory complex. At Los Alamos he "worked on critical mass experiments and was nine miles from the first man-made nuclear explosion." Seagondollar's career included academic appointments at the University of Kansas (1947-65) and North Carolina State University (1965-91) where he was chair of physics from 1965-75. At KU, he participated in the building of the first Van de Graaff accelerator, a research tool in low-energy nuclear physics. According to Prof. Emeritus Dick Sapp, he was a "fun guy" who kept a pirated piece of fused glass from the first nuclear test site. He became Sigma Pi Sigma advisor, which was to continue for the next 40 years. He was central to the formation of the modern version of Sigma Pi Sigma. A service award is given in his name by Sigma Pi Sigma. The press release from NC State can be accessed at this link.
Al(ma)umni Changes for 2014 Dr. Stuartt Corder (left) (BS ASTR, MATH, PHSX 2001), after playing an integral role in development of ALMA, the submillimeter array in Chile, has accepted the role of Deputy Director in Charge of Operations at ALMA. The press release can be accessed at this link. Dr. Jim Hesser (right) (BA ASTR 1963) retired from his position as Director of the DAO effective January 2, 2014. Jim was awarded a 35 year service pin earlier this summer and he has served as the Director of the DAO with great distinction since 1986. In a moment of Jayhawk continuity, Jim is leaving the ALMA Board just as Stuartt is joining.
Alumnus Pens Revised Verson of Wind Energy Book
Dr. Vaughn Nelson, (PhD 1967), professor emeritus at West Texas A&M University, has published a second edition of his book, Wind Energy, with CRC Press in December 2013. This new edition adds sections on community wind power generation and storage, and updates material throughout. The phenomenal growth of wind power for utilities is covered along with applications such as wind-diesel, village power, telecommunications, street lighting, etc. It also examines the history of wind energy, and provides ample reasons to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. It covers the characteristics of wind, and discusses the measurement and siting of individual wind turbines and wind farms. The text presents the design, aerodynamics, operation, control, applications, and different types of wind turbines. For those interested ina a copy, the book is available at Amazon.com.
LARGEST DONATION EVER!!
The Department of Physics and Astronomy is thrilled to announce the receipt of the largest single donation ever to the Department endowed funds. Dr. Gene Feaster (PhD Physics 1953), inventor of Superflab, a medical device used in radiology clinics across the country which has made a lasting improvement in the field of health care, has made a $2 million gift to KU. Of his gift, $1 million established the Ida Johnson Feaster Professorship in the KU School of Nursing. It is named for his late wife, who grew up on a ranch near Emporia and attended graduate school at KU. His gift also created two $500,000 endowed scholarship funds - one in nursing and the other in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Full details on the donation and Dr. Feaster's exceptional career can be found at this site.
The Department was saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Donald Leroy Foster, 77, retired Wichita State University Physics Professor, on May 5, 2013. Don was a Reed College graduate in 1957 and earned his PhD. in Physics from the University of Kansas in 1968. Don taught at WSU for 39 years, where he served as chair for a number of years. A complete obituary can be accessed at this site.
While the Mayan Apocalypse 2012 never had any validity, occasional concerns about death from space do - just ask the dinosaurs or read the previous news item. KU alum Dr. Dave Tholen (University of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy) led a team to obtain improved observations of the asteroid 2011 AG5. The data available previously implied a potential collision with Earth in 2040; with the new data, this option is off the table. The full story can be found at this link.
The Lawrence Journal World recently featured an article on Prof. Emeritus and KU Alum, Dr. Tom Armstrong, and KU grad, Dr. Jerry Manweiler, discussing their ongoing analysis of data from the Voyager space probe as it leaves the confines of the solar system, defined by the heliopause. The full story can be accessed at this link.
It's Launched! While the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) Mission at NASA may have cost only $700 million, 1/3 of the Mars Mission, its direct impact on Earth and our understanding of the Earth-Sun interaction is significantly greater. Dr. Mona Kessel (MS, PhD Physics 1986), member of the Department Alumni Advisory Board, is Program Scientist for the mission and Prof. Emeritus, alumnus, and former Board member, Dr. Tom Armstrong, will be running the Science Operations Center for RBSPICE, one of the four instruments on board, from his local Lawrence firm, Fundamental Technologies. To celebrate and view the launch, a local event was held in downtown Lawrence at Hobbs (700 Mass. St.) at 3 AM FRIDAY Aug. 24. For technical reasons first and then the weather (Isaac strikes again), the launch was delayed a week. The mission, however, did get underway with the launch on Thursday morning (8/30). There will be an approximately two-month shakedown period before the data collection is fully underway but, so far, so good. To follow the progress of the mission, click on this link .
Though the current Chair of the Alumni Advisory Board has just completed his 5-year term on the Board, Bill Anderson, (BS EPHX 1967), doesn't know how to quit when it comes to his daily run. Despite being hospitalized for a ruptured appendix, Bill managed to maintain his 35 year streak of daily 1-mile runs, with a little help from his family. Some of the press he received for his efforts can be found at this link.
Department Alumnus Elected Vice Chair of APS Astrophysics
Congratulations to Dr. John Beacom (B.S. Physics and Mathematics 1991), who has been elected Vice Chair of the American Physical Society Division of Astrophysics. He will assume the role of Chair next year. John served as a member of the Physics and Astronomy Alumni Advisory Board until he assumed his extensive duties as Director of the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics at Ohio State University in 2011.
KU alum, Stuartt Corder (BS: Astronomy, Math, Physics - 2001), currently on the staff at NRAO in Charlottesville, VA, is co-author of the first science results from the ALMA millimeter array in Chile. The millimeter wavelength images of Fomalhaut with the still-under-construction array already match the resolution of HST at optical wavelengths. For more on the results, check out this link.
Congratulations to Dr. Bruce Barrett (BS Physics 1961), member of the Department Advisory Board, for his appointment to the U.S. Liaison Committee for the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).
Sarah (Feldt) Muldoon (BS Physics 2004) writes that "after graduating from KU, I attended graduate school at the University of Michigan where I received my PhD (Physics) in 2009 under the guidance of Michal Zochowski. My dissertation was titled "Understanding the Interplay of Structure and Dynamics in Neuronal Networks". As the title suggests, I am one of the growing number of physicists working in the field of neuroscience. Much of my training in graduate school was related to complex systems and network theory and I am now focusing on increasing my knowledge of biology and neuroscience through my postdocs. My first postdoc was through an NIH Epilepsy Training Grant at the University of California, Irvine in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology working with Ivan Solstez. Through this postdoc experience I began a collaboration with Rosa Cossart in France, and now have a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with her group at the Institut de Neurobiologie de la Méediterranée in Marseille, France. Additionally, in 2011, I got married to a philosopher that I met at the SFI Complex Systems Summer School in Beijing, China so future publications will come from Sarah Feldt Muldoon!"
Patricia "Patsy" Edson Tombaugh, community leader, educator, artist, and enthusiastic supporter of her astronomy pioneer husband Clyde, discoverer of the planet Pluto and KU alumnus, died Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Arbors of Del Rey in Las Cruces. She was 99.