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UW-L Physics NOW

Summer 2013

Dear Alumni, Students, and Friends, I am extremely pleased to have this opportunity to reach out to all of you through UW-L Physics NOW, our first newsletter, at such an exciting time for the UW-L Physics Department. Our Physics program received the prestigious 2013 American Physical Society (APS) Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Education and continues to attract a large number of quality students and dedicated faculty members. The Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics is flourishing. On October 10-11, 2013 Dr. David Wineland, the 2012 Nobel laureate in physics, will be the fourteenth Nobel laureate to visit UW-L. We introduced a new Teacher Education Program in the fall of 2011 and also redesigned our introductory calculus-based physics courses (PHY 203 and PHY 204) to the activelearning format. Our Society of Physics Students (SPS) Chapter is vibrant and thriving, receiving an Outstanding SPS Chapter Award for the last two years. Our students are doing extremely well, receiving awards and attending some of the best graduate schools in the country. More good news is that the science departments in Cowley Hall will be receiving a new building with state-of-the-art facilities. Construction of the new building is scheduled to begin in the near future. Please share your current ventures and activities with us. If you are in the area, please visit and share your experiences with our current students. I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at Best wishes, Sudha

UW-L Physics: What have we been up to? For those of you who graduated from UW-L awhile ago, here's an update on the status of the department. The UW-L Physics Department is one of the largest undergraduate physics programs in Wisconsin and continues to garner national recognition for its success. We have approximately 160 physics majors and are ranked third in the nation in terms of the average number of graduates produced by BS-only-granting programs. This spring we were awarded the 2013 American Physical Society (APS) Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Education which recognizes physics programs that support the best practices in education at the undergraduate level. We are the first department to receive this award in the state of Wisconsin. The other recipients of the award were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Kettering University, and the Colorado School of Mines. In addition, we were cited in 2012 by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Career Pathways Project as a model program with regard to our success in placing our graduates into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers. In the spring of 2012, representatives from AIP visited us to learn more about the ways we prepare our students and guide them along successful career paths. Previous accolades also include recognition from the National Task Force on Undergraduate Education in 2003 and the 2004 Teaching Excellence Award from the UW-System Board of Regents. Our success is due to the talents and hard work of our students, faculty and staff and their ability to create a supportive community with thriving student organizations, numerous research

opportunities, seminars and guest lectures by world-renowned scientists. Over the past few years, a number of additions have been made to the faculty and staff of the Department. Beginning in the fall of 2013, we will have 10 full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members and 3 full time instructional staff. Details about our faculty are included in this newsletter. Faculty in the Department have received over $1.5 million dollars in external funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and other external agencies to support faculty and student research activities. Our department strongly encourages undergraduate participation in research. During the past year, approximately 25 students have participated in a wide variety of research projects with UW-L faculty: developing novel oxides for use in the next generation of photovoltaics/solar cells, investigating nuclear structure with accelerators, studying erosion patterns in Wisconsin by measuring radioisotopes, studying interstellar shells, simulating galaxies, developing and testing physical models of the human knee, studying the mechanics and dynamics of microtubules, and counting single photons of light using quantum dots. At the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) hosted by UW-L in April of 2013, eight physics students presented posters of their work and 10 students gave oral presentations. We’re proud of our undergraduate researchers and plan to highlight their activities in future issues of this newsletter.

Meet The Faculty

2012 DLS Speaker: 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics John Mather, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

Faculty stand with 2012 DLS speaker John Mather. (from left to right) (back row) Seth King, Eric Gansen, Lyndon Zink, Robert Ragan, Eric Barnes (front row) Jennifer Docktor, Taviare Hawkins, T.A.K. Pillai, Steve Harris, Shauna Sallmen, Gubbi Sudhakaran, Shelly Lesher, Krista Anderson and Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather.

Eric Barnes - associate professor - Ph.D Louisiana State University. Research in theoretical/computational astrophysics, with an emphasis on understanding galaxies.

Shelly Lesher - assistant professor - Ph.D. University of Kentucky. Research in nuclear structure and environmental radionuclide studies.

Jennifer Docktor - assistant professor Ph.D. University of Minnesota. Research in physics education with an emphasis on problem solving.

T.A.K. Pillai - professor - Ph.D University of Louisville. Research in nondestructive evaluation of composite materials and supervises student in research projects.

Eric Gansen - associate professor - Ph.D. University of Iowa. Researching the use of semiconductor quantum dots for singlephoton detection and other applications in quantum optics.

Robert Ragan - professor - Ph.D. University of Massachusetts. Research on spin transport in quantum fluids and solids and computational research in biomechanics.

Taviare Hawkins - assistant professor Ph.D. Syracuse University. Biophysics research involving the mechanics and dynamics of cellular structures called microtubules. Seth King - assistant professor - Ph.D. University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. Research on the growth and characterization of conductive oxides for application in the next generation of solar cell devices.

Shauna Sallmen - associate professor Ph.D. University of California at Berkeley. Research on shells in the interstellar medium, using observations at a variety of wavelengths. Gubbi Sudhakaran - professor and chair Ph.D. University of Idaho. Research in molecular spectroscopy and supervises student research in laser, atomic and molecular spectroscopy.

Bob Allen - planetarium director - Masters Degree, Michigan State University Krista Anderson - academic department associate

Instructional & Support Staff

Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics Since fall 2000, the UW-L Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS) in Physics is cosponsored by the UW-L Foundation, Inc., the Department of Physics, and the College of Science and Health. The purpose of the series is to bring to La Crosse a physicist whose significant accomplishments and communication skills can inspire and enrich the careers of students, faculty, and the general public. The 2012 speaker was Dr. John Mather, a 2006 Nobel Laureate. Dr. Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and a Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. He gave a public lecture entitled, “History of the Universe from the Beginning to End” and a physics seminar entitled, “Engineering Challenges and Scientific Capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope.” In the fall of 2013, the DLS will host Dr. David Wineland, a Staff Scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, CO and winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Wineland will present a public lecture on Oct. 10 and a physics seminar on Oct. 11. Both lectures

Steve Harris - electronics technician Roberto Salgado - lecturer - Ph.D. Syracuse University Steve Verrall - lecturer - Ph.D. University of Auckland, New Zealand Lyndon Zink - lecturer - Ph.D. University of Colorado

2013 DLS Speaker: 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics Dr. David Wineland

Outreach & Recruitment One of the hallmarks of the Physics Department is its dedication to community outreach and recruitment activities. Faculty, staff and students organize a number of activities to promote interest in science and technology in people of all ages and to attract attention to UW-L’s Physics Program. Over the summer, the classrooms of Cowley Hall are buzzing with outreach activities. Each year, we kick off the summer with the “Physics and Laser Light Show Extravaganza,” which is a physics/laser show geared for elementary and middle-schoolaged children. This week-long program is a popular field-trip for many of the local schools. In addition to the laser shows, Physics Faculty annually lead sessions of Young Scholars, Girls in Science and Boys in Science, which are UW-L sponsored programs aimed at providing school children hands-on learning experiences in math and science. This summer, Dr. Seth King led a program of the Young Scholars entitled “Fun with Physics” where 5th through 9th graders performed activities involving alternative energy, pressure, flight, bridges, roller coasters and astronomy. He also led programs focused on “Roller coasters” for Boys in Science and Girls in Science. Recent outreach activities have also included the Electronics and Electricity Workshop that was conducted by Dr. Eric Gansen and members of the UW-L Physics Club for the Girl Scouts of America. This program helped the scouts earn a badge in Electronics and Electricity.

Dr. Eric Gansen demonstrates Bernoulli's Principle at the Physics and Laser Light Show Extravaganza.

Outreach and recruitment activities continue during the academic year. For the past 13 years, the Physics Department has hosted the Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics where each fall Nobel Laureates in Physics are brought to campus to interact with student, faculty, and administrators and to give a public lecture and a physics colloquium. Previous speakers have included the likes of Steven Chu, the current US Secretary of Energy, and most recently in 2012 Dr. John Mather. Recently, the Department has also initiated a special seminar series in the spring that is devoted to highlighting the work of prominent female scientists. The Women in Science series was started in the spring of 2012 and has thus far hosted Dr. Noemie Koller, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, and Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus, Professor of Physics at MIT. In addition to special seminars, the Department also conducts a number of regularly scheduled outreach activities for young kids during the academic year. Mr. Robert Allen, director of the UW-L planetarium, presents educational programs for local schools and organizations, while students in Dr. Jennifer Docktor’s PHY 106 course (Physics for Educators) perform interactive demonstrations and activities at the La Crosse Children’s Museum. The latter is an example of how the outreach efforts of the Department are directly integrated into its course curriculum through service learning.

UW-L physics students, Sean Harrington and Chintan Modi, help Girl Scouts construct a circuit at the Electronics and Electricity workshop.

Students from Physics 106 - Physics for Educators engaging a student with a Van de Graff generator at the La Crosse Children's Museum.

Faculty Highlight Dr. Taviare Hawkins I joined the Physics Department as an Assistant Professor in August 2012. Since my arrival, I have been busy setting up my laboratory and building a Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscope to perform single-molecule imaging. Before my arrival at UW-L, I did my undergraduate work in Physics at the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA). My graduate work was done at Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY), where I earned two Master degrees, one in Computer Science and the other in Physics. In 2009, I completed my dissertation work in computational biophysics and earned my Doctorate in Physics from Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY). I did my postdoctoral work in experimental biophysics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In addition to my research, I also enjoy teaching. I have taught undergraduate physics at Syracuse University, Xavier University of Louisiana and most recently at Mount Holyoke College. My research involves working on problems that lie at the intersections of physics, mathematics, engineering, biology and chemistry. I am a biophysicist that uses the quantitative skills and methods learned in physics to gain a better understand how living cells do what they do. Since this problem is very complicated and quite broad, I focused my attention on the largest of the cytoskeletal filaments, the microtubule. Microtubules are small, semi-flexible, hollow, polymeric, cylindrical tubes. They range in length from 1 to 50 microns and have 25-nanometer diameters. Inside of all animals and plants are eukaryotic cells, which contain microtubules. They are essential for many cellular functions, such as motility, intracellular transport, and cell division. They are the most rigid of the cytoskeletal filaments and they provide the structural shape to the cell. They are also dynamic and reorganize the cell when it needs to divide during mitosis or meiosis. Microtubules complete these tasks with the assistance of microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). Although there are over 600 identified MAPs very little is known about their functionality or how they interact with microtubules and perhaps even other cytoskeletal filaments. My work is focused on understanding the mechanical and dynamical properties of microtubules in addition to how the accessory proteins work to fine tune these properties within cells. If you would like to read more on my recently spotlighted work entitled, “Mechanical Properties of Doubly Stabilized Microtubule Filaments.” see the Molecular Motors and the Cytoskeleton section of the Biophysical Journal collection ( This summer, my research student, Brandon Harris (Physics major, 2016) and I traveled back to my postdoc lab at UMass to work with Dr. Jennifer Ross's group to learn some new experimental techniques and collect data for our next paper. We are eager to present this summer’s results at this year’s Biophysical Society Local Networking Conference, which will be held at UW-L on Saturday, October 19, Mildred Dresselhaus gave the 2013 2013. The day will be filled with presentations, talks and Public Lecture in Physics with a talk titled seminars on various biophysics topics (more "Looking back at my fifty-year career in information will follow on the physics website). nanoscience" which was co-sponsored by the Physics Department and the College of Science and Health. Dr. Dresselhaus has dedicated her life to understanding the fundamental physical elements of carbon fibers, carbon nanotubes and other nanostructures. During her stay she also met with students to discussed graduate school and looked back on her career with the students in the History of Women in Science Class.

Midlred Dresselhaus - holding a model of a Carbon nanotube Photo by Quinn

I would like to say that I have enjoyed my interactions with the faculty, staff, and students of UW-L Physics Department this first year and I am looking forward to an even more productive second year.

Students Represent Physics Department

Ran Ikeyama

Brandon Zink, Jenna Carsello & Allison Kubicek

Zach Tully

Lance Hildebrand

Cheuk Man Lo (JoJo)

Andrew Prudhom

Richard Allenby, Tyler Nickel & Andrew Prudhom

Elizabeth Camenga

Beth Tennyson

Marcus Lowe

Joe Krueger

Ian Marsh

Adam Kindle

Colin Egerer

Awards and Scholarship Opportunities Each year, there are a number of scholarship opportunities made available to students in the Physics Program. There are scholarships suited for both entering freshmen and upperclassmen. Students can apply for these scholarships through the UW-L Foundation website at http:// The deadline for applications is typically in February. This years winners include: Kenneth & Sharon Ring Scholarship: Nicole Larson Ernie & Sally Micek Scholarship: Miranda Elkins

The New STEP Program Physics teacher training has been re-vamped into the new STEP Program. Students wishing to teach middle-school or high-school physics can enroll in the new Secondary Teacher Education Preparation (STEP) program. This university-wide program is committed to preparing knowledgeable, skillful and professional middle and high school teachers who have the content and pedagogical knowledge to meet the needs of students in a variety of settings. Physics teacher candidates will earn a bachelors degree in physics combined with professional education coursework and multiple field experiences, leading to licensure in Early AdolescenceAdolescence. The new streamlined Physics Education Major and Minor will give future teachers strong physics knowledge to carry into the classroom. Dr. Jennifer Docktor advises and mentors teacher candidates as they progress through the STEP program.

Undergraduate Research As a department we believe student participation in research is of equal importance to traditional classroom activities. Research allows the students to apply what they have been taught in the classroom to "real world" experiences. During the academic term, students work in research laboratories for class credit and through fellowships. In the summer, students are chosen to work in the laboratories full-time to feel the full research experience. Colin Egerer and Tyler Laszczkowski were awarded Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Grants to spend the summer working on astrophysics with Eric Barnes and Shauna Sallmen, respectively. Eric Gansen has two students working with him over the summer on quantum dots. Yann Talhouarne was awarded the School of Science & Health's Dean's Fellowship. Tyler Nickel will be supported by the Endowment for UnderGrad Research in Physics. Taviare Hawkins and Brandon Harris have been working on biophysics research at Univ. of Massachusetts with support from UW-L faculty research grant and a supplemental NSF grant. Ethan Dinauer has received a UW-L Dean's fellowship to work with Seth King in solar cell devices, Brandon Zink and Jo Krueger will also spend the summer in Dr. King's lab under support of the WiSys grant. Ran Ikeyama and Ian Marsh will be working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory supported by the Department of Energy. Zach Tully will be working with Shelly Lesher at the University of Notre Dame and Marcus Lowe at UW-L both supported by her NSF grant. All four of them will be working in nuclear physics. Brett Rosiejka is using his Russian in LaCrosse's sister city, Dubna while working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in their search for new elements.

Attention Alumni Alumni of the UW-L Physics department are requested to send current contact information to the department chair. We also hope you will send in your recent accomplishments to share with fellow alumni in upcoming issues.

Contact details

UW-La Crosse Physics 2013 Newsletter  
UW-La Crosse Physics 2013 Newsletter  

UW-L Physics program received the prestigious 2013 American Physical Society( APS) Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Education a...