New Faculty Join Physics & Astronomy

This year, we have been fortunate in our ability to hire eight new faculty members from all over the world. Get to know more about these professors with these short biographies.


Douglas Bergman

Associate Professor

Douglas Bergman is interested in all aspects of ground based observations of cosmic rays. He is a member of the Telescope Array collaboration in Delta UT, seeking to measure the spectrum, composition of ultra-high energy cosmic rays and to determine their sources. This experiment detects the cosmic ray air showers both by collect the shower particles as they hit the ground and observing the fluorescence light emitted as they pass through the atmosphere.
Prof. Bergman comes to Utah from Rutgers University in NJ, where he was an Assistant Professor, and prior to that a post-doctoral associate. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1997, working on a fixed target, high energy physics experiment at Brookhaven National Lab. He enjoys most outdoor athletic activities including running, skiing, volleyball and soccer. Indoors, he likes all types of live musical performance.

Adam Bolton

Assistant Professor

Adam Bolton joins the department in August 2009. His interests are observational cosmology; formation, structure, and evolution of galaxies; and astronomical spectroscopy. He is a founding member of the Sloan Lens ACS (SLACS) Survey collaboration, which has combined SDSS spectra with Hubble Space Telescope images to nearly double the number of known “gravitational lens” galaxies. Dr. Bolton will continue his gravitational lensing research program, and will pursue extensive involvement in the SDSS3 and other massive astronomical spectroscopic surveys.
He was employed as the Beatrice Watson Parrent Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Hawaii, and was also a CfA Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He obtained his Ph.D. in physics from MIT in 2005. His outside interests include cooking, music, and economics. He is looking forward to the skiing and hiking opportunities in Utah.

Shanti Deemyad

Assistant Professor

Starting January of 2010, Shanti Deemyad joins the University of Utah from Harvard University, where she completed her postdoc. She received her Ph.D from Washington University in St. Louis. Her main field of interest is condensed matter at extreme conditions.
The research would be divided in two major areas; studying the nature of electronic interactions in existing solid state systems such as physics of quantum solids, the second being the synthesis of materials with new or enhanced properties for storage and transport of energy by guidance of high pressure studies. The unifying purpose is to find and explore new exotic states of matter which have strong promises for material engineering.
Shanti enjoys a wide variety of activities. She loves stargazing and visiting archeological sites. She loves the mountains and the outdoors. Among other activities she enjoy playing chess, watching Sci-Fi movies and reading books. Her favorite authors are Kundera, Kafka, Hesse and Camus.

Inese Ivans

Assistant Professor

Inese Ivans is an observational astronomer. She specializes in the application of stellar spectroscopic tools to investigate topics ranging from the origins of chemical elements in the Universe to the formation and evolution of galaxies, including our own Milky Way. She is interested in developing astronomical applications to exploit large data sets such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey using statistical, data mining, and scientific visualization techniques.
She joins the University of Utah in August of this year from Princeton University, where she most recently has held a joint postdoctoral fellowship with the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Previously Inese was on a fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, moving there from the University of Texas at Austin where she received her Ph.D. Her undergraduate work at the University of Toronto introduced her to astronomical research, something she is keen to continue here.

Saveez Saffarian

Assistant Professor

Starting at the University of Utah as part of the USTAR initiative, in January of 2010, Saveez Saffarian received his PhD from Washington University in St Louis, specializing in fluorescence spectroscopy and single molecule analysis. In the pursuit of his own biological problem, Saveez joined Harvard Medical School where he focused on polymerization of multi-protein complexes on the plasma membrane. During his postdoctoral research, he developed live cell hi-res methods to visualize clathrin self-assembly. In his lab, Saveez will couple the high-resolution live cell microscopy with cell biological and biochemical assays to follow the assembly of enveloped viruses in both live cells and reconstituted systems. His long-term plan is to understand potent human pathogens like influenza and HIV with molecular detail.
Outside the lab, Saveez volunteers his time at his daughter’s school; serving a two-year term on the board of Cambridge Ellis School, a non-profit private school, where she attended. He also enjoys skiing, Sci-Fi and playing chess.

Gordon Thomson

J.W. Keuffel Professor of Experimental Astrophysics

Gordon joins the University of Utah in September 2009, as part of the Cosmic Ray research group. He is the first recipient of the Keuffel endowed Chair in Experimental Astrophysics. He received his Bachelors at the Illinois Institute of Technology and both his Masters degree and Ph.D at Harvard University. He was then employed at Rutgers University. In 1999, he spent a year at the University of Utah as a Visiting Scholar. His research areas include AstroParticle Physics, Experimental High Energy Physics, and Particle Physics R&D. He is married with one son, studying at Yale. Gordon and his family are all outdoor enthusiasts.

Frank van den Bosch

Associate Professor
Editor's Note: Frank left for Yale University in 2010 and is no longer with the department.

Until January 2009, when he joined the department, Frank was a Leader of Independent Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. Frank’s research focusses on the theoretical aspects of cosmology, large scale structure, and galaxy formation. In particular, he’s involved in studying the structure and formation of dark matter haloes, the formation of disk galaxies, the galaxy occupation statistics of dark matter haloes, galaxy lensing, preheating of the IGM by pancake formation, and the bias of galaxies and dark matter haloes.

Michael Vershinin

Assistant Professor

Dr. Michael Vershinin will start in January 2010 as the first professor in the new BioPhys research program in the department. He has a Bachelor degree in Engineering from Cooper Union, a PhD in Physics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and additional biology-related training from his postdoctoral work at UC: Irvine. His research interests are similarly interdisciplinary and reside at the interface of biology, physics, mathematics, and computer science. Michael is using techniques such as optical trapping to investigate the function of single molecules and molecular complexes. He is also developing methods for better quantifying and modeling biological processes. His current focus is on molecular motors – how things are transported inside of cells, how this transport is regulated and routed and ultimately how it can break down. The latter question is important for understanding many types of cell degeneration and the related diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and similar dementias).