Department “Quarks”

The Ups, Downs, Tops, Bottoms, Charms & Strangeness of the Department


From left to right: Kyle Dawson, Randy Sylvester (L-3), Adam Beehler, Dan Watt (L-3), David Kieda, Carlos Cardon (L-3).

The Department of Physics & Astronomy has recently hired two new staff members, Dr. Zhiheng Liu & Dr. Wesley Sanders to work in the nano-imaging facility, Laser Dixon Institute, MRSEC, & electro-optics materials labs.


Dr. Zhiheng Liu,who started at the beginning of October, joined us from Brooklyn College in New York. Zhiheng holds a Ph.D in physics and is an expert in optical engineering. His primary responsibility is to take over for Randy Polson, who left to take a full time position in the USTAR microscopy core, working with Ian Harvey.

Dr. Wesley Sanders joined the department November 1, from IM Flash Technologies. Wesley received his Ph.D in Experimental Chemistry at Virginia tech, did a post-doc at the naval Research Lab in Washington DC, and also spent some time at Salt Lake Community College. He brings an extensive knowledge of organic and inorganic materials fabrication techniques, including self-assembly fabrication of silver nano-wires. He will be working with Matt Delong in the Electro-optics labs, and will also have teaching and equipment responsibilities for the undergraduate and graduate labs.

The Preston Taylor Scholarship Fund was recently established for undergraduate scholarships. The endowment is currently being built up to allow the department to start awarding the scholarships.

Senior engineer, Dr. Randy Polson, has accepted a position in the USTAR microscopy core. Randy received his Ph.D in 2002 and has been with the department ever since. The department congratulates Randy and wishes him the best of luck.

The Graduate Student Fellowship started in January 2011, offering up to five graduate student fellowships each year to highly-qualified incoming students. This one-year $3000 fellowship occurs during their first year of graduate studies, and it enhances their normal graduate student stipend and provides extra recognition for these highly qualified students.

Graduate student Anil Ghimire was awarded 1st place for his poster, “Towards Three-dimensional Measurement & Control of Emission Directionality from Single Particles” awarded in the field of nanotechnology: Devices & Sensor at NanoUtah 2012.

The James Fletcher Building (JFB) Rotunda Re-pipe project concluded this summer. The old pipes were corroding and causing frequent leaks, causing damage to ceilings and furnishings. It seemed imminent that a leak in a large lecture hall would create a significant disruption in classes. The remedywater system, including pipes, coils, and control valves. In order to work on these systems, asbestos had to be removed from the ceilings. Once abatement started, it became apparent that it would be necessary to remove all of the ceiling material and light fixtures. Following abatement, all of the old heating water system was removed and replaced with new copper piping and equipment. The lath and plaster ceiling was replaced with wallboard and acoustic tile. The lighting system was replaced with LED lighting with a programmable control system.

An L-3 Thermal-Eye X200xp camera was donated by L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc. to help with lecture demonstrations, like those by Adam Beehler. The camera is currently one of the smallest handheld thermal imaging cameras and is used to demonstrate the electromagnetic spectrum. Astronomer Kyle Dawson believes there is a possibility that it could be used with telescopes, but its primary use will be for education and outreach.

The west steps to the South Physics building were demolished and new stairs constructed this summer. Restoration of the steps was necessary to prevent a possible safety hazard due to further deterioration. Also, Harold Simpson, Facilities Manager, has been working with the carpenter shop supervisor over the past year on improving the appearance of the entrance.

The department recently acquired a state of the art Hermle C-30U 5-Axis Machining Center from Sam Drake of the School of Computing. This machine will expand the department’s capabilities to produce complex parts with very high accuracy. In addition to the flexibility of 5-axis machining, the machine provides a 40,000 rpm spindle. The increased spindle speed will permit work on even smaller scale parts than previously possible.

All of the existing heating water piping control valves, coils, and pumps in the James Fletcher Building will be replaced in the JFB Re-pipe project. The heating water piping system is so full of corrosion that most control valves, strainers, and coils are plugging up and are unable to control the room temperatures. A number of attempts to flush the system were unsuccessful in restoring it to proper operation. During frequent repairs to the controls, the piping would break requiring additional repairs. The decision was made to replace all of the existing heating water piping to eliminate the contamination in the system and to avoid circulating the contaminate water in the new piping in the rotunda.

The Department of Physics & Astronomy received $103,000 in campus Capital Facilities & Remodeling funds to renovate the 4th floor astronomy lab in the South Physics building. The new facility will house education and public outreach activities for the South Physics Observatory, handle analysis of the data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III, and serve as the control room for the Willard. L. Eccles Observatory at Frisco Peak, Utah.

Senior lab specialist, Wayne Wingert, passed away unexpectedly near the end of September. Wayne joined the department as a lab assistant in 1983 and worked extensively in the Crystal growth facility, growing unique inorganic crystals. In the early 2000’s the research emphasis in the field changed to organic materials, and Wayne’s position took on more varied assignments: ongoing work in inorganic and organic materials, equipment maintenance in the condensed matter research groups, safety, inventory, and maintenance of technical equipment in the undergraduate and graduate labs. In the past year Wayne began to train on the high-resolution Scanning Electron Microscope in order to renew his technical skills and provide new capabilities to the electro-optics lab. He was beginning to run samples for departmental, on-campus, and external customers during the past six months. Wayne was an integral part of the department staff for many years, and certainly a person who enjoyed life and the outdoors. His presence in the department will be immeasurably missed.

Special thanks to Kathy Blair, Dave Kieda, Vicki Nielsen, & Harold Simpson