Chairman's Welcome Message

Hello Friends,

It has been one year since I took up the reins as chair of this department. Our former chair, Dave Kieda, is now Dean of the Graduate School. It’s been an honor to work with such a superb and congenial faculty, skilled staff, and dedicated students. But it is also a big job. Thanks to the addition of our astronomy component, we have grown to almost forty faculty members, nearly 100 graduate students, and 300 undergraduate majors. As a consequence, we are bursting at the seams in both lab and office space and in budget. The department chair’s job naturally has its high and low points and its trials. A favorite high point is giving a deserving student a scholarship check - thanks to our donors, we are able to do this on occasion. Then there was a “trial by ice” Halloween 2013 when a liquid helium container in one of our James Fletcher Building labs began to malfunction - the pressure was rising out of control, so we had to evacuate for several hours until the vendor’s experts could deal with it safely.


Our newest two faculty members joined us this year: Assistant Professor Yan (Sarah) Li came to us from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Among other things, she is studying the spin dynamics of organic semiconductors by observing circular polarization in optical emissions. Assistant Professor Vikram Deshpande arrived from Columbia University. He studies emergent physical phenomena in atomically-thin materials such as graphene. They are both very welcome additions to our department.

Our outreach activities have also flourished. We just dedicated a new Astronomy Outreach Center in the South Physics building - a newly remodeled room that serves as a small presentation room for the general public and a classroom for our observational astronomy courses. If you are in town, please come to one of our regular Wednesday evening public star parties and see for yourself!

With the recent additions of some superbly talented and energetic faculty members and continued support from our generous donors, our research productivity, educational opportunities, and outreach activities will continue to grow in the coming years.
With Best Regards,

Carleton DeTar