What's Happening

A Message from the Chair, Daniel Homan

One of the most wonderful things about working in the Physics and Astronomy department over the last decade has been the people: our faculty, our staff, and our students, and their collective dedication to learning in all its forms.

Whether they are working late nights in the lab, engaged in group study sessions in the newly converted Physics library, or devoting many hours a week to helping their peers learn as department learning assistants, our majors and minors are deeply engaged in their academics. Beyond the classroom, the Society of Physics Students has continued its commitment to outreach in the community, partnering with faculty to run science demonstration shows and planetarium programs for 200 Granville second graders each year along with regular open houses for the public at Swasey Observatory. And, of course, we have continued our tradition of active, professional scholarship involving students. In just the last three years, our faculty and students have published or presented more than three dozen works of scholar- ship in leading journals and major conferences in their fields. A selected sample of these works are listed on page 9.Over the last three summers, a total of 31 students have remained on campus to conduct research with the faculty in 10 week sum- mer internships.

While so much has stayed the same, the department continues to grow and change. I am now in my second year as chair of the department, replacing Dan Gibson who has led us so well in recent years and has earned a well-deserved break. Our longtime department staff members, Christie Kasson and Ken Bixler, have both left the department for new roles. Ken is enjoying retirement with Sue and returns regularly to share some of their adventures, and Christie is now the administrative assistant for the First Year Dean, allowing her to work directly with so many first year students and their families. We are so lucky to have able replacements in our new administrative assistant, Beth Jeffries who joins us from Women’s Studies, and our new technical assistant, Dave Burdick. Both have already made amazing contributions to the department and we are thrilled to have them aboard.

Our faculty has also grown and changed over the last two years. Professor Kim Coplin has recently been promoted to Interim Provost for the college, and Denison’s academic life could not be in better hands. Congratulations, Kim! Visiting Professors Burciaga and Johnson have departed for positions at Mount Holyoke and tenure-track professorship at Gettysburg respectively. We wish them both the best in their new roles! Over the same time period, two new professors have joined the department in tenure-track positions. Professor Steven Olmschenk arrived in the Fall of 2012. Dr. Olmschenk earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at NIST before coming to Denison. Dr. Olmschenk uses laboratory studies to explore quantum information and the transfer of quantum states between atoms. Professor Melanie Lott joined the depart- ment just this Fall. Dr. Lott earned her Ph.D. in Physics from Bryn Mawr, her M.S. in Kinesology from the University of Michigan, and her B.S. in Physics from Denison (’04). Dr. Lott studies the Physics of human body movement, with a particular focus on the Physics of Dance, using motion capture studies. We are so pleased to welcome them both to our faculty!

Posted Date: 
Wednesday, May 7, 2014