APS CUWiP at GW: Local Organizing Committee


Nawal Benmouna

Dr. Benmouna is the chair of the Department of Department of Engineering, Physical and Computer Sciences at the Rockville Campus of Montgomery College.  She joined Montgomery College in 2006. She holds a PhD in experimental nuclear physics from American University and conducted her doctoral research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Palo Alto, California. Prior to joining the College, she was a postdoctoral research scientist at the George Washington University where she conducted research in experimental nuclear physics at the Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory. She has been awarded multiple NSF grants for both Physics Education and Nuclear Physics research, including one to work on the MUSE experiment with colleagues from George Washington University. She has also won multiple awards for her efforts to improve physics education.


William John Briscoe

William John Briscoe earned his Ph.D. in Experimental Nuclear Physics from The Catholic University of America in 1978 (MS Northeastern 1972, BA Catholic 1970).  He was an Assistant Research Professor for four years (1978-1982) at UCLA.  He came to GW in 1982 as an Assistant Professor, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1986 and Professor in 1998.  In 2005 Briscoe was named Fellow of the American Physical Society.  He is Director of the GW Data Analysis Center funded by the United States Department of Energy, and Director of the GW Institute for Nuclear Studies (GWINS). His overall funding in his time at GW exceeds $23M. Briscoe has worked as a guest or visiting scientist at several national and international laboratories in the US, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia.  He has served as working group leader and on the Executive Committees of and Project Manager for several of the projects within these labs. He is currently an appointed member of the Virginia Nuclear Energy Authority. Professor Briscoe has over 350 refereed journal articles and proceeding (11,500 citations) and over 160 presentations to his credit.  Briscoe is the chair of the physics department.


Evie Downie

Evangeline J. Downie is the Columbian College Associate Dean of Assessment and Academic Support, and an Associate Professor of Physics.  She completed her PhD in Nuclear Physics in Glasgow, Scotland.  She then spent 3.5 years in Mainz, Germany as a postdoctoral researcher, before beginning at GW in January 2012. She has active research programs at the MAMI accelerator in Mainz, Germany and the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen, Switzerland. She holds multiple grants from NSF and DOE to study the structure and behavior of protons and neutrons. In addition to her main research and administrative responsibilities, she organizes the Physics Department’s Women in Physics program; runs a summer undergraduate research program in Mainz, Germany; is a physics undergraduate advisor; and is spokesperson of the Muon proton Scattering Experiment (MUSE) collaboration.  


Kelly French

Kelly French has recently transferred from the University of the District of Columbia to George Washington University where she is studying Astrophysics. Prior to beginning studies in Physics, she received a BA in History from Florida Atlantic University and an MA in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University. During her graduate studies, she realized she was more interested in science, so she took some non-degree seeking courses at UDC and chose to continue studies in physics. Her path towards studying physics has been non-traditional, but it is exciting and challenging.


Alexander van der Horst

Dr. Alexander van der Horst is an assistant professor of astrophysics at the George Washington University. He earned his Master's and PhD degrees at the University of Amsterdam in his home country, the Netherlands, where he was a postdoctoral researcher as well. He also worked as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The research of Dr. van der Horst focuses on multi-wavelength observations and modeling of a variety of cosmic sources called transients: short, very energetic explosions or bursts of energy and radiation, among which the most extreme objects in the Universe, such as gamma-ray bursts, magnetars, and black holes of various masses 

Izzy Illari

  Isabella Illari 

Isabella Illari (or Izzy, as they prefer) graduated in Spring 2017 from Barnard College of Columbia University with a B.A. in physics. Their undergraduate research was mainly focused on astrophysics (specifically very high energy gamma rays) with the VERITAS group at Nevis Labs of Columbia University, headed by Professor ReshmiMukherjee. In between visiting the VERITAS site in Tucson, Arizona, appearing on HuffPost Live with Professor Mukherjee and two other fellow Barnard alum, performing data analysis on pulsar tails, and soldering laser-webcam parts for the new Schwarzschild-Couder telescope for CTA, Izzy also dipped into material science research with the REU program at Coe College under Professor Mario Affatigato with a focus on electrically conductive lead-tellurium-vanadate glasses. Izzy attended the 2017 APS CUWiP conference at Princeton, and is excited to be involved with the 2018 APS CUWiP conference at  their  new graduate institution GWU (where they are currently in their first year of the physics doctoral program).

Lucia Illari Lucia Illari

Mx. Lucia Illari graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University in the spring of 2017 with a B.A. in Physics. They spent hir undergraduate career extracting the glitch waveforms of O1 aLIGO data (paying particular attention to H1 data) with the aim of collecting more evidence to demonstrate the feasibility of utilizing Kohonen Self Organizing Feature Maps (SOM) to display a multidimensional trigger set in a low-latency two dimensional format, as part of Dr. Soma Mukherjee’s group at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. This data is being used in the creation of a data characterization pipeline that uses novel and efficient algorithm for the classification of signals that arise in gravitational wave channels of LIGO. This algorithm is based mainly on the morphology of the waveform as well as several other parameters (SNR, duration, bandwidth) and centered around the use of SOMs and discrete wavelet transform coefficients, and    has so far proven promising. As an undergraduate, in addition to attending the 2017 CUWiP at Princeton, they were the head tutor of the Barnard Physics Helproom for two years (in addition to being an individual and group tutor) and ze was active in Club Q, CQA and qSTEM, which is why, as a first-year graduate  student, they are interested in developing the queer grad life at GW and involving hirself with oSTEM. Ze is very excited to help out with the 2018 APS CUWiP at GW in any capacity possible to make it the most enjoyable possible experience for attendees.


Chryssa Kouveliotou

Dr. Kouveliotou graduated from the Technical University of Munich in 1982 and joined the University of Athens Greece, from where she retired in 1994 to follow a career at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville Alabama. In 2002 she joined NASA as a civil servant at the highest Government grade (GS 15-10). In 2013 she became a Senior Scientist of High-Energy Astrophysics (Senior Executive core). In 2015, Dr. Kouveliotou retired from NASA and joined GW as a full Professor in Astrophysics. Since 2015 she increased her team with two assistant professors, three postdocs, and two PhD students. The GW Astro team has started an Astrophysics Minor, and a Major in the Physics Department. In 2015, she chartered the GW Astronomy, Physics, and Statistics Institute of Sciences (APSIS). Dr. Kouveliotou has been the principal investigator of numerous research projects in the U.S. and Europe, winning over $4.5M. She has served in over 20 Ph.D. committees in the USA and internationally. She is an affiliate scientist of the NASA/Swift and Fermi missions. Dr. Kouveliotou has 453 refereed publications with a Hirsh-index of 100 (Google Scholar). She has co-edited 3 books and she is one of the 249 most-cited space science researchers worldwide (having occupied at times the 6th, 8th, and 10th place) with a current total of 48,929 citations (Google Scholar; for refereed and non-refereed publications). She serves as a referee in most astronomical Journals (Astrophysical Journal, Astronomical Journal, MNRAS, A&A, and Nature) and as a chair/panelist in many Task Allocation Committees (HST, CXO, RXTE, CGRO, etc). Dr. Kouveliotou has served in several Evaluation Boards & committees in the USA and internationally; she has mentored many postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. In 2013 Dr. Kouveliotou chaired a task force on the strategic planning and roadmap of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate/Astrophysics Division. Dr. Kouveliotou has received multiple awards, including the Descartes Prize, the Rossi and Heineman Prize, and she has been decorated by the Greek Government as a Commander of the Order of the Honor, for excellence in science. She is a member of the US National Academy and of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and a corresponding member of the Dutch Royal Academy and the Greek National Academy. She has been a Councilor and a Vice President of the American Astronomical Society and a president of the HEAD (AAS) and DAP (APS); she is currently the President of Division D of the IAU and a member of the Executive Council of the NAS/Space Studies Board and of the AAAS.


Samantha Lumpkin

Samantha Lumpkin is a senior studying Physics at the George Washington University.  She is currently a tutor for the GW Naval ROTC Unit, and has worked as a Learning Assistant for the Physics Department.  She currently serves as the Co-President of the Society of Physics Students chapter at GW.  Her interests include optics and laser research, as well as in interest in nuclear physics and its applications in national security and US policy.  Ms. Lumpkin currently hopes to pursue a career in government or science policy after graduation, and put her technical skills to good use helping further scientific research in the United States.



Maria Solyanik

Maria Solyanik started her educational path at Karasin Karkiv National University, Ukraine. During her first undergraduate research project, she started leaning towards theoretical physics. This focus helped her complete the masters thesis. In 2013 Maria became a graduate student at the George Washington University. Since then, she has gained extensive research and teaching experience, participated in scientific projects and intern programs, and presented at conferences. Maria is currently pursuing her PhD thesis on the properties photon and matter beams with orbital angular momentum.


Kara Zielinski

Kara Zielinski is a senior at the George Washington University. She is studying biophysics and hopes to pursue graduate school next year. She has been heavily involved in the Society of Physics Students (SPS) at GW and is currently serving a second term as President. Kara previously attended Virginia Tech's CUWiP, and enjoyed meeting like-minded students. She is greatly looking forward to this year's conference!