Department News, Fall 2016

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Announcements
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition
Support the Department
Stay Connected


Message from the Chair

Bill Briscoe, Physics Department Chair



This has been an exciting year in the Physics Department and one with many changes. Rachel Potter left us in December to join her husband on his diplomatic mission in Dubai. Leah Kochenderfer is now our operations supervisor and doing a great job. She will soon be joined by a new administrative assistant. Our most exciting news is that Corcoran Hall will be renovated over the next 18 months, and until then we will be living and working in Staughton Hall. The renovation will provide us with space for expanded research and teaching space. If you are considering a gift to the Physics Department, you might want to contribute to the renovation of individual rooms or furnishings for classrooms and laboratories.

Our astronomy program is growing—we have a new major and minor in astronomy approved and ready to start taking on students next year. Our search for a new faculty member in astrophysics seems to be about to come to a successful completion, and we expect funding levels to match the increase of faculty. Two of the members of the Astrophysics Group have received honors from the university—Oleg Kargaltsev has received the Early Career Award for Research and Bethany Cobb-Kang has received the Bender Prize for Teaching. To add to the honors, Professor Chryssa Kouveliotou has been named foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and Commander of the Order of the Hellenic Republic.

On a sad note, my old teacher and mentor Roger Peverley has passed on. I think most of us remember Roger as the quiet professor with the Cambridge accent. The Peverley Prize for Undergraduate Research will continue to be awarded in his honor; this year's winner is Brian Alden.

Our annual Berman Memorial Lecture took place on April 21st; we thank Dr. Cedric X. Yu for his generous gift which supports this lecture series.

On April 22, a plaque was unveiled dedicating the Cornelius Bennhold Lecture Hall in his memory. Family, friends and faculty were present for the ceremony and the luncheon that followed. We thank the Bennhold family for their generosity.

William Briscoe
Chair, Physics Department


Department Spotlights 

On the Move: See You Later, Corcoran. Hello, Staughton.


The top half of Corcoran hall with the GW gate visible.

Corcoran Hall

Do you have a favorite spot in Corcoran Hall? The COR 101 lecture theater? The cooler in 104? Your old office? Then you will have to do with sweet memories about "the old Corcoran Hall" for the next 18 months. Yes, it is official: GW is renovating our beloved building.

Retrofitting modern teaching and research labs for the sciences into Corcoran would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, the new Science and Engineering Hall on the corner of 22nd and H Street now hosts our biophysicists and the chemists. Dedicated in 1924, Corcoran Hall is the oldest GW building at Foggy Bottom, the home of George Gamov, of Bohr's conference announcement of the Nuclear Age in 1939, of the Alpher-Gamov discovery of the mechanism behind big-bang nucleosynthesis in 1948, of the development of the bazooka in WWII—in short, of the Department of Physics since Time Immemorial. Razing such a GW landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places is of course out of the question. But after 90 years and protracted battles with old, retrofitted HVAC systems, electrical wiring and water leaks, it is time the old lady gets a make-over.

And now things are moving at light speed: at the end of May, everybody in the Corcoran and Samson Halls moved out. Staughton Hall, just south of Gelman Library on Kogan Plaza, will host us from June until the end of the renovations, projected for January 2018. 

In these 19 months, Corcoran's exterior will be cleaned, repaired with new windows and other upgrades, but its appearance will, of course, remain unchanged. The interior will get state-of- the-art HVAC, electrical and plumbing, digital-age network and communication systems and a completely new floor plan. 

The first and second floor will be dedicated to teaching: the new Bennhold Auditorium for lectures, two spaces dedicated to SCALE-UP teaching of introductory courses, six more multi-purpose classrooms and plenty of group study space. In the basement, we will finally get the desperately needed advanced physics and optics labs—no more crowding 16 students into the six-person closet called Corcoran 212A. The third and fourth floor will host the department offices as well as all faculty, postdocs, students and visitors in nuclear and astrophysics—finally united in one location. And we did not forget a new space for our active Society of Physics Students. As a sign of our strong collaboration with the new Masters in Data Science program, under the leadership of our own Professor Larry Medsker, its offices will be on the same floor. So the new Corcoran Hall will still be the home of physics, and now of the extended physics family only! 

In their plans, the architects have taken full advantage of Corcoran's strengths. Its traditional, huge windows and new, translucent walls between offices will let plenty of natural light into the inner offices. Fourteen-feet ceilings allow to hide all cables and plumbing, but still provide easy access and give a sense of wide and open spaces. Office clusters, collaboration and breakout spaces will be centered around research communities, and nobody is more than a staircase away. For on-the- spot discussions, we will be able to write on pretty much every wall, using glass instead of whiteboards. This design truly reflects our values. The new Corcoran Hall will be a welcoming and safe place with flexibility for growth, where all, students and faculty alike, are inspired to meet, to collaborate and to excel—the place where our needs and visions meet. 

If you want to help make this vision even better, please consider donating to the Department of Physics. Each gift, no matter how large or small, will have a positive impact. Feel free to contact us for a list of items that, we feel, would add to the new Corcoran Hall but are not covered by GW's investment. For details how to make your gift, see the end of this newsletter. Do not forget to add “Department of Physics, for Corcoran Renovation” as designee or on the memo line.

GW Society of Physics Students Named Outstanding Chapter


GW SPS students conduct outreach sessions in local middle schools.

GW SPS students conduct outreach sessions in local middle schools.

The GW Society of Physics Students (SPS) is the local branch of the nation-wide organization SPS. The purpose of GW SPS is to foster a welcoming environment for undergraduates who are passionate about physics to grow academically, professionally and socially, as well as to give back to the D.C. community through outreach. GW SPS was revived last year and had a strong first year. This year, it has maintained that momentum, making a smooth transition to new leadership and garnering an “Outstanding Chapter” award from the national SPS organization. In addition, it has expanded its outreach program and held many successful social events. 

This spring, the social events held by SPS include hosting SPS students from Georgia Tech, as well as continuing its now-traditional Physics Jeopardy competition. Furthermore, SPS held a well-attended panel on getting involved in undergraduate research, featuring seniors Brian Alden, Zoe Pierce and Jacob Maibach, and Professor Evie Downie and moderated by Professor Alexander van der Horst.

For a second year, SPS has conducted outreach with Life Pieces to Masterpieces, a youth development nonprofit organization that serves African American boys in D.C. With Life Pieces, SPS conducts I CAN Science: a series of six weekly, hands-on science workshops designed to inspire. Many undergraduates participated, including Brian Alden, Oliver Berroteran, Francis Carmody, Mikaela Sparks and Zoe Pierce, as well as faculty members Evie Downie, Alexander van der Horst and SPS advisor Gary White. Under the guidance of Professor White, outreach chairs Sri Murthy and Jacob Maibach composed a proposal for the SPS Marsh White Award, which GW SPS received for the second year in a row. The plan promised to continue to improve the weekly lessons, and to establish a permanent “mobile science station” on site for the boys of Life Pieces to explore science on their own. The mobile science station includes a selection of AIP award-winning children’s science books, such as Batman Science: The Real-world Science Behind Batman’s Gear and How to Make a Universe with 92 Ingredients: An Electrifying Guide to the Elements. The station also includes tools and toys from the science workshops, such as plasma balls from a lesson on lightning and prisms from a lesson on light and colors. Further items included a laser chess set for the already chess-savvy students. 

In the fall, GW SPS conducted DC Ask a Scientist, an outreach project to answer science questions from students at three middle schools in Maine. With the help of graduate student Nick Gorgone, SPS coordinated with the schools to host blogs through which students’ questions could be shared and answered. SPS members toiled to produce quality answers to several of these questions, although the very curious students asked many more questions than SPS was able to answer in the semester. 

Last, but not least, GW SPS congratulates its graduating seniors: Brian Alden, Max Levinson, Jacob Maibach, Zoe Pierce and Sri Murthy!

Physics and the New Data Science Program

In Academic Year 2015-2016, the GW Data Science program was born along with a promising partnership with the Department of Physics. The Columbian College of Arts & Sciences Associate Dean Yongwu Rong and Research Professor of Physics Larry Medsker collaborated to develop and promote the idea of a Data Science program, and to organize a Columbian College faculty committee to guide the design of the Master of Science in Data Science. The program has 45 graduate students at the end of its inaugural year.

The impetus for the new program is the explosion of data (popularly called Big Data) in the workplace and society, impacting every Columbian College discipline. The MS in Data Science combines deep understanding of the technology and skills in computing, statistics and data intensive problem solving with content knowledge in the natural and social sciences. Faculty members involved in the new Data Science program are from mathematics, statistics, bioinformatics, political science, economics geography … and physics and astronomy—fields that for many years have been quite familiar with Big Data, even before it became a household word.

The current director of the Data Science program is Professor Larry Medsker who naturally advocated that the new program be housed in the Department of Physics. Physics is providing office and laboratory space and managing the data science budget. Larry is actively working with the department to find synergistic opportunities to share courses, faculty, and students with common interests in all things data. Professors Briscoe, Chen, Dhuga, Medsker, Doering, Kargaltsev and van der Horst are among the physics and astrophysics faculty involved in the development of the data science program.

The Data Science program curriculum comprises specially designed courses with the DATS prefix and with content from data-relevant topics within mathematics, statistics, computation, artificial intelligence and physics. The core courses are Introduction to Data Science, Data Warehousing and Data Mining. Subsequent courses in the program include Machine Learning, High Performance and Cloud Computing and Data Visualization. Two electives can be chosen from content areas in natural and social sciences such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Econometrics and Bioinformatics; and of course also in physics. Other developments in the Data Science program include a four-course graduate certificate, extension of the MS and graduate certificate to the Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn (starting fall 2016) and the development of an internship program. With the anticipated fall enrollment of over 100 students, the revenue for the Data Science program will exceed $3 million for Academic Year 2016-2017.

Data Science is looking forward to a strong and long partnership with the Department of Physics. Read more information about the Data Science program at and visit the program on Facebook at


Department Announcements

Student News

Undergraduate Summer Research at GW and Abroad

One of the most exciting and productive ways to spend your summer as a physics undergraduate is doing research: either locally, with one of our own professors, or with collaborators at institutions such as the Naval Research Lab and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; or by taking advantage of one of the many competitive programs offering Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) or even International Research for Undergraduates (IRES) programs. The department strongly encourages students to engage in summer research, which allows them to decide if research is something in which they would like to engage in the future, and also helps them to synthesize and employ the physics knowledge they have gained in their classes, and learn all kinds of transferrable skills such as computer programming, technical drawing and data manipulation.

Inside the department, professors in all research groups offer diverse research experiences. For example, Professor Xiangyun Qiuhas a biophysics laboratory full of undergraduate and high school summer students, while Professor Alexander van der Horst has students analyze radio telescope data looking for signals of cosmic transients (objects whose signal changes on human timescales of days to seconds). Meanwhile, Professors Evie Downie, Bill Briscoe and Raluca Teodorescu lead an IRES program which takes students to Mainz, Germany, to work at the Mainzer Microtron electron accelerator. There, students can also engage in hardware projects, but this time involving detector components and high voltage instead of protein solutions, or analyze data looking at the smallest particles in the universe, rather than the massive stars and black holes of astrophysics. In addition to the internal opportunities, we have many students who place successfully in very competitive programs: over the past three years we have had GW students working at CERN through the University of Maryland’s REU program every summer. Here are two of our students—Sri Murthy and Brian Alden—reporting on their summer research experiences:

Sri Murthy:


Sri Murthy

Sri Murthy participated in the GW International Research for Undergraduates at the Johannes Gutenberg Universitat in Mainz, Germany.

“Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the GW IRES program, through which I was involved in nuclear physics research at the Johannes Gutenberg Universitat in Mainz, Germany. During my time in Mainz, I worked with members of the A1 collaboration of the Mainz Microtron (MAMI) on their neutron detector project, and conducted tests in preparation for neutron detector assembly. Over my eight weeks there, I learned a tremendous amount about detector systems, as well as about the importance and challenges of neutron detection. I got a lot of hands-on experience working with previous A1 detectors and testing effective methods for wrapping and gluing scintillation detector elements, as well as software experience using AutoCad and ROOT. I learned so much through my project, and especially loved being able to see and work with the detectors that I was reading about in the literature. As IRES scholars, we also had an opportunity to work beam time shifts, where we monitored the beam in the A2 hall and oversaw the data collection. I really cherished being able to work with and learn from physicists from all over the world, getting to be so directly involved in the research, and really contributing to the team’s work. “In addition to physics, I had many exciting adventures in Germany—everything from experiencing Johannes Fest in Mainz, visiting the majestic Mainz Dom, picking up some German and trying out German “Spaghettieis, to venturing into the Heidelberg castle and visiting the southeastern city of Berchtesgaden where I caught a beautiful view of the Bavarian Alps. Through the experience, I made so many unforgettable friendships and memories with my fellow IRES scholars, other summer students, and physicists at MAMI, many of whom I still stay in touch with. This was an experience I truly will never forget and I am really grateful to have had this opportunity as a GW physics student.”

Brian Alden:


Brian Alden under a sign that says "Antimatter Factory"

Through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, Brian Alden spent a summer at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Spending a summer at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, learning science with some of the best physicists in the world, is an experience I will never forget. Beyond memorable just for the introduction to a world renowned physics experiment, the education I received there is second to none. Outside of the scientific aspects of the program, the social aspects of the program were an added bonus. Meeting fellow aspiring physicists from about 80 different countries was enlightening to say the least. Further, getting to explore Europe on the weekends helped provide a cultural appreciation hard to acquire any other way. The overall experience gained was one that I am highly grateful of and will never forget. “Over the course of one summer, I was able to work on one of the experiments at CERN, NA-62, and actually help shape the future of the detector layout. Further, all of the students started our day with crash courses in particle physics from experts on the forefront of our knowledge of each topic presented. Our afternoons were filled working with an advisor from one of the various experiments conducted at CERN on a project selected for each student. The advisors created the projects with the intent that each student be able to complete their assigned project in the allotted timeframe. Further, each project needed to be meaningful and help the experiment go forward. All in all, I highly recommend my fellow students take part in summer research!”

Department News

New Astronomy & Astrophysics Major and Minor

The universe fascinates people from all ages and backgrounds. Until recently, this fascination with our universe was addressed at GW only in the introductory astronomy sequence: two courses largely populated by (and very popular with) non-science majors, typically teaching 400 students per semester. With the growth of our astrophysics faculty (now comprising Professors Cobb Kung, Dhuga, Kargaltsev, Kouveliotou, and van der Horst) comes the opportunity to develop a long-desired Astronomy & Astrophysics Major and Minor program. This involves the launch of three innovative new courses. We are convinced that this will both attract more students, from the existing pool at GW and new students that are attracted to studying astronomy, and also provide some interesting new elective courses for our physics majors.

Currently there are senior undergraduate students, with a strong astrophysics interest, who are doing research projects in astrophysics, but have only the Space Astrophysics class to address their cosmic curiosity in a classroom setting. The new program is designed to give them a strong and broad foundation in astronomy and astrophysics. This will underpin their research experience and assist in future endeavors beyond their undergraduate studies.

The first of the courses to come online will be the Astrophysics Seminar in fall 2016, to be followed by Introduction to Modern Astrophysics in spring 2017 and, last but not least, Data Analysis in Astrophysics the following fall. Together with the existing Space Astrophysics course, they constitute the astrophysics core of the major and minor programs. Besides these courses, a large fraction of the proposed astronomy and astrophysics program is built around core physics courses. This has a dual effect: The program can profit from the fact that it is embedded in a department where these courses are already offered; and an influx of astronomy and astrophysics students will hopefully further increase the enrollment in the upper level physics courses.

The astronomy & astrophysics major and minor have been approved by the faculty of the Physics Department, and are currently being reviewed by the Columbian College of Arts & Sciences. Students have already begun to sign up for the Astrophysics Seminar course. Delivered in seminar-style, the course will contain lectures by renowned speakers from various institutions, including NASA, Naval Research Lab, Los Alamos and the Universities of Maryland, Clemson and Amsterdam, on a variety of topics. The students will be guided by Professor Kouveliotou to a deeper understanding of the topics covered, and in acquiring astrophysics research skills, by, for example, studying research papers, and discussing and presenting their findings. Together with the lecturers and Professor Kouveliotou, the students will try to find answers to questions such as: What are the extremes of Nature? How many planets like our earth are there? What are magnetars and gamma-ray bursts? How did supermassive black holes form and grow? We are very excited to be able to offer an educational program commensurate with the forefront research performed in the department by our newly expanded astrophysics group.

Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

The Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) is an opportunity for students to come together and learn more about the great work done by women in physics and astronomy, to hear about the diverse career opportunities available after graduation, and to learn about strategies for resilience and success in a highly competitive environment. The idea is that through meeting with role models and forming a professional network, the retention of women in the field can be improved. This year, seven GW students were accepted to the conference, and two faculty, Professors Downie and Kouveliotou, represented GW Physics at the graduate fair. Here, one of the students shares her impressions.

Alexandra Kidd: “As the first conference I have ever attended on the subject of physics, the focus held not only on the status of female achievement in the field, but also on gender distinct objectives, and it made quite an impression on me. However, it was not an event solely to celebrate the success of women in physics, or a public service convention to discuss gender biased perspective issues; it was more of an opportunity to communicate and learn about the significance of women in physics, with a focus on the challenges of the field overall. In addition, the CUWiP offered various unique opportunities and events that catered to those seeking both professional and academic development. We had the chance to tour and hear about the accelerator facility at Jefferson lab, to listen to great speakers such as Ginger Kerrick from NASA and Kathy Flanagan from the Space Telescope Science Institute, and connect with various other notable female physicists and professors.

“Interestingly, I noticed that many students and faculty at this conference had an interest or focus in astronomy and astrophysics. Although the event was not intended to advocate these topics in particular, the speakers matched well with the students’ interests. The most interesting event in my opinion was the talk by Kathy Flanagan in which she discussed the exciting plans for a new telescope in development, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). JWST is to be launched later this decade with the capability to study infrared light with four sensitive imaging spectroscopic instruments in order to (in so many words) hopefully answer some of the most fundamental questions about the origin of the cosmos and other wonders of the universe. With this type of inspirational talk on the future, it was difficult to leave without feeling inspired and excited about one’s own future in physics.”

New Multi-Disciplinary Institute in Astronomy, Physics and Statistics

The GW Astronomy, Physics, and Statistics Institute of Sciences (APSIS), was chartered at the end of 2015. APSIS is a multi-disciplinary Institute focused on “Multi-wavelength Observations, Statistical Inference, Modeling, and Simulations of High-Energy phenomena in the Universe,” comprising groups from the GW Physics, Statistics and Mathematics Departments. Professors Chryssa Kouveliotou (Physics) and Tatiyana Apanasovich (Statistics) serve as the director and deputy director, respectively. The primary objective is to establish a collaborative learning and research environment stemming from multi-disciplinary interests of—initially—the physics, astrophysics and statistics faculties, and their graduate and undergraduate students, involved in data- intensive research and applications.

The unifying theme and focus of APSIS is the multifaceted investigation of the properties and manifestations of matter under extreme conditions of pressure, temperature, density and magnetic fields through multi-wavelength observations, modeling and simulations that probe spatial, spectral and time domains. The APSIS members will be actively engaged in observations of astronomical sources using the world’s best space- and ground-based facilities. The combination of two Physics Department groups brings together expertise in traditional multi-wavelength astronomy and emerging subfields in astrophysics with particle physics, while colleagues in the Statistics and the Mathematics Departments add invaluable expertise in analytical, numerical and statistical techniques especially pertinent to Big Data science.

The APSIS goal in the next five years is to become a truly GW-wide initiative by providing a data science training and research facilities to researchers and professionals who recognize the potential of Big Data but do not have the tools to explore it. To this end, APSIS will actively seek to collaborate with many departments and schools within GW, including biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, finance, decision sciences and marketing, humanities, geography, physics, policy and political science, psychology, public health and sociology. APSIS will also address issues of big data storage, transport and retrieval, a very current and real problem, given the large number of new telescopes coming up with huge amounts of data production. The Virginia campus will be involved in this effort, as it has the infrastructure that makes it a prime site for this goal. Finally APSIS will engage with industry partners as sponsors of research projects using their Big Data to train graduate students through internships at their institutions.

First-Year Anniversary of GW Center on Biomolecular Sciences

This spring celebrates the first anniversary of the GW Center on Biomolecular Sciences (CBMS), chartered April 2015. CBMS aims to catalyze intramural and extramural collaborations in tackling complex problems of biomolecular structure and function, and to transform them into new research and training opportunities with deep impacts. The founding members include its two co-directors, Professors Xiangyun Qiu from physics and Michael Massiah from chemistry, senior advisor Professor Chen Zeng from physics and nine other faculty members from three different schools at GW. CBMS is well aligned with the GW Strategic Plan for the inherent cross-disciplinary nature of biomolecular research.

Recognizing GW's growing strengths in structure-based biomolecular research as well as its central role in biology and medicine, the center fills a critical missing piece in university- wide research programs. CBMS seeks to create a platform for GW researchers with diverse backgrounds and expertise to bounce new ideas off each other, to explore collaboration opportunities in complementary approaches and training, to connect with leaders both nationally and internationally, and to enhance the reputation of GW as a national research center in biomolecular sciences.

Our current research portfolio employs wide arrays of experimental and computational techniques to study broad molecular classes of nucleic acids, protein, membrane and metabolite. Rather broadly, the following specific research-oriented activities will be engaged within the CBMS: (1) institute regular forums to promote interactions and collaborations between GW researchers in the fields of biomolecular structure and functions, and to draw interested GW researchers into this fascinating area of research; (2) attract and bring leaders in biomolecular sciences as speakers and visiting scholars to increase our visibility and to expand our research capabilities and portfolio. For example, we regularly host visiting researchers sponsored by the Chinese Scholarship Council each year to engage in collaborative research with CBMS labs; (3) develop cross-disciplinary training curricula in biomolecular sciences that will enrich the educational experiences for our students, e.g., a course to survey modern experimental and computational techniques probing biomolecular structure and function.

Bringing GW's Pedagogical Experience to Europe

As many of you know, the GW Department of Physics has fully implemented the SCALE-UP collaborative group-learning approach in our introductory courses in physics and astronomy. This is a model for the university as a whole, and it has proven to be very successful for improving student learning gains. 

In the coming 2016-17 academic year, Professor Jerry Feldman will be taking this show on the road, bringing the SCALE-UP pedagogy to Switzerland. In the fall 2016 semester, Professor Feldman will journey to Zurich, supported by a Fulbright Specialist Grant, where he will work with a physics professor at the ETH for six weeks, preparing the curricular materials and pedagogical strategies for launching SCALE-UP at this highly ranked Swiss institution. This initial work is preliminary to the “main event” which will occur in the spring 2017 semester. At that time, Professor Feldman will be fully supported by ETH as a visiting professor for the deployment of the SCALE-UP method in one of the introductory course sequences at ETH. This will be a radical innovation for the Swiss students (and instructors!), who will hopefully find the active-learning approach tremendously engaging and highly stimulating.

Professor Feldman first planted the seeds of SCALE-UP at ETH in spring 2014, when he gave a departmental colloquium there about the recent developments at GW on this front. His hosts at ETH were quite intrigued by the prospects of trying SCALE-UP on a limited basis at their own institution, and as a result, a new collaboration was born! After more than a year of work and planning, this project will now see the light of day, and all of the participants are looking forward to a very optimistic outcome. So please stay tuned for a later edition of the GW Physics Newsletter to see how it all turned out.

Faculty & Research News

Nuclear Physics Research Highlights

Lattice simulations provide the ab-initio approach to quantum chromodynamics (QCD) in the non-perturbative regime. There, we can study the strong interaction through scattering experiments like the collision of two pions forming an unstable rho resonance. Professor Andrei Alexandru and graduate student Dehua Guo have calculated the rho resonance on the lattice. The calculation was done using QCD with two degenerate flavors of light quarks (the isospin limit), without including the effects of the strange quark. The resonance parameters were extracted using lattice QCD from the phase-shift dependence on the center of mass energy in the rho-resonance region. The calculation employs state-of- the-art lattice QCD techniques (improved action, LapH smearing, etc.) and a novel method to tune the momentum using elongated boxes. Then, Professor Michael Doering, postdoctoral research Raquel Molina and graduate student Bin Hu used unitarized effective field theory to extrapolate the results down to physical masses. Within this theory, the strange quark, missing in the lattice QCD simulation, can be corrected for. Both pieces of work have provided very interesting results, based on the combined and complementary expertise of both research groups. They are now working on the publication of their findings, and on further analysis to confirm the rather unexpected but significant results.

While lattice QCD simulations provide the ab-initio access to the strong interaction, they are restricted to small volumes. Extrapolations to the infinite (physical) volume pose a serious challenge. Dr. Raquel Molina predicted the finite-volume spectrum for one of today's most-debates resonances, the Lambda(1405). In contrast to other states, this resonance manifests itself through a two-pole structure, at least in unitarized effective field approaches. To test this hypothesis, Dr. Molina compared her prediction to recent QCD simulation data. As a result, the data were found not accurate enough to confirm the two- pole hypothesis, but they are not in contradiction with it either. Dr. Molina has also advanced her studies on heavy meson decays and methods to learn about the nature of resonances from these decays. Three-body systems exhibit finite-volume effects that are not well understood. Yet, sometimes, e.g., when searching for resonances, one does not need to know the explicit dynamics for all particles. Multi-particle channels can all be absorbed in the so-called optical potential. A method to extrapolate from the finite to the infinite volume has been proposed by researchers from Bonn University and Professor Doering. Extensive use of modern statistical methods is necessary for this work. The article that presents the results from this work, affiliated with the newly founded APSIS institute, is now under consideration with the Journal of High Energy Physics. One of the authors, Dr. Maxim Mai from Bonn University, was awarded a grant by the German Research Foundation to spend one year at GW. He will join Professor Doering's group in the summer.

The discovery of new resonances is a primary goal of the research program centered at Jefferson Lab (JLab) in Newport News. Theory predicts a plethora of states that remain undiscovered in experiments so far. The GW Data Analysis Center (DAC) group (Professors Briscoe, Doering, Haberzettl, Strakovsky and Workman) has analyzed new data from the CLAS/FROST collaboration at JLab, including the first-ever measurement of the E observable in eta-photoproduction. This was a common project of the GW DAC and Juelich Bonn groups who have joined efforts. Other collaborative efforts have involved the analysis groups, and photoproduction measurements, at the Mainz and Bonn facilities in Germany. The GW DAC played also a leading role in proposing experiments using hadron beams that would allow us to better understand the strong interaction and formation of resonances. In a common White paper with colleagues from Kent State, Kyoto and Pittsburgh Universities, physics opportunities with hadron beams are pointed out.

Undergraduate student Joseph Revier has just submitted his first paper that is now under consideration at Physical Review. Together with members of the GW DAC, he provides correlations of partial waves in elastic pion-nucleon scattering. These waves have served other groups as input for their fits since many years, but correlations are available only now, which are a prerequisite to carry out quantitative statistical analyses. Since spring 2016, several undergraduates and students from the Joint Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (JUMP) scholarship program work on related questions of statistics and data analysis, mainly under the supervision of Professor Doering. In particular, the topic of model selection for the analysis of data from Jefferson Lab and other facilities is discussed.

At the beginning of February 2016, Jefferson Lab hosted a workshop on the physics with a neutral Kaon beam at JLab. It was dedicated to the physics of hyperons produced by the neutral Kaon beam on both unpolarized and polarized targets. The workshop was mainly aimed at preparations for a proposal with an emphasis on hyperon spectroscopy. Therefore, the organizers brought experts together who are presently involved in hyperon physics. The mechanism of dynamically generated hyperon resonances as an alternative to genuine resonances, typically described within quark models, were extensively discussed.

Discussions in the sessions of the workshop and outside the meetings with the leaders in the field provided a great benefit to graduate students and young researchers attending the meeting. The proposed GlueX-KLF program is complimentary, for instance, to the Very Strange experiment with CLAS12 and would operate in JLab Hall D for more than five years. Such studies could contribute to the existing scientific program on hadron spectroscopy at Jefferson Lab and possibly cooperate with the J-PARC hyperon program. The workshop was also aimed at boosting the international collaboration, and is hopefully leading to such collaborations between the US and EU research institutions and universities.

Astrophysics Research Highlights

This past August, five members of the GW Astrophysics Group attended the XXIXth International Astronomical Union General Assembly, held in Honolulu, Hawaii. This two- week-long conference, held every three years, brought together thousands of astrophysicists from all over the world for the largest conference of its kind. Graduate students Noel Klingler and Jeremy Hare, along with postdoc Blagoy Rangelov, presented their research at the Week 2 poster session, Professor Oleg Kargaltsev delivered a talk on pulsar wind nebulae, and Professor Chryssa Kouveliotou chaired a lecture series on high- energy astrophysical phenomena. The team also attended a variety of talks and workshops given by renowned experts, and met with a collaborator from the University of Hong Kong.

Graduate student Noel Klingler (along with his advisor Professor Kargaltsev and postdoctoral scientist Dr. Blagoy Rangelov) led a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal on the supersonic pulsar J1509-5850. The team (which also included collaborators from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Hong Kong) discovered a puzzling linear outflow originating from the pulsar and extending for over 20 light years roughly in the direction ahead of it. Such outflows are rare and only recently discovered (this one is the fourth of its kind), and are still not thoroughly understood, as current hydrodynamical theory can not explain them.

Professor Oleg Kargaltsev, along with his graduate student Jeremy Hare, recently had a press release regarding their Astrophysical Journal paper on the high mass gamma-ray binary system known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883. The group (along with collaborators from Penn State University) discovered a high velocity cloud of particles being launched from the system, which is unlike anything ever observed from these types of binaries. Jeremy Hare presented these results in a talk at the Sixth International Fermi Symposium in Arlington, Va. At this same conference, Professor van der Horst gave an invited talk on the synergies between the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and surveys of the sky with radio telescopes.

Four students, Jeremy Hare, Noel Klingler, Lauren Kidd and Nick Gorgone, participated in the 3rd VA/DC/MD graduate student astrophysics conference, held at Catholic University in July. This conference brings together graduate students from many local universities, as well as a few distinguished speakers, to help foster collaborations between students. The students presented their work with talks and posters to a crowd of roughly 50 students.

During the period cover by the newsletter, the Astrophysics Group was awarded observing time on the top international observatories including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Array and the Swift, Nustar and XMM-Newton X-ray observatories.


Alumni Updates/Class Notes

Hans Bode, BS ’60, received a PhD in biophysics at Yale and spent four years as a post-doc in Germany learning about the developmental biology of hydra. He continued this work at the University of California at Irvine for 36 years, retiring in 2006.

Philip Brinkman, MA ’74, has worked for the past 28 years in an office now within the Federal Aviation Administration that regulates the commercial space launch industry. Prior to that, he spent 15 years in highway safety research at the Federal Highway Administration.

John Capone, BS ’10, is currently completing his PhD in astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park. In July of 2016, he will begin a postdoctoral research position in the Department of Physics at Oxford University. 

Karen Coleman, BS ’85, returned to GW in 2009 to take graduate information technology courses, with a concentration in cyber security. Before this, she worked at NASA, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. She left to start two LLCs.

Brendan Freehart, BS ’10, still lives in Washington, D.C., and works in technology close to Foggy Bottom.

Kangfei Gan, PhD ’11, is a software testing engineer working for Integrated Engineering Software in Winnipeg, Canada.

Derek Jones, BA ’11, BS ’11, is a lighting designer in Los Angeles, Calif. He collaborates with schools, theatres and other organizations in L.A., D.C. and New York. He is also the production manager and lead designer for his events company Awesome Action Inc.

Michael Mavrofrides, BS ’96, has worked for astronauts and applied a few times to NASA, but the closest he has gotten is a couple years back running a training for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center. These days, he travels each week running courses for developers and marketers.

Kerry Pribik (Nelson), BS ’96, completed work to receive a MS in systems engineering at GW in 2009. She has been supporting the Missile Defense Agency in Systems Engineering continuously since 1997.


Donor Recognition

The Physics Department would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the program from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015. Your gifts were used to provide support for faculty and student research and travel, graduate student fellowships and academic enrichment activities including guest speakers, visiting faculty and symposia.

We couldn’t have done any of this without you. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Dayton Foundation Depository, Inc.
Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund
Derek A. Brehm, BS ’14
Montie Rea Craddock, BS ’84
Ms. Berhan Taddesse Demissie, MPhil ’13
Mary Anne Frey, BA ’70, PhD ’75
Laura F. Horn, EdD ’06
Mark V. Hughes, III, BA ’69, MS ’77
John W. Kauffman, BS ’47
Peter F. Koehler, MS ’63
Carla H. Messina, MS ’62
Irving Michael, BS ’50
Silvia Niccolai, MPhil ’01, PhD ’03
Reyna K. Pratt, MPhil ’95
W. Stuart Riggsby, BA ’58
Rise G. Schnizlein, BS ’71
Ilana L. Spar, BS ’08


Support the Department

Gifts to the Department of Physics allow us to provide support for faculty and student research and travel, graduate student fellowships and academic enrichment activities including guest speakers, visiting faculty and symposia. Each gift, no matter how large or small, makes a positive impact on our educational mission and furthers our standing as one of the nation's preeminent liberal arts colleges at one of the world's preeminent universities.

You can make your gift to the department in a number of ways:

  • Give online through our secure donation page.
  • Mail your check, made out to the George Washington University and with “Department of Physics” in the memo line, to

The George Washington University
P.O. Box 98131
Washington, DC 20077-9756 

  • Call the GW Division of Development and Alumni Relations at 1-800-789-2611 to make a donation by phone.


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