Physics Flash - Spring 2015 
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Professor John Spence elected Fellow of the Royal Society 

Richard Snell Professor of Physics, Department of Physics, Arizona State University and Director of Science, NSF BioXFEL Science and Technology Center


The Royal Society is a fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering and medicine, roughly equivalent to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.The society dates back to the 1660s, and its fundamental purpose is to recognize, promote and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton have been members of the Royal Society.John Spence is distinguished for his innovative world-leading contributions to both biology and materials science. He led the team which conceived the first application of X-ray free-electron lasers (XFEL) to structural biology using protein nanocrystals and he pioneered femtosecond serial crystallography. He is also a world leader in the development and application of atomic-resolution electron microscopy. For example, he co-invented a widely used technique for locating impurity atoms in nanocrystals and published the first observation of dislocation kinks, at atomic resolution. He has developed new microscopies and spectroscopies which have given scientists new eyes to understand atomic processes in solids. 

Faculty colleagues and university leadership convened on May 19, at the University Club, to offer a champagne toast to Professor Spence, in recognition of this highly prestigious award, which reflects well on the physics department and on ASU, in general.

Please visit the links below for detailed description of this award.

Professor Tanmay Vachaspati: Left-handed cosmic magnetic field could explain missing antimatter

fgst small
Caption: An artist’s impression of the Fermi Gamma ray Space Telescope (FGST) in orbit.
The discovery of a 'left-handed' magnetic field that pervades the universe could help explain a long standing mystery – the absence of cosmic antimatter. A group of scientists, led by Prof. Tanmay Vachaspati from Arizona State University in the United States, with collaborators at Washington University and Nagoya University, announce their result in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 
Planets, stars, gas and dust are almost entirely made up of 'normal' matter of the kind we are familiar with on Earth. But theory predicts that there should be a similar amount of antimatter, like normal matter, but with the opposite charge. For example, an antielectron (called a positron) has the same mass as its conventional counterpart, but a positive rather than negative charge.
In 2001 Prof. Vachaspati published theoretical models to try to solve this puzzle, which predict that the entire universe is filled with helical (screw-like) magnetic fields. He and his team were inspired to search for evidence of these fields in data from the NASA 
Fermi Gamma ray Space Telescope (FGST).
FGST, launched in 2008, observes 
gamma rays (electromagnetic radiation with a shorter wavelength than X-rays) from very distant sources, such as the supermassive black holes found in many large galaxies. The gamma rays are sensitive to effect of the magnetic field they travel through on their long journey to the Earth. If the field is helical, it will imprint a spiral pattern on the distribution of gamma rays.
Vachaspati and his team see exactly this effect in the FGST data, allowing them to not only detect the magnetic field but also to measure its properties. The data shows not only a helical field, but also that there is an excess of left-handedness - a fundamental discovery that for the first time suggests the precise mechanism that led to the absence of antimatter.
For example, mechanisms that occur nanoseconds after the 
Big Bang, when the Higgs field gave masses to all known particles, predict left-handed fields, while mechanisms based on interactions that occur even earlier predict right-handed fields.
Prof. Vachaspati commented: "Both the planet we live on and the star we orbit are made up of 'normal' matter. Although it features in many science fiction stories, antimatter seems to be incredibly rare in nature. With this new result, we have one of the first hints that we might be able to solve this mystery."
This discovery has wide ramifications, as a cosmological magnetic field could play an important role in the formation of the first stars and could seed the stronger field seen in galaxies and clusters of galaxies in the present day.

  Physics Faculty Awards & Achievements
JSAP International Fellow Award to Ernst Bauer 

Distinguished Research Professor Ernst Bauer has been selected as an International Fellow of the Japanese Society of Applied Physics. The award of “JSAP Fellow International was founded to recognize the foreign researchers and Japanese researchers abroad who have made remarkable contributions to the progress of applied physics through the international activities related to JSAP.” In recognition of this honor, he will give a commemorative talk at the 76th JSAP Autumn meeting this September in Nagoya. 

Dr. Fernando Ponce - Group-III-Nitride Laser Diodes Operating at 369nm


ASU in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology (Dr. Russell Dupuis) has been awarded for the period 1/1/15 to 12/31/15.  The ASU portion will be led by Dr. Fernando Ponce.  The research consists in developing an understanding of the physics of wide bandgap semiconductor epitaxial films for vertical cavity surface emitting lasers emitting in the ultraviolet range.  In addition to effective light emitting active regions, distributed Bragg reflectors consisting of multilayers with high quality interfaces and large differences in index of refraction will be essential for proper device performance.

Dr. David Hestenes - Recognized for accomplishments in geometric algebra and in STEM education.

An international conference is "dedicated to David Hestenes in appreciation of his masterly leadership". David Hestenes will be a plenary speaker at the 6th Conference on Applied Geometric Algebras in Computer Science and Engineering,  in Barcelona from July 29 to 31, 2015 at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. His lecture is titled, "Fifty Years with Geometric Algebra: a retrospective".

Dr. Micheal Treacy - Outstanding Teaching Award 

The outstanding teaching award recognizes a faculty member in the department who delivers exemplary instruction and service to students. 


New Endowments to the Department of Physics

This year the Department of Physics received two generous endowments. 
The Improving Physics and Chemistry Teachers Scholarship Endowment - Dr. Jane & Paul Jackson

To honor Marjorie Chapman, a teacher, and her husband, an engineer, the Endowment Fund was created at Arizona State University by her daughter, Jane Jackson, and her husband, Paul, to support teachers who participate in the Modeling Instruction Program.

Fellowship in Experimental Physics - William J. Motil

The William J. Motil Fellowship in Experimental Physics will be the first endowment at the University in support of experimental physics graduate students.Bill Motil graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in physics and has a passion for the field of experimental physics. His degree prepared him for a  long and successful career beginning at Rocket Power Inc. & Talley Industries, testing rocket motors and propellant actuated devices; then the Albuquerque divisions of EG&G & TRW, testing nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects; and finally at Voss Scientific, evaluating high powered microwave sources, and their effects. He is interested in funding this fellowship so that the department can recruit and retain the best and brightest graduate students in the field of experimental physics. 
Thank you for your generosity and investment in our students. 

2015 Physics Scholarship Recipients

Wally Stoelzel Physics Scholarship & Fellowship
The Stoezel Physics Scholarship and Fellowship are awarded in honor of Professor Allen ,former chair of the Department of Physics, and Ms. Glenna Curtis, former department secretary, through the generous contribution of Mr. Wally Stoezel.

Vishal Mehta - Junior, BS Physics

Andy Svesko - PhD

Richard G. Stoner Memorial Scholarship
Professor Richard Stoner was chair of the ASU Department of Physics and Astronomy for ten years, a dedicated teacher, and a founding member of the Arizona section of the American Association of Physics Teachers. The scholarship is made possible through generous donations made in Dr. Stoner’s memory. The scholarship can be awarded to a current or prospective physics student.

Gregory Vetaw - Senior, BS Physics

John C. Wheatley Undergraduate Research Scholarship
The Department of Physics at Arizona State University is pleased to sponsor this scholarship in honor of John C. Wheatley who as a laboratory manager from the John M. Cowley Center for High Resolution Microscopy helped establish ASU Physics as a world leader in electron microscopy.

Michelle Di Palma, Sophomore BS Biophysics

Molecular Imaging Corporation Endowment Scholarship & Fellowship
The Molecular Imaging Corporation benefited greatly from the support of ASU in the past. As a way to say ‘thank you’, the founders created an endowment to support ASU physics students through an undergraduate scholarship and a graduate fellowship.

Brianna Nicole Thorpe ,Sophomore, BS Physics

David Dotson, PhD

Arek Dieterle Memorial Award
This award is a memorial to Arek Dieterle, who in 1999, left this world too soon. Arek was a former ASU Physics student and past president of the ASU chapter of the Society of Physics also known as SPS. The award honors ASU SPS members who show the same qualities that made Arek such an outstanding member. We hope that Arek’s spirit and dedication to SPS will continue to live on in the future generations of SPS and be remembered through this award.

Aditya Dhumuntarao, Junior, BS Physics

John and Richard Jacob Award for Undergraduate Research
This award was established by Richard and Jacqueline Jacob in the names of their sons, John S. Jacob and Richard E. Jacob, who are both ASU Physics and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumni and benefited significantly from their research experiences as undergraduates. The award recognizes an undergraduate student who participated in formal research in physics or astrophysics and has contributed substantially to the results of research and its dissemination.

Alex Munoz, Senior, BS Physics

William J. and Carol M. Motil Scholarship
The William J. and Carol M. Motil Scholarship was established by William J. Motil who graduated from ASU with a degree in Physics in 1963.  He is thankful and appreciative of the benefits derived from the education he received and recognizes the need for support of students entering into and continuing their education in the field of physics.

Jarrod Blair Junior, BS Physics

Varda Faghir Hagh, PhD

Vesto Melvin Slipher Foundation Scholarship
The Vesto Melvin Slipher Foundation provides a scholarship each year to a worthy student who is pursuing studies in science at either the University of Arizona, Arizona State University or Northern Arizona University.

Matthew Zemeida, Freshman, BS Physics

Tsong Research Award 
The Tsong research award was established by Dr. Ig Tsong to recognize undergraduates who are currently involved in research at ASU-Physics.

Veronica Meeks, Junior, BS Physics
Ian WellendJunior, BS Physics
Salar Simaie Junior, BS Physics


CLAS Dean's Medalist & Alumni Outstanding Graduate - Christopher Luna                       

Christopher Luna was selected as the Deans Medalist for the Department of Physics on top of that honor he was also awarded 'Alumni Outstanding Graduate' this award is presented to five students across ASU. Christopher will attend Princeton University to obtain his PhD on a full scholarship.                                                                    

Physics Student Awards & Achievements 

Aditya Dhumuntarao - Junior, BS Physics 

National SPS Leadership Scholarship for his outstanding academic achievement and SPS involvement. 

Todd Hodges- Junior, BS Physics 

Todd has been elected to serve as the SPS President for academic year 2015/16


Sundial grows, and goes national 

Dr. Anna Zaniewski 

For many students, making the transition from high school to college can be more than a little intimidating. College represents a great deal of freedom, but also a disruption of the social support structures students relied upon in high school.Sundial attempts to relieve some of the anxieties associated with this transition, by focusing on building new social bonds and a  community of science loving people in physics and SESE programs, by spending time doing fun science. ­­In its second year, Sundial expanded the services offered to include course-based academic year mentoring and a two week summer bridge program for incoming freshmen. During the summer program, students learned about the behavior of light, and in the words of one participant:
All of this learning was done not with boring lectures where one needed to take notes of everything, but with fun science activities which kept us engaged throughout the class. Looking back at my time spent: it had been a great ride. I made new friends, interacted with complete strangers on campus, and learned more about an essential topic in Physics.  I had never had fun in learning science the manner in which I did during this program

Moving forward, Sundial will offer a 2015 bridge program, continue to offer and improve upon the mentoring program, and build a community that values inclusion.  Sundial is also going national, as one of six founding members of the Access Network. This network will enable a sharing of best practices for establishing physics student support programs.  

If you are interested in learning more about the Sundial program please send an email to Dr. Anna Zaniewski -

Physics Staff Awards 


Deanna Clark, Program Manager - CBP and STC

Mrs. Clark was named outstanding staff member for 2015. 

Ixchell (Ixxy) Paape, Department Manager 

Mrs. Paape was the recipient of the Denise Jackson Award for 2015. 

Staff Meeting & Welcoming new Staff 

Amber Packard, Business Specialist
Melinda Hernandez, HR Specialist
Vicky Wang, Office Specialist

Copyright © *|2015|* *|Department of Physics|*, All rights reserved.
Spring 2015

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 871504
Tempe, AZ 85287

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Chairs Note:
Dr. Peter Bennett

I am happy to provide an update of department activities and highlights during the past semester. Our enrollments continued to grow, driven mostly by the general studies courses. We now have almost 6000 seats per semester in the lower division courses and over 300 seats in the upper division courses (mostly physics majors). We are happy to deliver instruction to such a large group of students. We count our cohort of physics students as: 322 majors, 23 Masters (PSM) and 106 PhD. We continue to expand the use of undergraduate “Learning Assistants” (LAs) who join our faculty in the class-room, using interactive methods to engage students very effectively. In the spring semester, we deployed nearly 40 LAs across 7 different courses, notably including several sections of PHY121, a large-enrollment course for Engineering students.  We plan to expand this program into many of the general studies PHY1xx courses. This initiative follows from a successful LA workshop, organized by Kelli Gamez-Warble, and featuring invited speaker Laurie Leshkin from University of Colorado, Boulder. The workshop included attendees from Physics, Math, Chemistry and Engineering. 

 Several faculty garnered well-deserved awards during the past semester. Most notable was John Spence, who was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, as a Foreign Member (see story). This is a truly remarkable achievement, on the scale of the National Academy in the USA. The elite roster of the FRS includes such notables as Newton, Einstein, Hawking and Darwin - truly rarified company. In the words of one colleague, “this award marks a maturation of ASU as a research institution, which is now strong enough to produce and support (and retain!) a scholar of this magnitude. It speaks well for physics and for all of us across campus.” Hear, hear! Faculty colleagues and university leadership convened on May 19, at the University Club, to offer a champagne toast to Professor Spence, in recognition of this highly prestigious award. For, he’s a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny!

 Other notable faculty awards include Distinguished Research Professor Ernst Bauer, who was selected as an International Fellow of the Japanese Society of Applied Physics (JSAP). This award recognizes foreign researchers and Japanese researchers abroad who have made remarkable contributions to the progress of applied physics through the international activities related to JSAP. In recognition of this honor, Professor Bauer will give a commemorative talk at the 76th JSAP Autumn meeting this September in Nagoya. Professor David Hestenes will present a plenary lecture titled “Fifty Years with Geometric Algebra” at an international conference in Barcelona dedicated to his own work in establishing this field of study. Professor Tanmay Vachaspati has been recognized by the Royal Astronomical Society for his work on left-handed cosmic magnetic fields, recently observed in close alignment with his theoretical predictions, which could explain missing antimatter in the cosmos. This work is an outcome of his recent Clark Way Visiting Professor Appointment at Washington University.

We are thrilled to welcome two new faculty, who will join us this fall (watch for feature stories in the next FLASH). Bill Graves joins us from MIT. He is a world expert on the topic of accelerator physics and his main focus will be to build a novel compact light source (sometimes called “table-top synchrotron”) to produce ultra-fast, ultra-intense X-ray beams suitable for diffraction and imaging studies, with applications in solid-state physics, nano-electronics, chemistry, and bio-physics. Christian Dwyer joins us from Julich, Germany. He is a world expert on the topic of theory and application of aberration-corrected electron microscopy. His presence will help keep ASU at the forefront of this rapidly developing field.

The department was delighted to host Frank Wilczek (Nobel Laureate 2004) for the spring semester. He engaged strongly with the entire cosmology group, of course, but he also pursued a separate, experimental interest on the topic of “color vision”. We compliment Professor Wilczek on the range of his interests and abilities! There was a rumor that his experimental efforts were actually some form of revenge of the MIT robot team, triggered by the 10th anniversary of the ignominious defeat of MIT by Carl Hayden High School in a robotics competition.                                                                             


During our Spring Awards Ceremony on April 27, We celebrated the graduation of (Fall and Spring) 37 Bachelors, 9 Masters (PSM) and 15 Doctoral degrees. I believe this is a new record! We were pleased to host Lamonte (“Monty”) Lawrence as our honored guest speaker. Monty gave an interesting review of his career in the semiconductor industry, as founder and CEO of the Lawrence Semiconductor Research Corporation. He has generously provided support for the “Lawrence Chair in Epitaxy” faculty position, as well as a bi-annual symposium on the topic of epitaxial growth, which is always well attended by scientists from around the country. The long list of awards to students and faculty are a testament to the hard work of many talented individuals. Details can be seen elsewhere in this newsletter and in the flyer for the Awards ceremony (link). Of special note is the Alumni Outstanding Graduate Award given to Mr. Chris Luna. He joins a select group of only 6 students across all of CLAS this year. Chris is known for his outgoing personality, his “can do” spirit, and his generosity to others, especially freshmen in the SUNDIAL program. He will begin graduate studies at Princeton University next year. 

Finally, I want to thank alumni and friends who have made financial donations in support of the department. This support enables a spectrum of activities that directly benefit our students with scholarships, awards and other programs that would otherwise not be possible. This truly allows us to develop our margin of excellence. I want to encourage our alumni readers to stay in touch. We would enjoy hearing from you, and would be glad to feature your story in this newsletter. If you are interested, please contact myself ( or Ixxy Paape ( 
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