New Funding: El-Ganainy’s Project Funded by University of Southern California

Ramy El-Ganainy is the PI on a project that has received a $53,754 research and development contract from the University of Southern California. The project is titled “Optical Thermodynamics of Nonlinear Multimode Systems Topic 1.A.ii(4) Quantum Optics.

About Ramy El-Ganainy

Ramy El-Ganainy
Ramy El-Ganainy
Professor, Physics

El-Ganainy is a professor of physics. Recently, he joined the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems as a guest scientist for one year. Elected by the Board of Directors of Optica (formerly OSA), Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, to the Society’s 2023 Fellow Class for seminal contributions in the fields of non-Hermitian photonics, parity-time symmetry, and optical supersymmetry. His research interests span a wide spectrum of topics, ranging from classical optics to computational techniques for radiation-matter interactions. He has published 175+ papers and given more than 10 conference presentations.


About the Physics Department

Physicists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues. Our physicists take on the big questions to discover how the universe works—from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. The Physics Department offers three undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your physics skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at physics@mtu.edu. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube for the latest happenings. Or read more at the Physics Newsblog.

New Funding: Shaw’s Project Funded by Brookhaven National Laboratory

Raymond Shaw is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $35,591 research and development contract from the Brookhaven National Laboratory. The project is titled “Brookhaven National Laboratory Joint Appointment. This is a potential two-year project.

About Raymond Shaw

Raymond Shaw
Raymond A. Shaw
University Professor, Physics

Dr. Shaw’s research involves the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere, with an emphasis on clouds and experimental tools for studying clouds. Research in Shaw’s group has focused on understanding the influence of turbulence on cloud particle growth through condensation and collisions, and on understanding the nucleation process through which ice forms from liquid water. Shaw’s group is actively involved in the development of methods for studying clouds in controlled conditions in the laboratory as well as in the atmosphere itself. For example, digital holography is applied to particle tracking in turbulent laboratory clouds, and to measurement of particle size distributions in clouds sampled by research aircraft. The Cloud Physics Laboratory is the home of several exciting research studies.


About the Physics Department

Physicists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues. Our physicists take on the big questions to discover how the universe works—from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. The Physics Department offers three undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your physics skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at physics@mtu.edu. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube for the latest happenings. Or read more at the Physics Newsblog.

Giusarma Garners Deans’ Teaching Showcase Honors

College of Sciences and Arts Dean Ravindra Pandey has selected Elena Giusarma, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, for the Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Giusarma will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members. Her inclusion makes her a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Giusarma Instruction Innovator

Elena Giusarma
Elena Giusarma

Giusarma has proven herself to be an excellent instructor in the classroom environment. She’s implemented innovative teaching methods and strategies to enhance the learning experience for students. Giusarma incorporates interactive simulations, virtual observatory tools, and multimedia resources to bring the wonders of astronomy directly to the students. This approach aims to cater to diverse learning styles and foster a deeper understanding of complex celestial concepts. Her teaching style goes beyond traditional lecture formats. Active learning techniques such as classroom discussions, group activities, and debates encourage students to articulate their thoughts and challenge their understanding of astronomical concepts.

Giusarma’s course in Statistics, Data Mining, and Machine Learning in Astrophysics for undergraduate and graduate students plays a crucial role in shaping students’ academic and professional trajectories. In an era dominated by data-driven decision-making, proficiency in these areas is highly sought after in both research and industry. The course serves as a pathway to developing practical skills directly applicable to analyzing and interpreting vast astronomical datasets. The course is part of a graduate certificate program developed in 2022, offering participants a structured pathway to acquire expertise in statistical analysis, data mining, and machine learning in astrophysics. The importance of these skills extends beyond academia, opening doors to diverse career opportunities in research institutions, technology companies, and various sectors that rely on data analytics.

Giusarma Receives Praise

Jacek Borysow, interim chair of the physics department, noted that Giusarma’s knowledge and understanding of physics and astronomy allow her to be a role model for female students who aspire to succeed in science and engineering. “Her presence in the classroom enables female students to visualize where they want to go and what is possible to achieve. … Her lectures are full of positive energy and unlimited enthusiasm; she sincerely cares about the students. She is simply an outstanding instructor and mentor.”

Maria Bergstrom, associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Sciences and Arts, praised Giusarma’s commitment to both undergraduate and graduate education: “Faculty like Dr. Giusarma have a tremendous impact on the success of Michigan Tech students. From inspiring young, prospective students to come to our campus to study astronomy and astrophysics to mentoring graduate students, Dr. Giusarma’s commitment to excellence in teaching is an important contribution to our College, and we are pleased to recognize her achievements.”

About the Physics Department

Physicists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues. Our physicists take on the big questions to discover how the universe works—from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. The Physics Department offers three undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your physics skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at physics@mtu.edu. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube for the latest happenings. Or read more at the Physics Newsblog.

Tech Team Tackles Tar Balls’ Impacts On Climate

Research by Claudio Mazzoleni and physics alumni Susan Mathai ’23 and Swarup China ’12 featured in a news article in Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) by the EMSL. Mazzoleni and a multi-institutional team of researchers set out to determine exactly how solar radiation from the sun interacts with individual tar balls dispersed over a mountainous region in northern Italy.  The research assesses the optical properties of individual tar balls to better understand their influence on climate. 

Tar balls, found in biomass-burning smoke (think smoke from forest fires), impact the Earth’s radiative balance. Understanding the optical properties of tar balls can help reduce uncertainties associated with the contribution of biomass-burning aerosol in current climate models.

The original paper was selected for the cover of the Nov 7th issue of Environmental Science and Technology, and was co-authored by Tyler Capek and Susan Mathai (both Physics); Daniel Veghte of The Ohio State University; Zezhen Cheng, Swarup China ’12 (PhD Atmospheric Sciences), Libor Kovarik, Mazzoleni, and Kuo-Pin Tseng, of the PNNL; and Silvia Bucci and Angela Marinoni, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC)-National Research Council of Italy.

Image of Claudio Mazzoleni
Claudio Mazzoleni
Professor, Physics
Image of Susan Mathai
Susan Mathai ’23
Image of Swarup China
Swarup China ’12

Nathan Schlorke: Physics Pursuits Pay Off with a Bachelor of Arts

Nathan Schlorke
Nathan Schlorke, Physics Major

Schlorke followed the usual path that many new students take to get into Michigan Tech. Both his parents went to Michigan Tech, as did his sister (computer science), piquing his interest. While he wanted to study nuclear engineering (Tech did not have such a program), it was a place where he could study high energy particle astrophysics, and nuclear physics.

There were lots of things for him to get involved in at Tech and deepen his learning while acquiring important skills. Plus, he liked the flexibility that physics offered for future career prospects. When his interests shifted away from nuclear during school, he decided to augment his passion for physics with an electrical engineering degree too.

A Chemical Attraction to Undergraduate Research

Nathan Schlorke and Colin Sheidler
Nathan Schlorke and Colin Sheidler

Schlorke was attracted to undergraduate research early in his college career. He is spurred by a drive to learn more about a particular subject that interests him. “I recognized right away that I had a disconnect to applying physics in the real world,” Schlorke said. “Undergraduate research allows you to see physics in action.”

Through a professor of chemistry’s presentation in a physics class, Schlorke found surface sciences to have a lot of common ground with nano-scale physics. He found work as a research assistant under Dr. Kathyrn Perrine. Schlorke learned valuable skills. He hand-drafted, CAD-modeled, and fabricated a substrate fixture and transfer mechanism for use in performing nanoscience and surface-science experimentation in an ultra-high vacuum (UHV).

The substrate fixture included an in-built cryogenic cooling loop and high-temperature Ohmic heating. Testing methods using the equipment varied from infrared laser spectroscopy to field desorption techniques. He performed mechanical modeling of heat transfer, including modeling a sample holder (in a two-stage vacuum) for a thin crystalline structure. He had to show what happens to the mounted sample when moving between reaction stages. “It was really satisfying to see what I designed for Dr. Perrine. To see it come together and see it in action was a lot of fun.”

Pursuing Physics Undergraduate Research

Nathan Schlorke and Colin Sheidler
Nathan Schlorke and Liesel Schlorke

His semester in the Perrine Lab left him wanting more research experiences, particularly in physics. He found an opportunity as an undergraduate research fellow under Dr. Yoke Khin Yap and Dr. Mingxiao Ye. He worked to optimize the synthesis of unique ultra-thin compounds to create a tune-able band gap. A band gap defines the energy for electrons to move to different states and regions in a material. Modifying such a band gap can increase efficiency in solar cell materials and other microcircuits.

Schlorke observes, “As you get materials into these small states, their properties change rapidly- like in microcircuits and solar cells. When you free an electron by exposing it to light in a solar cell, you can improve its efficiency.” In addition to using pulsed laser deposition, Schlorke also worked on chemical vapor depositions and used Michigan Tech’s Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) to assess the quality of the layers. 

“During my three years in the Yoke Khin Yap Lab, it was satisfying to know my work helped papers to get completed and published. I enjoyed seeing Mingxao earn his PhD. It’s great to know that I am a part of that,” Schlorke said.

Nathan Schlorke’s Advice for Aspiring Undergraduate Physics Researchers

Schlorke offers advice for budding undergraduate researchers. “Get into it early. It gave me so much confidence. Research seems complex and insurmountable; just daunting with technical terms that I didn’t know. But by doing research I was able to ask questions and go deeper than my studies allowed me to go. I gained a whole new perspective.” Schlorke suggests prospective undergraduate researchers find an application that interests them and find out who is doing research in that area. Then seek them out and ask to take part.

Senior Design Project: Can You Design a Rail Gun?

There’s no shortage of opportunities to get involved at Michigan Tech. A senior design project presented an opportunity. There are more than 9000 metric tons- over 100 million tracked particles and pieces. With thousands launches into space each year, the amount of debris will continue to increase. And by 2030 there will be 60,000 satellites flying in this zone. The presence of many satellites and space debris complicates space travel. 

As a consultant to a senior design project, Schlorke was challenged to create a system to drag debris into the Earth’s atmosphere so it burns up. Schlorke’s physics experience allowed him to design, model, and present a prototype for an electromagnetic-based launcher for on-satellite use. The launcher could send low-speed expanding foam canisters to catch large sections of debris.

The idea was not selected in the competition, but he used the study and pitched it to the Undergraduate Student Board as a special project- a unique one-on-one project class with professor advisement for credit. One of many ways Michigan Tech allows for truly flexible and unique paths- “if one doesn’t exist- you can make your own.” says Schlorke.

Society of Physics Students: Another Opportunity for Schlorke

The Society of Physics Students was also instrumental in helping Schlorke navigate the physics world. “The Society helped me to understand what physicists did,” he said. “What were the opportunities available to me outside of academia? Through the Society of Physics Students, I further developed communication skills. My leadership role helped me learn how to manage an organization, too. These 21st-century skills apply to the real world.” Plus it made him feel part of a community and was a great way to meet people and get to know them.

Ohm-inous Career Ahead Thanks to Physics

Schlorke recently took a lead technical position at GE Aerospace where he works closely with the US Navy, Air Force, and Army on developing test systems to support the US Military. He attributes his success to his physics training. “Physics is widely recognized (and rightfully so) as rigorous and technically fundamental in what it teaches you,” said Schlorke. “It teaches the core principles of problem-solving. Physics trains you to break down a situation you have never seen before, analyze and compartmentalize it, find a resolution, and explain it to others. Thanks to my BA in Physics I have the confidence and the skills to approach problems that are outside of my comfort zone and general area of knowledge.”

As Schlorke gets deeper into his career, he thinks he is using the skills he developed in physics more than those from engineering. Although he admits there is plenty of cross-over between the two. “The physics program at Tech also teaches you the design, writing, and communication skills you need to be successful,” Schlorke said. “It gave me a wide view of the technical universe; thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, etc.. I learned how to decompose a system. As I go deeper into design, I use more physics skill sets to predict and judge how systems will interact—electrically, thermally, chemically, in many ways.”

Schlorke looks back fondly on his time at Michigan Tech. “The Physics department is a place that challenges you,” he said. “They give you all the resources you could need (and more), but how far you take it is really up to you.” Looks like Schlorke’s career is off to a great start.


About the Physics Department

Physicists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues. Our physicists take on the big questions to discover how the universe works—from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. The Physics Department offers three undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your physics skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at physics@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for the latest happenings. Or read more at the Physics Newsblog.

Climate Conference Reflections from Elise Rosky

Recent physics alum Dr. Elise Rosky and Geophysics PhD candidate Gabriel Ahrendt recently attended COP28, the Conference of Parties (COP) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is the largest climate conference in the world. Over 40,000 people from government, academia, research, non-governmental organizations, commerce, and elsewhere attend the annual United Nations conclave. They discuss the latest research and insights concerning climate change and negotiate solutions to minimize the impacts of climate change on the planet.

Dr. Elise Rosky
Climate conference attendee Dr. Elise Rosky

“I learned that scientists are being asked to provide better data about the oceans, mountain ecosystems, and severe weather forecasting,” said Rosky. “But it is made clear that this needs to be done in an interdisciplinary way, that gives communities ownership of the information, is inclusive of indigenous world views, and builds scientific capacity within each country. Because addressing a crisis is complex and involves social aspects as well as logical and technological aspects, without the aforementioned characteristics, the science is unable to create the intended impact on communities that it aims for.”

Rosky moderated multiple panels, including a panel titled “The science-policy interface: How can researchers shape critical climate policies?” The panel included Raina Taitingfong, Indigenous Chamoru and Wildlife Refuge Specialist; Bradley R. Colman, President of the American Meteorological Society; Mariana Rocha de Souza, coral reef biologist; Dr. Ana Spalding, professor of interdisciplinary social sciences and environmental studies; Dr. Andriannah Mbandi, chemical engineer and atmospheric scientist; and Shikha Bhasin, science and policy advisor for UN environmental programs.

Dr. Rosky completed her PhD in fall 2023 working with her co-advisors Raymond Shaw and Will Cantrell. Her thesis Large cloud droplets and the initiation of ice by pressure fluctuations: Molecular simulations and airborne in-situ observations ties the molecular physics of ice-nucleation to the growth and subsequent freezing of droplets in clouds.

You can read more about Rosky and Ahrendt’s reflections on the climate conference in the Daily Mining Gazette.

About the Physics Department

Physicists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues. Our physicists take on the big questions to discover how the universe works—from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. The Physics Department offers three undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your physics skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at physics@mtu.edu. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube for the latest happenings. Or read more at the Physics Newsblog.

Dash to Deliver Graduation Greetings at Fall Commencement

We are so excited to learn Sushree Dash has been chosen as the graduate speaker for fall commencement. Dash will share memorable Michigan Tech moments and advice for the future at the ceremony. The ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Varsity Gym in Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex (SDC). Dash earned her Ph.D. in Applied Physics.

It’s a fitting end to a successful graduate career. Dash is a 2022 recipient of a Michigan Tech Doctoral Finishing Fellowship, among many other accomplishments. Dash is the recipient of the Ovshinsky and Distinguished Student Awards that recognize Ph.D. students and their research at American Physical Society conferences.

Dash has big plans for the commencement address. “I aim to highlight the power of resilience, mentorship, and the spirit of community that defines our time here,” said Dash. If it’s anything like Dash’s research, it will surely be insightful.

Read more about Dash in Michigan Tech News.

Sushree Dash and Husky mascot pose on the ski hill
Sushree Dash and Blizzard T. Husky after testing Newton’s law of gravity on the ski slopes at Mont Ripley (Image courtesy Sushree Dash)

About the Physics Department

Physicists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues. Our physicists take on the big questions to discover how the universe works—from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. The Physics Department offers three undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your physics skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at physics@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for the latest happenings. Or read more at the Physics Newsblog.

Professor Emeritus Bryan Suits Passes Away

Professor Bryan Suits
Professor Bryan Suits
Suits One String Guitar
Dr. Suits demonstrating a one string guitar in his Physics Behind Music course.

Bryan Suits, a professor in the Department of Physics from 1985 to 2023, passed away this month.

Bryan’s primary research focus was nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). His most cited work concerned remote sensing by nuclear quadrupole resonance, applied to problems such as explosives detection. Notably, the NMR spectrometers and processing electronics in Bryan’s lab contained almost no commercial instruments. Everything was Bryan Suits’ brand, designed and built by him and his students. He couldn’t find any instruments matching the impedance of his coils, and phase-sensitive detector and boxcars were not fast enough for him, so he simply built everything himself.

Bryan was also a regular contributor to the American Journal of Physics and The Physics Teacher, writing on wide-ranging topics from frequency and pitch, to the propagation of typos, to long pendulums in gravitational gradients. The latter was inspired by Bryan’s historical research into early 20th century pendulum experiments conducted in the Tamarack Mine by Michigan Tech Physics faculty. In 2005, these were recognized by Guinness World Records as the World’s Longest Pendulum thanks to Bryan’s efforts (the piano wire and iron weights were hung 4,250 feet down Shaft No. 5, and the pendulum period was a remarkable 70 seconds).

Bryan answered the call of duty to serve as department chair during Physics’ crucial and extraordinarily difficult transition to a significant focus on research. Afterward, Bryan dedicated himself to teaching. His experimental skills became invaluable assets for our students. He developed a state-of-the-art electronics lab that accompanied his lectures. The lab wasn’t just based on computer simulations; instead, students built electronic gadgets from scratch using a soldering iron and basic components.

Bryan received the Michigan Tech teaching award in 2007. He fully deserved it just for that electronics class, but in addition, he developed a highly successful and popular Physics of Music course containing fascinating demonstrations, another example of Bryan’s exceptional experimental abilities. Finally, the many live demonstrations experienced by hundreds of Michigan Tech students in introductory physics courses Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism were developed and refined by Bryan. His legacy of teaching lives on through his demos and through two textbooks he wrote for the courses he developed: “Electronics for Scientists” (Springer, 2020) and “Physics Behind Music” (Cambridge, 2023).

Bryan also had a rich personal life. He raised his family in Houghton. He was a stalwart member of the Physics softball team. He was a musician extraordinaire, performing for many years as the principal flutist of the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra. His artistry on the flute created many memorable performances, including major solos by Debussy, Saint-Saens and Shostakovich. One of his prized accomplishments was rediscovering a lost symphony by astronomer-composer William Herschel (who discovered Uranus). After Bryan edited and rescored it, the KSO premiered the symphony in October 2022. Ten years ago or so, Bryan started to run. He was determined to run and finish the Boston Marathon, and his dream came true when in 2017 he ran in and finished the race.

Bryan’s dry wit, warmth and musicality made a lasting impression on all who knew him.

Read Bryan’s full obituary.

Alumni Profile – Bethany Hellman

2022 alumna Bethany Hellman
2022 graduate Bethany Hellman in the Optical Nanoscopy Lab at the University of Central Florida.

Bethany Hellman graduated in the Spring of 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. She was an inaugural recipient of The Elizabeth Henes Memorial Award for outstanding undergraduate women in physics. Bethany was a member of the Society of Physics students throughout her time at Michigan Tech, worked as a coach at the Physics Learning Center, and performed experimental research with the guidance of Professor Jacek Borysow. 

In your time at Michigan Tech, what was it like to be a member of the Physics Department? 

I think the best part of the physics department at Tech is the close-knit nature of the  department. Right from the start of my undergraduate degree, we developed good study  strategies and worked together to get through our classes. This cooperation built good team working skills as well as helped with individual understanding of the material.  Additionally, it is easy to talk to and connect with the professors, and it helps make the  department feel less intimidating. The opportunities for travel, whether it be to visit labs and colleges or to attend conferences, really helped integrate me into the STEM community and get a feel for what the field is like and what the field is doing. While it is hard, there were definitely moments where I felt I was getting a good college education.

Can you talk a little bit about your senior research project and what it was like to get  hands-on experience in the lab? 

My senior research involved laser engineering, and I don’t think we praise the hands-on experience enough. It is one thing to learn about the theory and see it all work out nicely on a chalkboard, but when it comes time to do something with that information you need to learn a new set of skills that is unrelated to what we learn in a classroom. Only by fine tuning the transmission through a fiber optic cable and slightly adjusting a mirror to find the perfect spot did I learn that optics requires a lot of patience and fine motor skills. I knew in theory that I needed my seed laser to hit the gain medium of the semiconductor laser, but in practice that gain medium is on the order of micrometers in size; learning how to actually align the optics to get there required trial and error. I honestly loved the research I was doing, and the freedom I had to figure it out on my own helped me develop an independence when it comes to research. I learned how to read manuals, how to troubleshoot, and how to look for other sources on the web when I had a question to answer. It is truly one of the most valuable aspects of my undergraduate degree. 

Do you feel like this experience helped you in your search for graduate schools? 

It definitely did. My research opened my eyes to the field of optics and photonics, and when I applied to graduate school I have no doubt the research I had helped me get accepted into the program I’m in now. It also helped me figure out what exactly I wanted from a graduate program; I really enjoyed the hands-on activity, and after visiting two universities I decided on the one that had a building full of labs instead of classrooms. It has also helped prepare me for graduate level research, which requires a lot of self direction, and it helped develop a base of skills for working in a lab. 

What is it that you are doing now? 

Currently I am working with Dr. Han in his Optical Nanoscopy Lab while pursuing my  doctorate in Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida. The focus of the  lab is super resolution fluorescence microscopy, although currently I am working on phase imaging microscopy (more specifically quadriwave lateral shearing interferometry, or QLSI). As such, I am working on a microscope setup with an LED light source and a camera with a diffraction grating, and down the road I aim to improve the resolution of the setup. It requires learning a lot of new skills, like how to prepare a bead sample or a DNA sample for viewing, a lot of optics, and some coding.  

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for those who are thinking of becoming a physics major? 

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that you learn very applicable skills in  physics. It is tough for sure, but with a little perseverance the most important thing you will learn is how to learn. You will learn how to find the answer to your own questions and how to properly understand the information you need. You will learn patience, because I don’t believe it comes easily to any of us, and it may take several times to fully understand a concept. With these skills however, there isn’t anything you can’t learn, and that opens a lot of doors.

Wil Slough Selected for Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

Director of First-Year Programs, Wil Slough
Director of First-Year Programs, Wil Slough

College of Sciences and Arts Dean David Hemmer has selected Wil Slough as a featured instructor in the Deans’ Teaching Showcase.

Slough, director of first-year programs and laboratory director in the Department of Physics, will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Slough has made substantial contributions to teaching calculus-based physics courses and labs at Michigan Tech. Over the past decade, he anchored one of the very large physics courses during spring semesters, with enrollments often exceeding 650 students. In this capacity, he successfully maintained the learning management system, online homework system, classroom response system, examinations and accommodations, and popular office hours. His efforts have served a crucial role in ensuring the quality, consistency and effectiveness of these foundational courses over time.

Illustrative of Slough’s dedication to helping students succeed and improving the experiences of first-year students at Michigan Tech, he took the initiative to engage the department in a deeper examination of PH2100. This led to campus-wide discussions and, finally, the development of a supplementary instruction course for students needing additional support. “Student success in our large introductory science courses is critical to Michigan Tech’s overall success, and our students are fortunate to have faculty as dedicated as Wil Slough,” commented Hemmer.

The physics department also offers over 100 introductory physics lab sections for approximately 2,000 students each year. As the laboratory director, Slough supervises all lab courses, oversees equipment, manages the operational budget and supports 60 employees. Over the years, he has developed and implemented a robust and fully integrated approach to the physics labs, with resulting courses that have received high student satisfaction in evaluations. He has led the continuous improvement efforts for junior-level capstone lab courses based on assessments, further demonstrating his commitment to enhancing the quality of the lab offerings to benefit student learning. His efforts have also helped the department identify and remedy impediments to student retention.

Physics Chair Ravindra Pandey has strong praise for Slough’s impact within the department. “Wil is an exceptional teacher who cares about engaging students in their learning and has made a meaningful contribution to improving the quality of education and student outcomes in the physics department,” said Pandey.

John Jaszczak, chair of the department’s undergraduate studies committee, has worked with Slough for many years. “Not only is Wil remarkable in his capacity to effectively manage and teach the large lectures and laboratories, but I am also most impressed with his continuous personal touch with students,” said Jaszczak. “He proactively connects with them via email and in person to ensure they are keeping up with assignments and taking advantage of office hours and other resources. He also regularly checks with his student employees in a friendly and supportive manner to ensure they thrive in the physics department. He is a role model as a supervisor.”