Author: Nathanael Black

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.”

Alumni Profile – Daniel Koshar

Daniel Koshar
Daniel Koshar (BS, 2022) at Ovshinsky Innovation
Optics and spectroscopic laboratory equipment
Daniel’s senior project apparatus for detecting light absorbing particles in the air.
Dan Koshar
Daniel during the 2022 senior trip to France

Daniel Koshar graduated in the Spring of 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. During his time at Michigan Tech, Daniel was a member of the Society of Physics students, worked as a coach at the Physics Learning Center, and took advantage of multiple research opportunities.

Daniel aided Dr. Piret (Math) in developing a simulation of COVID-19 spread through a small city to help inform Michigan Tech policy. He worked in Dr. Yap’s laboratory researching cost-effective methods of producing BNNT Nanotubes, and assisted Dr. Mazzoleni and Dr. Borysow in engineering a device for detecting aerosols related to air quality and climate change, with a particular focus on soot and black carbon.

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

My time at MTU was a great experience for me.  I gained many practical skills — both from the classroom material and college life — as well as met some amazing people.  Professors were generally supportive and genuinely cared about your success, the lounge provided a great place for me and my peers to work together on studying and homework, and research opportunities were always easily accessible. 

Can you talk a little bit about the research you performed at Tech and what it was like to get hands-on experience?

I began researching at Tech as soon as my sophomore year, and opportunities were pretty easy to come by.  There were always professors looking for students to help with their projects, and simply asking around was enough to get started within a couple weeks if even.  I even got paid for some of my research.  Working alongside professors and other students while also developing incredibly useful career skills was an amazing experience, and I’d highly recommend getting involved as soon as possible.

What is it that you are doing now?

I work at Ovshinsky Innovation in Hancock, MI, just across Portage Lake from Michigan Tech itself.  It’s a start-up company focused on the invention and development of new technologies with an emphasis on energy science.  Currently, my job primarily deals with prototyping, assembling, and programming various devices we use for experiments, but will soon expand into managing and running some of these experiments myself.

Do you feel like your experience at Michigan Tech helped prepare you for what you’re doing now? If so, how?

My time at MTU taught me skills that I use all the time, both at work and in general.  Clear communication, collaborating with others, learning new concepts quickly and effectively, how to conduct effective research- these are all skills I learned while getting my degree that I have to use all the time alongside the material I learned in the classroom.

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

Make friends within physics and don’t try to do the degree all on your own.  No matter what field you’re in, STEM is all about collaboration and working together with your peers.  It’ll still be tough at times but having people to study and bounce ideas around with improve your college life by a lot. Also, get involved in research as soon as possible.  You’ll gain a lot of practical experience, get to know great people, and it looks fantastic on a resume.

Faculty Position

Image of Michigan Tech campus from above
Michigan Technological University
Est. 1885

This position has been filled, thank you for your interest.

Detailed information about research and educational programs in the department can be found at Information about open positions and the application process can be found at

MTU attracts world-class faculty and staff who enrich the educational experience of smart, motivated, and adventurous students. Applicants who are committed to promoting a sense of belonging and contributing to an equitable and inclusive learning environment for all are strongly encouraged to apply (

Faculty Position

Image of Michigan Tech campus from above
Michigan Technological University
Est. 1885

This position has been filled, thank you for your interest.

Detailed information about research and educational programs in the department can be found at Information about open positions and the application process can be found at

Current astrophysics research at Michigan Tech includes gamma-ray and cosmic-ray astrophysics, astroparticle physics, cosmology, large-scale structure, galaxy evolution, dark matter, and machine-learning applications in astrophysics. Michigan Tech physics faculty are actively involved in the cosmic-ray and gamma-ray experiments Auger and HAWC as well as in research & development for the SWGO project.

Michigan Tech attracts world-class faculty and staff who enrich the educational experience of smart, motivated, and adventurous students. Applicants who are committed to promoting a sense of belonging and contributing to an equitable and inclusive learning environment for all are strongly encouraged to apply (

Professor Emeritus Max Seel Passes Away

Professor Emeritus Max Seel

Max Seel, a professor emeritus of physics and former provost and vice president of academic affairs at Michigan Tech, passed away Sept. 14 at the age of 72.

Seel was a beloved member of the Michigan Tech community, leaving his native Germany in 1986 to join the University faculty as an associate professor of physics. Over the course of his three-decade career, Seel served as dean of the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) from 1991 to 2008, as interim provost in 2009, and as provost and vice president of academic affairs from 2010 to 2015. Seel was a scholar-teacher, publishing more than 85 research papers related to electronic structure theory, several of which were published after he stepped down as provost and returned to the physics faculty.

Max is remembered by his colleagues for his sharp intellect and great sense of humor. Many have expressed that he was a calm, steady presence in rough times and someone who helped people talk through issues to reach the best possible outcome. Max is an integral part of our Husky legacy, and we will miss him.

Read Seel’s full obituary here.

Physics Students Expanding Horizons

Students on the steps of the the Curie Pavilion of the Paris Radium Institute
On the steps of Musée Curie. L-R, Back Row: Wyatt Reller, Trevor Kieft, Marc Fritts, Dalton Knight, Riley Dickert. Front Row: Sarah Huffman, Kaz Zeiter, Bethany Hellman, Casey Aldrich, Daniel Koshar.
Marie Curie’s laboratory space
A 12 hour layover in Chicago allowed for time in the city. Here, students contemplate the unique optics of Cloud Gate (better known as “The Bean”)

This spring, senior physics majors had the opportunity to visit Paris, France, a center of sciences, arts, technology and culture for centuries.

The focus of the trip was a tour of the Laboratory for Optics and Biosciences, Ecole Polytechnique. Thanks to Director François Hache for his warm welcome. LOB scientists showed how their advanced microscopy techniques are used to study molecular and cellular biology, including the imaging of living tissues.

With Ecole Polytechnique demonstrating the future of microscopy, touring the Musée Curie (Curie Museum) presented an important tie to the past. Housed in the Curie Pavilion of the Institut du Radium, the museum presents the lab in which Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie performed her research between 1914 and her death in 1934.

Students also broadened their cultural understanding with visits to the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

In a field with as rich a history as physics, it is important to find opportunities to understand how we fit into that history and our global community of science. Collaboration and communication with scientists worldwide is how our discipline will continue to grow.

Special thanks to the Elizabeth and Richard Henes Center for Quantum Phenomena, who’s support made this trip possible.

Two Students Receive DoD SMART Scholarships

Dan Yeager
PhD Candidate Dan Yeager

Ph.D. candidates Dan Yeager and Lucas Simonson have each been awarded a Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (DoD SMART) Scholarship.

The DoD SMART Scholarship provides students with full tuition for up to five years, mentorship, summer internships, a stipend, and full-time employment with the DoD after graduation. Dan and Lucas join a list of 26 prior Michigan Tech Huskies to have received this prestigious scholarship.

Dan is working with Professor Raymond Shaw, with a focus on cloud micro-physics and computational fluid dynamics. He is also serving as a physics representative to the Graduate Student Government.

Yeager will be affiliated with the Naval Oceanographic Office in Mississippi.

Lucas Simonson
PhD Candidate Lucas Simonson

Lucas is working with Professor Ramy El-Ganainy, where he studies Integrated Optics and Photonics; learning how light and matter interact on a quantum scale.

Simonson will be affiliated with the US Army’s C5ISR Center in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

Guest Blog: Uncovering Global Dust-Climate Connections

By Kimberly Geiger, College of Engineering

A satellite photo of a dust storm
“Godzilla” Saharan dust storm in June 2020. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Developed at Michigan Tech, a new global weather station-based dataset named dulSD is enabling long-term, large-scale monitoring of the dust cycle.

As wind shapes the surface of the Earth, it pulls dust from dry, exposed land surfaces into the atmosphere. Xin Xi (GMES) uses observations and models to study the sources, transformation and transport of dust to assess its impact on climate and air quality.

“Airborne dust aerosols impact the Earth in a myriad of ways,” he explained. “Mineral dust interacts with the global energy budget, ocean biogeochemistry, air quality and agriculture.”

Satellite remote sensing, a major source of information to study global dust variability, lacked the specifics Xi needed. He revisited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Integrated Surface Database and set out to create a new dataset for evaluating global dust, which he named duISD.

How much dust is there? Read more on Unscripted, the University’s research blog.

Women in Physics Outreach

Pictured left to right, back to front:
Tong Gao, Elise Rosky, Oindabi Mukherjee, Sushree Dash, Rita Wilson, James Turkovich, Shreya Joshi, Gabriel Ahrendt, Miraj Kayastha
Polarization of light has more applications than just sunglasses, as Sushree and the students discuss.
Pull Elise! Pull!
Elise and Miraj test the limits of static friction.
Sushree and a student discuss magnetism.
Optics principles like refraction and diffraction can be seen using everyday materials.

Michigan Tech Women in Physics is reaching out to the next generation of scientists, and inspiring more women to pursue physics as a career!

Women in Physics recently organized activities for Daniel Kelpela’s junior and senior physics classes at Gwinn High School. Along with presentations on their research, they provided hands-on activities teaching physics principles – from friction and angular momentum to optics and magnetism.

Nearly 100 students were able to hear what it’s really like to do research on a broad range of topics, including geophysics, atmospheric science, astrophysics, and materials science. They also had opportunities to ask questions about pursuing science themselves after high school. We hope to see some of them again soon at Michigan Tech!

Physics undergrads Rita and James helped organize demos that were tailored to the present studies of the high school students. The students enjoyed the hands-on experience from these demos.

Oindabi Mukherjee discussed the search for dark matter in the cosmos and presented a video from the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Tong Gao got the students excited about the prospect of solving the danger of exploding Li-ion batteries- and maybe winning a Nobel Prize in the process! Elise Rosky showed that science can be an adventure, telling about her research trip to Colorado to take data on a flying laboratory while studying ice nucleation in the atmosphere.

Women in Physics plan to continue visiting high school students in the future, to inspire young scientists and be role models for budding female science enthusiasts.

Some of our favorite reviews:
– It was really fun and awesome!
– It was awesome, not only did we get to see people’s
passion, but also watch them and see how much they enjoy their careers. Thanks for the chance to experience this.
– Very swell.

Students get hands-on experience with angular momentum – and dizziness!
A presentation on atmospheric aerosols by Shreya Joshi.