Author: Nathanael Black

Lab Associate Doug Wilken Passes Away

Doug Wilken
Dr. Doug Wilken

Doug Wilken, instructor and laboratory associate in the Department of Physics, passed away Jan. 28 in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Wilken taught laboratory courses in optics, electronics and modern physics. He also provided all of the demonstration support for a variety of physics classes, managing a group of undergraduate students for assistance (his Demo Crew).

Wilken received an M.S. in physics in 1988 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1993, working in Professor Bryan Suits’ laboratory at Michigan Tech. His thesis was on a nuclear magnetic resonance study of surface oxides on aluminum metal particles. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Florida, he joined the corporate world for 20 years, working in Minneapolis. He returned to Michigan Tech in 2016.

Wilken was a gifted musician, playing piano and sharing his beautiful singing voice on many occasions, including at church and family gatherings. He loved to read and carry on discussions across a myriad of topics. His personal library of books spanned countless technical volumes, history, political science, biography and science fiction and fantasy novels — to name just a few of his favorite subjects.

One of Wilken’s true passions was sharing his knowledge of experimental physics with students. In this endeavor, he practiced continual self-examination and improvement, finding better ways of getting across main ideas and techniques that students would be able to utilize no matter where they found themselves later on in scientific and engineering disciplines.

His greatest passion, however, was spending time with all of his family — and in recent years, he especially enjoyed being “Grandpa” for his granddaughter for as much time as he could.

Doug will be deeply missed in the department. A memorial service is planned in Foley, Minnesota. Service dates and times are pending.

Read Wilken’s obituary.

Outstanding Graduate Students

We’re proud of the excellent work our graduate students do, both in the lab and in the classroom. Congratulations to our students recognized by the graduate school for their outstanding work at Michigan Tech.

Oindabi Mukherjee earned the Outstanding Teaching Award for her phenomenal performance during Fall 2021. Oindabi is a PhD candidate studying gravitational lensing with advisor Dr. Robert Nemiroff.

Andrew Puyleart earned the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship for his work with advisor Dr. Brian Fick. Andrew is studying cosmic ray physics, working with the Pierre Auger Observatory to classify anomalous interactions between cosmic rays and the atmosphere.

Congratulations, Oindabi and Andrew!

New Funding

Professor Emeritus David Nitz (Physics/EPSSI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $249,804 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

This three-year project is titled “WoU-MMA: Enhancing the Neutrino Sensitivity of the Pierre Auger Observatory.”

The Pierre Auger Observatory is used by researchers from across the world to study high energy cosmic rays – high energy particles that can travel through space at speeds approaching the speed of light. This project will support the AugerPrime upgrade to the observatory, increasing the detection efficiency of the observatory’s surface detectors.

Professor Emeritus Michael Wertheim Passes Away

Professor Emeritus Michael Wertheim passed away on Friday, September 24 in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Wertheim was a well-respected scholar and teacher in statistical physics. He was a deep thinker, making fundamental advances in the theory of simple and polar fluids. His foundational paper, published in Physical Review Letters (1963), is still well-cited by the scientific community.

Dr. Wertheim received his Ph.D. from Yale University in nuclear physics in 1957 and began his professional career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He joined Michigan Tech in 1990 as a professor of physics and retired in 2003. Prior to joining Michigan Tech, he also worked at Universität Frankfurt, Germany; University of New Castle, U.K.; University of Alberta, Canada; and Rutgers University, U.S.

Dr. Wertheim was on the editorial board of the Journal of Statistical Physics and was a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Besides physics, he will be remembered for regularly swimming in Lake Superior at McLain State Park during the summer months.

Physics Colloquium – Henrike Fleischhack

Dr. Henrike Fleischhack, postdoctoral fellow at Catholic University of America and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, will be presenting at this week’s physics colloquium.

Fleischhack’s presentation is titled “AMEGO-X: 
MeV ɣ-ray Astronomy 
in the Multi-messenger Era.”

Please register in advance and join the colloquium tomorrow (Sept. 2) at 4 p.m. via Zoom. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email from Dr. Giusarma containing information about joining the event.

Read more about Fleischhack’s research background and the presentation on the Events Calendar.

New Funding

Raymond Shaw (Physics/EPSSI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $2,903,682 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

Shaw, co-investigators Will Cantrell, Kartik Iyer, Claudio Mazzoleni, and researchers from institutions across the country will collaborate on the project titled “A Community Laboratory Facility for Exploring and Sensing of Aerosol-Cloud-Drizzle Processes: The Aerosol-Cloud-Drizzle Convection Chamber.”

The proposed ACDC2 cloud chamber will be a world class facility, capable of producing droplets up to the size of drizzle while allowing air motion analogous to that in real clouds.

Andrea Lappi Retires After 40 Years at Tech

The Department of Physics will not be the same without Andrea Lappi, who begins a new chapter in life this month.

Andrea has been a part of the Physics family for 21 years — from 1991 to 1998 and 2007 to 2021. She joined Michigan Tech in 1981, and initially worked in Employee Relations, Education and Public Services offices. Later, she worked with the Graduate School, the Vice President of the Michigan Tech Fund and the Vice President of Advancement.

Andrea has always gone above and beyond as a key person in helping students, staff and faculty in the department. We wish her an enjoyable retirement!