Category: Awards

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.

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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.”

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.

Lucas Simonson, physics PhD candidate awarded scholarship to study in Germany

Lucas Simonson is off to study in Germany

Lucas Simonson has been awarded a scholarship by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). He will study at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden.

The German DAAD is a joint organization of the universities and other institutions of higher education in the Federal Republic of Germany, and the world’s largest funding organization of its kind. Supported by public funds, the DAAD promotes international academic cooperation, especially through the exchange of students and academics. DAAD scholarships are awarded by selection committees comprising a panel of independent academics.

He looks forward to studying under Professor Kurt Busch starting October 2022 to the end of April 2023. “The rationale for this trip is that joining my advisor in Germany will allow me to proceed with my research activities at a fast pace without any delay due to his absence. It will also allow me to interact with world-class optics research groups at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin,” he says. “It’s a significant milestone in my academic career and will allow me to experience other cultures outside of those in the US to broaden my worldview,” says Lucas.

Studying in Germany adds another frame of reference in his study of physics. “Lucas is bringing a unique perspective to our group by combining an interdisciplinary education in both electrical engineering and physics,” says Ramy El-Ganainy, associate professor of physics.

Lucas obtained an MS in Applied Physics (back in the spring of 2021). He entered the PhD candidacy at the end of this past spring semester. Upon getting his PhD, Lucas plans to pursue R&D-related work at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia for The Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center, the U.S. Army’s information technologies and integrated systems center.

Physics Major Anthony Palmer Wins Best Poster at Computing [MTU] Showcase

Michigan Tech physics and applied and computational mathematics double major Anthony Palmer, along with computer science PhD candidate Elijah Cobb, won the best poster recently in the Computing [MTU] Showcase for “Universal Sensor Description Schema: An extensible metalanguage to support heterogenous, evolving sensor data.”

Image of Anthony Palmer and Elijah Cobb in front of their poster at Michigan Tech’s Computing [MTU] Showcase
Anthony Palmer (left) and Elijah Cobb present their poster at Michigan Tech’s Computing [MTU] Showcase

Collecting and processing underwater sensor data is a critical need for U.S. Navy operations. Differences in sensor data types and forms presents a challenge for complete and accurate use of these data. The Universal Sensor Description Schema (USDS) project seeks to design, evaluate, and deploy a unified, extensible metalanguage for supporting legacy and future sensor data across multiple programming languages and environments. Michigan Tech is collaborating with Applied Research in Acoustics LLC to develop a robust programming environment for development of data-intensive applications.

Anthony came up with the idea for the project while interning at ARiA (a small research-and-development firm serving the Navy, government and industry). It’s been the basis for his senior thesis in physics. Anthony says “This project in particular has helped me learn alot about how programming languages work and are made. It also helped me learn a new functional programming language called “Racket”. Finally, it introduced me to some awesome people in the MTU computer science department including my partner Elijah Cobb and my advisor, Dr. Charles Wallace.”

Eye-opening describes the experience for Anthony.  He says, “I would say that I was surprised by the intricacy of how programming languages are built and function. I would also say that it was unexpected how useful recursion can be for solving problems in computing.” Recursion reduces time complexity, adds clarity and reduces the time needed to write and debug code.

Anthony graduates in a few short weeks. HIs attention will turn to the Navy, where he will be a submarine officer. Eventually he hopes to go into graduate school.

Yoke Khin Yap Selected for Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Yoke Khin Yap
University Professor Yoke Khin Yap

College of Sciences and Arts Dean David Hemmer has selected Yoke Khin Yap, a Michigan Tech distinguished professor of physics, as the fifth Deans’ Teaching Showcase member.

Yap will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Yap is enthusiastic about teaching and research and treats the two as inseparable. His performance is exceptional in both: He is a recipient of Michigan Tech’s Research Award and has made research contributions of widely recognized significance in the field of nanotechnology.

Simultaneously, he has been an excellent instructor in the classroom and led the Department of Physics in making research opportunities available for a wide cross-section of students. For example, he has reached out to high school students via annual workshops in nanotechnology, which started with an introductory seminar (with animated videos), followed by hands-on sessions in which students constructed carbon nanostructures using the ball-and-stick models.

Yap has been a major driving force in improving the undergraduate and graduate physics curriculum. He initiated a redesign of the undergraduate optics laboratory encouraging cooperative learning between students. Later, he led efforts in designing and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in nanotechnology, which combine lectures, invited seminars and laboratory demonstrations/tours.

Physics chair Ravi Pandey provided special commendation for Yap’s supplemental instructions to his students. “Dr. Yap took the time to plan and carry out his classes in a way that led students to an understanding of state-of-the-art laboratory techniques to characterize materials at the nanoscale,” says Pandey. “Recently, he has integrated the course into the online mode, using his recorded video lectures.”

Currently, Yap teaches Introductory Physics (PH2200) with 380-plus students. He uses a combination of traditional and contemporary pedagogies to provide a learning opportunity to first-year students. His tools include clickers, online homework and tutorials, extensive online student resources and, most popularly, pedagogically effective demonstrations.

Faculty must be extremely organized, personable, highly motivated and energetic to carry students through introductory physics courses. “Clearly,” Pandey emphasizes, “Dr. Yap brings these attributes through his initiative and commitment, making him a scholar-teacher faculty at Michigan Tech who believes in the unity of teaching and research, mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students, and critical thought.”

Dean Hemmer concurs. “Our large introductory science courses are critical for retention and student success,“ he says. “It is wonderful to see one of Michigan Tech’s top scholars play such a critical role in ensuring the quality of our introductory physics course, and it is great for students to be exposed early in their studies to one of our very best researchers!”

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!