Category: Academic

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 Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube for the latest happenings. Or read more at the Physics Newsblog.

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.”

Faculty Position

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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 (

Physicists develop a linear response theory for open systems having exceptional points

Linear analysis plays a central role in science and engineering. Even when dealing with nonlinear systems, understanding the linear response is often crucial for gaining insight into the underlying complex dynamics. In recent years, there has been a great interest in studying open systems that exchange energy with a surrounding reservoir. In particular, it has been demonstrated that open systems whose spectra exhibit non-Hermitian singularities called exceptional points can demonstrate a host of intriguing effects with potential applications in building new lasers and sensors.

At an exceptional point, two or modes become exactly identical. To better understand this, let us consider how drums produce sound. The membrane of the drum is fixed along its perimeter but free to vibrate in the middle. As a result, the membrane can move in different ways, each of which is called a mode and exhibits a different sound frequency. When two different modes oscillate at the same frequency, they are called degenerate. Exceptional points are very peculiar degeneracies in the sense that not only the frequencies of the modes are identical but also the oscillations themselves. These points can exist only in open, non-Hermitian systems with no analog in closed, Hermitian systems.

Over the past years, ad-hoc analysis of the scattering coefficients of non-Hermitian systems having exceptional points has revealed a puzzling result, namely that sometimes their frequency response (the relation between an output and input signals after interacting with the system as a function of the input signal’s frequency) can be Lorentzian or super Lorentzian (i.e. a Lorentzian raised to an integer power). In contrast, the response of a standard linear, isolated oscillator (excluding situations where Fano lineshapes can arise) is always Lorentzian.

Now, an international team of physicists led by Prof. Ramy El-Ganainy from Michigan Technological University, along with several collaborators from Penn State, the Humboldt University in Berlin, and the University of Central Florida, has tackled this problem in their recent Nature Communications article titled “Linear response theory of open systems with exceptional points”. In that work, the team presents a systematic analysis of the linear response of non-Hermitian systems having exceptional points. Importantly, they derive a closed-form expression for the resolvent operator quantifying the system’s response in terms of the right and left eigenvectors and Jordan canonical vectors associated with the underlying Hamiltonian.

A schematic representation of a complex non-Hermitian open system with many degrees of freedom made of coupled optical microdisk cavities. The linear response theory developed in this work provides a full characterization of the relation between output and input signals (indicated by green and yellow arrows, respectively) in terms of the eigenmodes and the canonical states of the underlying non-Hermitian Hamiltonian.

“In contrast to previous expansions of the resolvent operator in terms of the Hamiltonian itself, the formalism developed here provides direct access to the linear response of the system and demonstrates exactly when and how Lorentzian and super-Lorentzian responses arise” says Prof. El-Ganainy. “As it turned out, the nature of the response is determined by the excitation (input) and collection (output) channels” says Amin Hashemi, the first author of the manuscript. The presented theory describes this behavior in detail and is generic enough to apply to any non-Hermitian systems having any number of exceptional points of any order, which makes it instrumental for studying non-Hermitian systems with large degrees of freedom.

Yap named University Professor

Yoke Khin Yap, a professor in the Department of Physics, was selected to become Michigan Tech’s newest University Professor during the 2019-2020 academic year, through a highly selective process. Yap joined the Department of Physics in 2002 and was promoted to full professor in 2011. Ravi Pandey, chair of physics, said “Dr. Yap is enthusiastic about both teaching and research and treats the two as inseparable.”

Read more in Tech Today.

The Building Blocks for Gamma-Ray Astronomy for High School

This summer a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) was hosted by the Department of Physics at Michigan Technological University and the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) research group at Michigan Tech. The six-week experience involved learning about the HAWC observatory and Gamma-Ray astronomy, developing five related lesson plans, and constructing a website to share the 2018 and 2019 RET lesson plans. Please join the 2019 teachers, Matt Laird and Heather Murphy, on (Friday) August 9 in Rekhi Hall Room 214 at 10:00 a.m. for a presentation/demonstration highlighting the following lesson plans: Celestial Navigation, Modeling Gamma-Ray Data, Observations of the Electromagnetic Spectrum, SS433 A Journey with the Scientific Method, and Star Evolution and Gamma-Ray Sources.

Heather Murphy is a high-school science teacher at Hancock High School, in Hancock Michigan. A Michigan Tech alumni graduating with a BS 2002 (major Biology minor General Science), and MSASE 2017, with Secondary Education Teaching Certificates in Biology (DA) 6-12, Science (DX) 6-12, Physics (2500), A.P. Physics- College Board, and A.P. Biology- College Board.

Matt Laird is a high-school science teacher at Lake Linden – Hubbell High School. A Michigan Tech alumni graduating in 2014 with a BS in Applied Geophysics and 2016 with a MS in Geophysics and a Science (DX) 6-12 certification.

Call for Applications: Songer Research Award for Human Health Research

2018-19 Songer Award Recipients. Pictured Left to Right: Abby Sutherland, Billiane Kenyon, Jeremy Bigalke, Rupsa Basu, Matthew Songer, and Laura Songer.

Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) have generously donated funds to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) to support a research project competition for undergraduate and graduate students. Remembering their own eagerness to engage in research during their undergraduate years, the Songers established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students. The College is extremely grateful for the Songers’ continuing interest in, and support of, Michigan Tech’s programs in human health and medicine. This is the second year of the competition.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. In the Spring of 2019, the Songer’s gift will support one award for undergraduate research ($4,000) and a second award for graduate research ($6,000). Matching funds from the College may allow two additional awards.

Any Michigan Tech student interested in exploring a medically related question under the guidance of faculty in the College of Sciences and Arts may apply. Students majoring in any degree program in the college, including both traditional (i.e., biological sciences, kinesiology, chemistry) and nontraditional (i.e., physics, psychology, social science, bioethics, computer science, mathematics) programs related to human health may propose research projects connected to human health. Students are encouraged to propose original, stand-alone projects with expected durations of 6 – 12 months. The committee also encourages applications from CSA students who seek to continue research projects initiated through other campus mechanisms, such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, Pavlis Honors College activities or the Graduate Research Forum (GRF).

Funds from a Songer Award may be used to purchase or acquire research materials and equipment needed to perform the proposed research project. Access to and research time utilizing University core research facilities, including computing, may be supported. Requests to acquire a personal computer will be scrutinized and must be fully justified. Page charges for publications also may be covered with award funds, as will travel to appropriate academic meetings. This award may not be used for salary or compensation for the student or consulting faculty.

To apply:

  • Students should prepare a research project statement (up to five pages in length) that describes the background, methods to be used, and research objectives. The statement also should provide a detailed description of the experiments planned and expected outcomes. Students must indicate where they will carry out their project and attach a separate list of references/citations to relevant scientific literature.
  • The application package also should provide a concise title and brief summary (1 page) written for lay audiences.
  • A separate budget page should indicate how funds will be used.
  • A short letter from a consulting faculty member must verify that the student defined an original project and was the primary author of the proposal. The faculty member should also confirm her/his willingness to oversee the project. This faculty letter is not intended to serve as a recommendation on behalf of the student’s project.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 22. Applications may be emailed to

The selection committee will consist of Matthew Songer, Laura Songer, Shekhar Joshi (BioSci) and Megan Frost (KIP). The committee will review undergraduate and graduate proposals separately and will seek additional comments about the proposed research on an ad-hoc basis from reviewers familiar with the topic of the research proposal. Primary review criteria will be the originality and potential impact of the proposed study, as well as its feasibility and appropriateness for Michigan Tech’s facilities.

The committee expects to announce the recipients by early May of 2019. This one-time research award will be administered by the faculty advisor of the successful student investigator. Students will be expected to secure any necessary IRB approval before funds will be released. Funds must be expended by the end of spring semester 2020; extensions will not be granted. Recipients must submit a detailed report to the selection committee, including a description of results and an accounting of finds utilized, no later than June 30, 2020.

Any questions may be directed to Megan Frost (, David Hemmer ( or Shekhar Joshi (