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.

Umbargers Establish Fund to Advance Undergraduate Research in Physics

John and Kathy Umbarger
John and Kathy Umbarger share a happy moment

C. John ’64 and Kathryn O. Umbarger created the C. John and Kathryn Umbarger Physics Fund at Michigan Technological University. The annual fund provides financial support to Michigan Tech’s Department of Physics for undergraduate and graduate student projects and research. 

A Giving Tradition Since 1988

Giving directly to the Michigan Tech physics program is nothing new for the Umbargers. They have been doing so since 1988. In fact, supporting education and learning is something near and dear to the Umbargers. John believes, “It doesn’t matter where you start but what you do in life. With learning and an education, you can do just about anything.” 

John Umbarger
John Umbarger in the 1964 Keweenawan

“Thanks to my Michigan Tech education, I was fortunate enough to meet the love of my life, embark on a terrific career, and start and nurture a terrific family,” John said. “Both Kathy and I have been blessed. We have a sound financial footing, and we want to help Michigan Tech students embark on a similar journey. We hope and encourage other Tech graduates to consider doing the same.”

Physics Advocates Create Opportunities

“Kathy and John have been strong advocates of the physics program at Michigan Tech and provided generous support for the undergraduate research fellowships over the past years,” said Dr. Ravindra Pandey, Department Chair and Professor of Physics. “We are excited for the tremendous opportunities our students get to apply their learning in the lab, practice skills and acquire knowledge that will help them on their future journey and career.”

Kathy Olson Umbarger
Kathy Olson (now Umbarger) was crowned queen of the 1964 Military Ball

The fund enables projects like Breanna Patz’s “Ultralight Sunflower Starshade Structural Design – NASA challenge” under the guidance of faculty advisor Dr. Jacek Borysow. Breanna is working to develop a sunshade that helps those using ground-based telescopes to get an unobstructed view of exoplanets by blocking out the light of stars. As a result, observers can better see the light reflected by a planet and understand the features (e.g., oceans, land masses, atmosphere) of that planet. NASA’s challenge is to create a deployable sunshade for use in space.

Benj Sloma’s work under the guidance of faculty advisor Claudio Mazzoleni is another example. ”Use of Dynamic Photoacoustic Spectroscopy to Measure Light Absorbance of Aerosols” helps researchers to study particles containing black carbon (BC) produced during incomplete combustion and their interactions with clouds. “We could not offer opportunities like these to students without the generosity of donors like the Umbargers,” said Pandey.

Umbargers Pay It Forward

Paying it forward is a common theme for the Umbargers. “We had teachers and educators that made positive impacts on our lives. It’s important for us to pay it forward and give the next generation the same opportunities we had. Plus it is energizing to talk and work with young people,” he said.

How else has John been paying it forward? He teaches classes each week to 12-13 students in the Benton and Franklin Counties Juvenile Justice Center; a role he started in the late ’90s. He founded the Tri-Cities Crystal Apple Awards program, recognizing local teachers. And John just retired from the Pasco School District Vocational Program Board, which he initiated in 1997. This self-funding program enables students to build homes (23 were built in 25 years) to be sold on the open market, teaching valuable skills to hundreds of students. These and countless other examples of community work earned him recognition as Tri-Citian of the Year in 2010.

Michigan Tech Glee Club singing in 1964
John Umbarger (back row, second from left) sings with the Glee Club

John has a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s in management, a doctorate in nuclear physics, and served two post-doctoral fellowships. He holds five U.S. patents and was employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory until 1997, spending 26 years with the Department of Energy lab. John and Kathy moved to Washington state in 1997, where John took a job with Fluor Hanford in economic development and community programs. He retired in 2008.

Would You Like To Give?

If you would like to inquire about giving opportunities in the Physics Department or elsewhere at Tech, please contact Karin Van Dyke, Michigan Tech University, Director of Advancement, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931. Email: Phone: 906-487-2464.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.