Rockafellow, Yancey Receive NSF Fellowships

Ela Rockafellow and Colin Yancey were among 22 current students and recent alumni of the University of Maryland to receive prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships, which recognize outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Fourteen of these recipients were from the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS). 

Rockafellow, a senior physics major and co-president of the UMD chapter of the Society of Physics Students, received a Goldwater Scholarship last year. Yancey, who graduated in 2021 with degrees in physics and biological sciences, is now a chemical and biomolecular engineering doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University.

CMNS graduate student fellowship recipients:

  • Joshua Davis, computer science graduate student
  • Ashley Hanna, geology graduate student
  • Katya Leidig, astronomy graduate student
  • James Mullen, computer science graduate student
  • Joel Rajakumar, computer science graduate student
  • Max Springer, applied mathematics & statistics, and scientific computation graduate student

CMNS undergraduate student fellowship recipients:

  • Steven Jin, mathematics major
  • Naveen Raman, computer science and mathematics double major
  • Ela Rockafellow, physics major
  • Abigail Svoysky, biochemistry, biological sciences, and Russian language and literature triple-degree student

CMNS alumni fellowship recipients:

  • Ethan Cheng (BS. ’21, biological sciences; B.S. ’21, computer science)
  • Brandon Johnston (B.S. ’21, chemistry)
  • Savannah Speir (B.S. ’18, biological sciences)
  • Colin Yancey (B.S. ’21, physics; B.S. ’21, biological sciences) 

NSF fellows receive three years of support, including a $34,000 annual stipend, a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees and access to opportunities for professional development available.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.

Since 1952, NSF has funded more than 60,000 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants. At least 42 fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Original story by Abby Robinson:

Patrick Kim Named Goldwater Scholar

Patrick Kim, a junior physics and electrical engineering double-degree student, is one of three UMD students to have been awarded 2022 scholarships by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages students to pursue advanced study and research careers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics.  Patrick Kim. Photo courtesy of same.Patrick Kim. Photo courtesy of same.

Over the last decade, UMD’s nominations yielded 35 scholarships—the second-most in the nation behind Stanford University. The Goldwater Foundation has honored 76 UMD winners and five honorable mentions since the program’s first award was given in 1989. In the last decade, 15 physics students have received Goldwater recognition: Kim, Ela Rockafellow, Scott Moroch, John Martyn, Nicholas Poniatowski, Mark Zic, Paul Neves, Christopher Bambic, Eliot Fenton, Prayaag Venkat, Nathan Ng, Geoffrey Ji, Stephen Randall and Noah Roth Mandell. 

“Our Goldwater Scholars are conducting research on the leading edge of their disciplines—engineering new clean energy solutions, using algorithms to optimize the distribution of limited resources in contact tracing or access to vaccines, and designing new gene-based diagnostics and therapies against aggressive cancers. Each of them is on a trajectory to make major research contributions that have societal impact,” said Robert Infantino, associate dean of undergraduate education in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. Infantino has led UMD’s Goldwater Scholarship nominating process since 2001.

Kim, a member of the University Honors program and President’s Scholarship recipient, is contributing to the quest for fusion energy—a process that forces atoms together under great heat and could mean an almost limitless supply of clean energy if successful. 

Kim began his first research project at UMD with Physics Professor William Dorland in 2017—two years before he became a college freshman. Now, Kim is working with Dorland to optimize fusion reactors to reduce their turbulent transport, which would otherwise greatly limit their efficiency and prevent net fusion power gain.

“Patrick is bright, resourceful, tenacious and curious,” Dorland said. “He is able to teach himself fast enough and thoroughly enough to have produced new results, which he published in a refereed journal and presented at the annual American Physical Society conference for the Division of Plasma Physics.”

Kim also conducts research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), where he studies reduced plasma models that can evaluate the plasma’s nonlinear macroscopic stability and dynamical properties more rapidly. He is co-author of a journal article submitted on this work. This summer, he plans to continue working at PPPL to develop improved optimization algorithms for fusion reactors.

After graduation, Kim plans to pursue a Ph.D., become a plasma physicist and help develop the first commercial nuclear fusion reactors that provide power to the electrical grid.

Other UMD winners this year were George Li, a sophomore computer science and mathematics double-degree student; and Kevin Tu, a junior biological sciences and economics double-degree student.  Goldwater Scholars receive one- or two-year scholarships that cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 per year.

Original story by Abby Robinson:

In Memoriam

It is with much sadness that the Department of Physics announces the passing of several members of our community. 

  • Gerald Abrams (Ph.D., '67), who spent most of his career at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, died on March 31, 2020.
  • Nick Chant, who researched nuclear physics and served as the department's graduate director, died on October 15, 2021.
  • Thomas Ferbel, a high energy physicist who held UMD appointments since 2013, died on March 13, 2022
  • Lavonne Dragt, wife of Prof. Emeritus Alex Dragt, died on November 12, 2021.
  • Charles S. Dulcey Jr (Ph.D., 1982), who worked as a research physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory, died on Dec. 30, 2021
  • Michael Fisher, whose many honors included a USM Regents Professorship, died on November 26, 2021.

Faculty, Staff, Student and Alumni Awards & Notes

We proudly recognize members of our community who recently garnered major honors, began new positions and more.

Faculty and Staff 
  • Ruba Abukhdeir joined the department as the Director of Business and Finance. 
  • Kaustubh Agashe, Mohammad Hafezi and Arpita Upadhyaya were elected Fellows of the American Physical Society.
  • Jesse Anderson retired on December 31 after 34 years with the department. 
  • Lea Bartolome received the department's Staff Excellence Award. 
  • Alessandra Buonanno received the Balzan Prize.
  • Sankar Das Sarma was named a highly cited researcher by Clarivate Analytics. He also wrote a commentary for Physics Today. He recently discussed the latest developments in topological phases in quantum computing at a Microsoft conference. 
  • Work by Jim Drake on the heliosphere was described in
  • James Ellsworth joined the department as assistant director for of procurement, inventory and receiving.
  • Sarah Eno was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 
  • Manuel Franco Sevilla was named liaison between EF and Rare Processes and Precision Measurement group at Snowmass.
  • Victor Galitski was quoated in Physics magazine.  
  • Jim Gates received the 2021 AIP Andrew Gemant Award. He was also profiled in Symmetry Magazine.
  • Carter Hall was featured on the Department of Energy website regarding what his 2011 Early Career Award had meant to his research.
  • Donna Hammer was named a Society of Physics Students Outstanding Chapter Advisor. 
  • Eliot Hammer joined the chair's office as coordinator of administration.
  • Work by Anson Hook was described in Science Daily.
  • Ted Jacobson's idea of a black hole laser was discussed in PhysicsWorld.
  • Danae Johnson joined the department as a business manager.
  • Melanie Knouse received the department's Staff Excellence Award. 
  • Alicia Kollár received a Sloan Research Fellowship.
  • Wolfgang Losert received a Brain and Behavior Institute seed grant award.
  • Howard Milchberg, Daniel Woodbury (Ph.D., '20), Robert Schwartz wrote a Physics Today Quick Study showing how revisiting early experiments with new tech leads to pinpointing individual electrons in ambient gases. 
  • Rabi Mohapatra will retire on August 1, 2022.
  • Allen Monroe received the department's Staff Excellence Award. 
  • Johnpierre Paglione was named an Outstanding Referee of the Physical Review journals.
  • Naomi Russo received the department's Sibylle Sampson Award.
  • Jay Sau was named UMD co-Director of the Joint Quantum Institute.
  • Yasser Saleh joined the department as procurement coordinator.
  • Brian Straughn received the Lorraine DeSalvo Chair's Award for Outstanding Service.
  • Fred Wellstood will retire on April 1, 2022.
  • LaVita Williams joined the payroll office as a business service specialist.
  • Elizabeth Bennewitz, a graduate student working with Alexey Gorshkov, has been named a finalist for a 2022 Hertz Fellowship.
  • Yonatan Gazit and Yanda Geng received the Richard and Anna Iskraut Award.
  • Donovan Buterakos, Haining Pan, DinhDuy Vu won the Richard E. Prange Graduate Student Award.
  • Sagar Airen received the Kapo-Barwick Award.
  • Batoul Banihashemi, Yan Li, Braden Kronheim, Edward Broadberry, Jeremy Shuler, Subhayan Sahu, Saurabh Kadam, Nathaniel Fried received the Ralph Myers Award
  • Vakhtang Agayan (Ph.D., '00) was named Chief Technology Officer of KMK Consulting
  • Beatriz Burrola Gabilondo (Ph.D., '10) was named an APS Equity, Diversion and Inclusion Fellow.
  • Laird Egan, (Ph.D., '21), was quoted in a Physics story on quantum error correction. 
  • Alexei Fedotov (Ph.D. ’97), received teh Dieter Möhl Medal in the field of beam cooling.
  • Salman Habib, Director at Argonne Lab's high energy division was a PhD student of mine (1988).
  • Ruth Kastner received a  Visiting Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Philosophy of Science.
  • Ying-Cheng Lai (Ph.D., '92) was named a Regents Professor at Arizona State University.
  • Thomas Mason, B.S. '89, physics; B.S. '89, electrical engineering  
  • Elizabeth Paul (Ph.D., '20) and Matt Landreman published work on a twisty stellarator in Physical Review Letters.
  • Denjoe O'Connor (Ph.D. '85) is now the Director of Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, the position Erwin Schrödinger held during World War II.
  • TC Shen (Ph.D. '85) is a professor of physics at Utah State University.
  • Chris Stephens (Ph.D. '86) is the director of the Center for Complexity Science at UNAM, Mexico City.
Book Marks

Victor Yakovenko's work in econophysics was discussed extensively in the book Anthill Economics.

Department Notes