Sullivan Named Distinguished Scholar-Teacher

Professor Greg Sullivan has been named a University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher. The Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Program, established in 1978, honors a small number of faculty members each year who have demonstrated notable success in both scholarship and teaching.

Sullivan received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and did postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago before joining the UMD faculty. His research interests span high energy physics and astrophysics.

“Greg very much deserves this recognition,” said Physics chair Steve Rolston. “In his remarkable career, he has won a triple crown, as a key player in three tremendously important findings. And he has always been a superb mentor and fantastic classroom teacher.”

Early in his career, Sullivan was a major contributor to the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF), one of two experiments that made the momentous 1995 discovery of the top quark, a subatomic particle whose existence was predicted by the Standard Model. The finding was so significant that decades later, it continues to merit high acclaim, including the 2019 Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society.Sullivan (right) at work in AntarcticaSullivan (right) at work in Antarctica

As a UMD assistant professor, Sullivan joined the Super-Kamiokande experiment in Japan, which started operation in 1996 and in 1998 announced the first evidence that neutrinos—the lightest subatomic particles, long believe to be massless—do indeed have mass. This was an enormous reversal of accepted wisdom.  So important is the realization of neutrino mass that the Principal Investigator of the Super-Kamiokande experiment received the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics and the collaboration was honored with the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Physics.

Sullivan at the South PoleSullivan at the South PoleFollowing the Super-Kamiokande success, Sullivan turned to a scientific and engineering marvel: the cosmic neutrino-seeking IceCube experiment at the South Pole. Painstakingly, in a near-decade-long effort in frigid conditions, scientists drilled 86 1.5 mile-deep holes in the pristine Antarctic ice and equipped them with ultra-sensitive detectors, creating a massive observatory of unprecedented volume.  Sullivan was deeply involved in planning IceCube and was elected to the crucial position of Spokesperson (chief scientist) as it began operation. In two years, the collaboration published the first observation of cosmic neutrinos. Physics World named this feat the 2013 Breakthrough of the Year.  The discoveries continue; just months ago, IceCube announced detection of neutrinos from our Milky Way galaxy. And IceCube will continue to play a very important role in the evolving world of multimessenger astronomy, the collaborative effort to turn varied earth and space-based telescopes in unison to track emergent cosmic phenomena.

Sullivan has served as the thesis advisor for 17 students. He was the department’s Associate chair for Graduate Education from 2006-09. More recently, he has served as co-chair of our department’s Quantum Education Committee.

He will give a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher lecture in the fall 2024 semester.

Jamie Raskin to Give Milchberg Lecture on March 28

Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland’s 8th Congressional District will give the fourth Irving and Renee Milchberg Endowed Lecture on Thursday, March 28 at 1 p.m. in the lecture hall (1412) of the John S. Toll Physics Building. Rep. Raskin will discuss Democracy, Autocracy and the Threat to Reason in the 21st Century.

University of Maryland Professor of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering Howard Milchberg, his wife Rena, and their three children Moses, Mollie, and Max, established the lecture in memory of Howard's late parents, Renee and Irving Milchberg. Renee and Irving were witnesses to and victims of what can happen to society when ideology and lies are accepted in lieu of facts.

The talk is free and open to the public. Please register:

Rep. Raskin is serving his fourth term representing the eighth district, which includes most of Montgomery County and a small part of Prince George's County.  He is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability in the 118th Congress. 

Rep. Jamie RaskinRep. Jamie Raskin

Previously Rep. Raskin served three terms on the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on House Administration. He served two terms on the Rules Committee and the Coronavirus Select Subcommittee. During the 117th Congress he served as Chair of the Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Chair of the Rules Subcommittee on Expedited Procedure. Rep. Raskin was the lead impeachment manager in the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump and served on the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

Prior to his time in Congress, Raskin was a three-term State Senator in Maryland, where he also served as the Senate Majority Whip. Congressman Raskin is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School and is a former editor of the Harvard Law Review. He is the author of Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy.

 Irving and Renee Milchberg Endowed Lecture Speakers:

2024:  Congressman Jamie Raskin, "Democracy, Autocracy and the Threat to Reason in the 21st Century"
2023: Jonathan Moreno, University of Pennsylvania, "Bioethics and the Rules-Based International Order"  
2021: James Glanz, reporter for the New York Times, "The Public Relations Machine in Science: A Self-Inflicted Wound?"
2019: Susan Eisenhower, President and CEO of the Eisenhower Institute, "Lessons from 1945: Ethics, the War in Europe, and its Enduring Legacy"

Career Q&A with Recent Physics Alum Jason Barbier

Can you tell us about your career before coming to the University of Maryland in 2020?

I began my career in 2014 on active duty in the United States Air Force as a full-time radio communications technician at the Royal Air Force Croughton in the United Kingdom. I coordinated communications to the battlefield by maintaining a fixed satellite communication relay station. This involved building a range of skills in electronics repair, network testing and operations management. In 2019, I chose to cross-train to a reserve aircraft maintenance position at the 459th Air Refueling Wing in Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. I inspected, serviced, fueled and launched our fleet of KC-135 refueler aircraft to support long-range missions. 

Serving gave me the opportunity to grow as a professional in several exciting fields. I am immensely thankful for my many family members, mentors, and fellow servicemen and women who encouraged me to pursue my bachelor’s full-time at UMD starting in fall 2020.Barbier in front of 459 ARW Andrews

Why did you decide to study physics at UMD and what do you hope to do with your degree?

Since I was a kid playing with circuit kits and disassembling items around the house, I’ve been drawn to technical fields. When I was working in the military, I found myself pondering deep questions about the nature of reality. As a technician, I spent my time learning how to use the equipment; I wanted to know how and why everything worked. I was curious about everything from quantum particles to the behavior of black holes.

In my travels as a service member, I experienced the world in ways I’d only heard or read about. I saw issues like resource scarcity and environmental degradation everywhere I traveled and decided that I wanted to be part of the solution.

This led me to build an interest in the potential of nuclear fusion power (for energy and space travel). I decided to go into research to move this field forward while learning the intricacies of particles and the current state of reactors. My ultimate goal is to solve energy and environmental challenges with sustainable power sources.

How have you taken advantage of opportunities on campus to pursue your career goals?

First off, from the Terp Vets community, I have found support from other ambitious Terps who transitioned from the military to higher education.

Then in the University Career Center, I made use of essential guidance and career prep resources. After some searching into research projects to join, I found a promising one at the intersection of both CMNS and the Clark School of Engineering. I joined a research team in beam physics at the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics. Here, I developed my ability to use tools for constructing and testing elements of an electron accelerator. Across the board, I have had so much support from UMD interested in seeing me succeed.

What kind of career guidance and one-on-one feedback did you receive from the University Career Center @ CMNS?

At the Career Center, I spoke with [University Career Center @ CMNS Program Director] Becca Ryan who helped me understand my goals and prepare for internships. In our first meeting, Becca informed me that physics is a degree with many marketable skills, like analysis and research, that can match well to a range of internships and job postings. 

Barbier with PSC in backgroundAfter attending the university’s spring career fair and interviewing with a company of interest, UCC counselors encouraged me by suggesting the skills I would need to succeed and coaching me through the unfamiliar parts of the process such as negotiation. 

As I interviewed, there were questions specific to the industry that I was unsure how to answer. Becca recommended studying material beforehand and asking staff members about the company’s priorities. She also helped me decide what to do with the job offer I received and determine how the job aligned with my goals and career path. Once I made my decision to decline the job offer and pursue graduate studies instead, Becca helped me vocalize it clearly and effectively.

What do you think your next stop after graduation will be (or what do you hope it will be)?

Now that I have graduated with my B.S. in physics, I hope to build upon my physics background and connect to engineering and business to solve needs in the world through products or a startup. I am currently enrolled in the accelerated business master’s program (here at UMD!) to combine my scientific and engineering skills with industry and leadership. It’s a one-year program that will give me the business, financial and communication skills so I can develop technologies that can reach the marketplace.

Next summer, I’ll be looking to gain internship experience this summer and apply for jobs before graduating with my master’s.Barbier with dog

What advice do you have for fellow Science Terps who are looking for internships and jobs?

I am honored by the opportunity to be a Terp and study in such an encouraging and idea-abundant environment! I encourage other Science Terps to speak with the UCC and meet with employers and labs. You never know what skills of yours are in demand until you get yourself out there.

CMNS students have access to career advisors and programs that are personalized to their unique career interests in STEM fields. In this Q&A series, we are spotlighting how Science Terps are capitalizing on the resources, support and guidance that the University Career Center @ CMNS provides. 

Make an appointment with Becca or another member of the University Career Center team by visiting or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any career-related questions!

‘Not Alone’: Mental Health Task Force Analyzes Well-Being of UMD Physics Graduate Students 

Grad school should challenge students’ minds but not their mental health, according to physics graduate students at the University of Maryland who are using scientific principles to understand their peers’ perspectives.

Formed in 2016, the Department of Physics’ Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force (MHTF) is a small, student-led group that conducts surveys to identify the unique challenges faced by physics graduate students. While all of the task force members are researchers, they are also part of the very group they are analyzing.

“When you are studying a population that you yourself are a part of, you come with your own biases, but you also come with an understanding of the group,” said physics graduate student and MHTF member Adam Ehrenberg. “And as somebody who for most of undergrad struggled with their mental health relatively openly, the MHTF seemed like a good way to think about those things in a slightly more official way.”Patrick Banner speaks with colleagues. Credit: Müge KaragözPatrick Banner speaks with colleagues. Credit: Müge Karagöz

The group works together to create surveys and get them approved by the campus Institutional Review Board—a recommended step for research involving human subjects. They then conduct statistical analyses to gather insights, which are condensed into a report and made publicly available online. Some surveys are broadly focused on students’ mental health, while others hone in on a specific issue.

The MHTF’s last report shed light on the high rate of impostor phenomenon among physics graduate students, especially among those who identify as female or nonbinary. People who experience this phenomenon often report feeling like “frauds” who have not earned their spot in a job or academic department. 

Physics graduate student and MHTF member Patrick Banner explained that impostor phenomenon can cause anxiety, depression and low self-esteem, and can even prevent people from pursuing scholarships, fellowships or career opportunities.

“One really harmful aspect of impostor phenomenon is that someone experiencing it may feel that they do not deserve the opportunities they receive and therefore don't pursue them,” Banner said.

Banner said the task force’s next report, slated to publish sometime this semester, will dive deeper into this phenomenon and the role that academic advisors can play in a student’s experience. 

“We had a specific question that we wanted to know, which is: Can the relationship between a student and their advisor affect impostor phenomenon feelings?” Banner said. “We asked not only questions about impostor phenomenon, but also about how students perceived their relationship with their advisor, and we can look at some quantitative correlations between those variables.”

While the MHTF is still analyzing data, preliminary results show that the quality of advising can affect how students view themselves and their place in the physics department. One of the group’s recommendations to advisors is to head off students’ feelings of inadequacy by helping them understand why they might be struggling with a task.

“Grad school is an inherently difficult process to go through, and there are always going to be struggles. Things are going to fail sometimes,” Banner said. “I think the best advisors are good at making that clear and reframing struggles to say, ‘No, it’s not you. This is a hard thing that you’re doing.’”

Steven Rolston, the physics department chair, said the MHTF’s methodical and compassionate approach to mental health has been “gratifying” to witness.

“They address the issue as scientists, using validated tools and raising the levels of statistical analysis as they refine their surveys,” Rolston said. “Simply addressing the topic out in the open—and showing their fellow students that they are not alone and that people do care—can make a big difference.”

The MHTF also produces and manages two resources for grad students: the UMD Physics Grad Student Guide and the Mental Health Resources page on the physics department website. To expand its scope even further, the MHTF started hosting more social events—from movie nights to coffee breaks—to help students feel more connected with their peers. 

In 2021, MHTF members participated in a mental health panel hosted by the American Physical Society and, more recently, shared preliminary results of their newest survey during a meeting of the Chesapeake Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Chandra Turpen, a physics assistant research professor who advises the MHTF, lauded the group’s ability to not only gather data but to effectively share their results with a larger audience.

“This team has consistently done top-notch work—gathering evidence, building relationships with stakeholders across these graduate programs, persuasively communicating their results and making requests to transform our graduate programs,” Turpen said. “Their work embodies many of the best practices for leading inclusive system change efforts.”

Going forward, the group hopes to recruit new students to MHTF—three of the five current members plan to graduate this year. Anyone interested in joining can email the group at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

And they hope to keep the momentum—and the conversation—going. Erin Sohr (B.S. ’10, physics and astronomy; Ph.D. ’18, physics), who co-founded the MHTF as a graduate student in 2016, said it has been meaningful to see the physics community rally around students’ mental health.

“I think the most important impact is around starting this conversation within the department, normalizing struggles and just making mental health something we notice and talk about together,” said Sohr, who is now a physics assistant research scientist at UMD.

Banner agreed, stressing the value of undertaking these surveys and having difficult conversations.

“Just having the conversation is a way of saying that mental health is a serious issue,” Banner said. “We don’t want to sweep this under the rug. We want everyone to be happy and healthy, so having these conversations is the first step to making that happen.”


Written by Emily Nunez