A Physics Career of a Thousand Steps

Despite growing up in an information bubble in a small town in western Iran, Zohreh Davoudi started down the path of becoming a theoretical physicist at an early age.

“There was no internet, a TV with only two channels” Davoudi said. “There were limited books, some newspapers. You had this sort of obscured picture of reality.”

But what she also had was two parents—both teachers—who were dedicated to giving their six children an education. With their support, her path ultimately brought her to the University of Maryland in 2017. As an assistant professor, she is dedicated to tackling challenging problems one step at a time and leaving a strong foundation for future scientists.

Her work can’t be neatly classified; it straddles the fields of high-energy particle physics and low-energy nuclear physics. In particular, Davoudi wants to uncover how the Standard Model of particle physics—the theory that describes the most basic known forces and particles—brings about the reality at the heart of every atom, which is the domain of nuclear physics.

“The matter portion of the universe that we can see is better known than the other aspects of the universe, like dark matter and dark energy, but the visible sector of the universe by itself is still full of mysteries,” Davoudi said. “While we understand the underlying mechanism—the physics framework that describes the interactions at the fundamental level—it is a very hard, complex problem to put together these elementary particles, these building blocks, and build up a complex, large, many-body quantum system, which ultimately builds up our universe.”

Quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is the part of the Standard Model that elegantly describes the “strong interaction” that holds matter together. Exploring how it applies to creating protons and neutrons, and subsequently atomic nuclei, is a daunting challenge in modern nuclear physics.

Step-By-Step Progress

Davoudi’s drive to understand the fundamental underpinnings of the universe has origins all the way back in her childhood. Her parents instilled a love learning in their children, and Davoudi developed a particular affinity for math.

When Davoudi was around 10 years old, her father went back to school for a second degree, despite the demands of having children and a full-time job as a middle-school science teacher, because he wanted to teachDavoudi and her father Hassan, Summer 2018.Davoudi and her father Hassan, Summer 2018. a more challenging subject—physics. And as her father studied physics, Davoudi’s fondness for math found a practical application that caught her imagination.

“He would come home with physics books, and they were very complicated, of course,” Davoudi said. “I couldn't even pass the first page often. But there is always a page of introduction or preface that had something very intriguing. And this all just got me curious.”

Her father explained all he could to her, and the two of them began to dream of her becoming a theoretical physicist. One of the first big steps toward that goal was to get accepted to a good university in the capital city, Tehran.

“I went to college to do physics,” Davoudi said. “It was obvious that's the only thing that could keep me interested and curious for a long time.”

As an undergraduate and then a master’s student at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Davoudi was interested in high-energy physics and the big questions it tackles about the nature of reality, like the origin of matter and interactions and what drives the physics of the hidden “dark” sector of the universe. Then her hard work and interest in theoretical physics brought her to the University of Washington to do her Ph.D.

Once there, she took a step in a new direction when her previous, narrow perspective of nuclear physics as an old, tired field was overturned. She was drawn into nuclear physics by a class that she took mainly because she couldn’t find any other subject that she hadn’t already studied during her master’s degree.

“On the first day of the class, the professor comes in and writes the equations of the Standard Model on the board,” Davoudi said. “I was like, ‘This is not a particle physics class, what's going on?’”

She recalled him telling the class to “keep the QCD equation in your mind, and everything else I teach you in this course about nuclear phenomena, try to go back and ask, ‘How does this come from that equation?’”

That question and the approach of tackling nuclear physics from the foundation of QCD stuck with her. And that professor, Martin Savage, became her doctoral advisor.

“I just fell in Davoudi and Ph.D. advisor, Prof. Martin Savage, University of Washington, Fall 2012. Photo credit: Seattle Times.Davoudi and Ph.D. advisor, Prof. Martin Savage, University of Washington, Fall 2012. Photo credit: Seattle Times.love with nuclear physics,” Davoudi said. “The way it was presented to me was that nuclear physics started around a hundred years ago, so you can consider it an old field. But it's probably one of the most difficult sciences out there and that's why the progress has been slow but steady. However, as new tools and new perspectives were developed in recent times, our chance of answering big questions has improved considerably, and that is what keeps the field alive and exciting.”

She decided to join a community of dedicated researchers that have been steadily developing new tools and perspectives that keep the field alive and exciting as it takes on big questions about the nature of matter and reveals new details of our universe.

Looking to the Future

Since joining UMD, Davoudi has continued chipping away at the challenge of applying QCD to nuclear physics. In 2018, she was awarded the Kenneth G. Wilson Award for Excellence in Lattice Gauge Theory, one of the highest distinctions for a junior researcher in her field. In 2019 she received the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship to support her work. She and her collaborators used the largest supercomputers in the U.S. to simulate the rate of proton-proton fusion in the Sun directly from the QCD equation, which they described as “a dream come true.” She sees this as just the beginning of understanding nuclear physics starting from the foundation of elementary particles and interactions.

As a new direction in her research, Davoudi is also partnering with colleagues who are pushing the frontiers of quantum computing. They are working together to lay a foundation for using quantum simulations to solve challenging nuclear-physics problems.

“The atmosphere here at Maryland around quantum is so vibrant and exciting, and there's so much good talent around that I just want to be part of it and bring something to the table that is not there,” Davoudi said. “And my expertise—lattice gauge theory and nuclear physics—it wasn't part of the program in quantum. So I thought, ‘Maybe that's something I can bring.’”

She collaborates with researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science. Her goal is to help figure out how to reframe her nuclear-physics problems into a form where a simulation can use quantum physics to do the tricky calculations that defy physicists’ current techniques.

“I want to see this quantum-simulation technology actually solve problems that I care about,” Davoudi said. “I want us to be able to simulate the collision of two heavy isotopes in experiment, and be able to track every step of the way after such a dramatic collision that mimics the universe after the Big Bang. It might not be possible today or tomorrow, even in a few years, but we have to start now. We must leverage the new computing resources that might be available in 10 or 20 years since they may revolutionize the type of computational problems we do in nuclear physics.”

She recognizes that these endeavors may not fully bear fruit until after she retires, but she believes now is the time to start building the foundation.

“I’m very hopeful about the future of this program,” Davoudi said. “I think new ideas and robust revolutionary tools arise when people with different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives start talking to each other, and that can lead to something that had not existed before.”

Another way Davoudi is building this foundation is by mentoring students, whom she encourages to explore topics and classes beyond their current focus and to embrace challenges. She tries to show them the value of learning through tackling a challenging problem and to nurture their strengths as individuals.Davoudi at a summer school at the European Center For Theoretical Studies in Nuclear Physics (ECT*) along with participating students, including UMD students Siddhartha Harmalkar, Saurabh Kadam, and Andrew Shaw, Trento, Italy, Summer 2019. Photo credit: Andrew Shaw/ECT*.Davoudi at a summer school at the European Center For Theoretical Studies in Nuclear Physics (ECT*) along with participating students, including UMD students Siddhartha Harmalkar, Saurabh Kadam, and Andrew Shaw, Trento, Italy, Summer 2019. Photo credit: Andrew Shaw/ECT*.

“If the student is good and motivated, you should give them a problem that matters,” Davoudi said. “Once they learn to solve a hard problem step by step, they won’t be afraid to tackle the next.”

According to Davoudi, every student and postdoc is an individual bringing unique perspectives, strengths and sometimes weaknesses. She says that mentorship is about building a stronger whole by matching together the right people and then helping them spot the next step toward progress on problems of real value to the scientific community—an approach that she learned from her own doctoral advisor.

Davoudi’s efforts to combine multiple perspectives from her colleagues and students isn’t just something that helps her push the boundaries of research; it has always been a part of her life. Even off campus Davoudi values looking at the world from multiple perspectives. She tries to read on a broad variety of topics including politics and social trends from around the world.

“I try to keep up to date whenever I get some free time,” Davoudi said. “That is something that has been kind of a hobby for me since I was a child. I would sit next to my father and read newspapers, or go to my mother’s classroom and help her with teaching duties even if the subject material was something that I was not familiar with. I’d read every book in my parents’ small bookshelf on subjects from literature and politics to biology and cooking, all full of words I sometimes could not even pronounce or understand, but still reading those gave me the hope that the world is bigger than what I was confined to at the time and there’s so much to explore.”

Written by Bailey Bedford with contributions from Chris Cesare

Alumnus Charlie Husar Makes $515K Donation to Support Physics Students

It’s been almost 50 years since Charles “Charlie” Husar graduated from the University of Maryland with his bachelor’s degree in physics in 1971. And for him, now is the perfect time to give something back—to the university and to students who follow an academic path similar to his own.

Husar donated $515,000 to establish the Charles T. Husar Endowment for Physics, which will provide fellowships and summer research and travel awards for physics students. The inaugural awards will be given in January, 2021.

For Husar, who paid his own way through college—starting as an assembler at a local electronics company—it just felt like the right thing to do.

“I don’t have any kids and I was thinking about something I could do that would be useful,” Husar explained. “I like to help those who are trying to help themselves. This is part of my rationale for the UMD endowment in a tough discipline. I like the idea of helping someone along the way.”

And, if that’s a student whose background is similar to his own, he’d like that, too.

“I would say my background is a little unusual,” Husar said. “I think I didn’t recognize at the time how different it was.”Charlie HusarCharlie Husar

Husar was born in Czechoslovakia just after World War II. 

“My mother was born and raised in Poland. My father was a colonel in the Czech army who spent the war in a German labor camp. He was assigned to the Czech Embassy in the USA after the war,” Husar said. “So, my mother had to bring my 1-1/2-year-old sister and me at 4 months to America herself. My family skipped out from the embassy and hid out for a while in Virginia when the communists took over Czechoslovakia. Long story short, I consider myself very fortunate.”

By the time Husar finished high school, he was living in College Park, just a few miles from UMD. With his academic interests, attending Maryland seemed like the obvious choice.

“I’ve always had a strong interest in science and how things work, and my enjoyment comes from building things and doing things,” Husar said. “Chemistry didn’t impress me, biology looked pretty messy and physics was the hardest thing they had, so I said I’ll study physics. It’s a great process, how to think about a problem and find a solution. I found it pretty challenging and I found the thought process neat and I found myself anxious to apply it all over the place in my engineering career and elsewhere.”

Even in music.

“Did I mention that I also played guitar in rock bands while going to school and working?” Husar asked. “I just didn’t sleep much in my school days.”

Husar’s love for science and problem-solving and music carried him through college and beyond. For years after graduation, he worked as a design engineer for the same electronics company where he worked to pay for college. Then, after a recommendation from a friend, he joined the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked for 35 years as a secure communications engineer until his retirement six years ago. 

During most of his professional career, Husar was also pursuing what continues to be one of his greatest passions away from work: sailboat racing. After his first sailing trip in the early ’70s, he was hooked and soon began rebuilding boats and competing with his own 25-footer—which he named “Chicken Little.”

“Ever since 1980, I’ve been racing my own sailboat,” Husar said. “I still have it and a couple other sailboats, too.”  

For the problem-solver in Husar, the challenges of sailing were a perfect fit.

“Learning how to sail a boat well, to manage the wind and handle the seas, is a really complex thing,” Husar said. “In terms of learning how you maximize your use of the wind with the sails, it’s how you handle the lines and do the tricks, and how you better set up the boat to do what you’re trying to do.”

Husar, who’s been called the “Godfather of the Cal 25 Fleet,” spends hundreds of hours a year supporting the sport of sailboat racing—heading up the Annapolis Cal 25 owners’ group, keeping season-long scores for eight different racing fleets, and volunteering at the Annapolis Maritime Museum.

Now in his 70s, Husar still sails and still plays music, sitting in for the occasional gig now and then. And he hasn’t stopped learning. Husar found a niche on the website Quora, providing answers to a wide range of complex technical questions—from “What is a simple but detailed explanation of logic gates?” to “Why does a thermocouple record a high value of temperature?”

“I am an answerer on Quora,” Husar explained. “I find some of the questions intriguing, and I further find that I sometimes need to do research to come up with a proper and accurate answer. In this way, I find answering the questions to be more educational than asking them.”

From answering online questions to running sailing events to creating the endowment for physics students at UMD, Husar finds a special satisfaction in doing good things for others. He hopes his donation will make a difference for students who appreciate the challenges of physics and problem-solving, just as he did as a student—and still does 50 years later.

“Whether it’s the volunteerism thing or this new endowment, I’m really pleased when I can help somebody out, it feels good to do it,” Husar said. “I guess that is what I enjoy in life—making a difference.”

Written by Leslie Miller

Donna Hammer Takes Outreach Online

As director of education for the University of Maryland’s Department of Physics, Donna Hammer (M.E. ’95, curriculum and instruction) wears a lot of hats—supervisor for the Office of Student and Education Services, instructor, conference organizer, department ombudsman and University Senate committee member, among many others. But in all of her roles, Hammer never imagined herself as a video producer. Then COVID-19 came along, and suddenly, she had to think about things like camera angles, lighting and audio quality.

During the summer of 2020, when she would normally have been juggling the needs of nearly 200 students in four different summer camps, Hammer was directing three video shoots a day, three days a week—all the while making sure her team wore masks, observed physical distancing guidelines, and fastidiously cleaned their equipment and makeshift studio.

“We’ve had to learn a lot all at once,” Hammer said. “But we’re actually thinking we might be able to reach more people now with some of the things we’re developing to deal with the pandemic.”

As one of the college’s more active outreach programs, Hammer’s office already has a broad reach. In addition to directing the summer camps, HDonna Hammer Donna Hammer ammer oversees a free public demonstration program called Physics is Phun for high school students; Physics Discovery Days for elementary school children and parents; and the demonstration facility, which contains equipment for more than 1,600 physics demonstrations.

As the pandemic shut down in-person activity across campus, Hammer has been reimagining her programs to serve a remote audience. She started with the demonstrations, which are used by faculty throughout the college.

With the help of a small Teaching Innovation Grant from the university, Hammer hired four undergraduate students with video editing skills and began videotaping demonstrations in the John S. Toll Physics Building physics lecture hall where they would have plenty of room for the videographer and presenter to physically distance.

Her team shot 40 demonstration videos, including a Tesla coil, a magnetic track that suspends a chilled puck in the air, and an apparatus that launches two balls along separate paths to demonstrate conservation of energy and velocity. Hammer’s videos generated plenty of interest, and colleagues she discussed them with at other universities have asked if they will be publicly available.

“I’m committed to making them available, but also I think these are just the beginning,” she said. “If these are well received, we’d like to do another series focused more on public engagement, incorporating more graphics and with a more fun tone.”

That second series of videos could become a temporary substitute for Physics is Phun, one of the department’s most popular public programs that is now on hold due to COVID-19.

The pandemic also shut down the department’s popular in-person summer camps, which led Hammer to experiment with a new approach, guiding small groups of elementary school students through Zoom-based workshops on gravity and Newton’s laws. Her team donned masks and gloves to stuff baggies with take-home physics kits that parents picked up before the workshops. Over Zoom, participants conducted demonstrations for each other while Hammer guided the sessions.

Hammer’s summer camp experiment was a success and provides a model for an online version of Physics Discovery Days, which traditionally provide on-site, hands-on demonstrations and workshops. Hammer is adapting the workshops into online offerings with the help of a generous gift from Freda McCann (Lee) (B.S. '65, M.A. '70, mathematics) and her husband Kevin. Their $10,000 donation will also help support next year’s summer camps, but the online component Hammer’s building now is sure to have a lasting impact.

“I don’t think COVID is going away any time soon, and all of these things we’ve been working on are things we can use into the future,” she said. “And they’re expanding the number of people we can reach.”

In January 2021, the department will host the Conference for Undergraduate Underrepresented Minorities in Physics (CU2MiP), which Hammer helped found at UMD in 2016. As she develops virtual programming for the event, she plans to add a component for high school students—something similar to the programming she included in the annual Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) that UMD co-sponsored in previous years.

“I’ve never had a high school component to CU2MiP, and I'm hoping through this venue, I will be able to connect with some of the same families that we ended up missing this past summer after canceling the camps,” Hammer said.

Hammer is eager to reconnect with families that missed out on summer camps this year, many of whom have sent their children to her camps for years.

Hammer first joined UMD 22 years ago after meeting a faculty member who suggested she apply to be the coordinator for UMD’s National Science Foundation-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). The job turned out to be perfect for her, and she grew with the center, eventually becoming the assistant director. After the center closed in 2013, Hammer turned down offers to lead MRSECs at other universities and instead stepped into the role of director of education in physics.

“I love working at the University of Maryland in this capacity,” she said, “I love the students. I love the university environment. It’s a very rigorous program, and seeing the students succeed is what keeps me going.”

Her energy and dedication have earned Hammer recognition at the department and university levels. She has received numerous awards, including a Staff Excellence Award from the physics department in 2019, the Outstanding Advisor for a Student Organization Award in 2016 for her role as UMD chapter advisor of the Society of Physics Students, the George A. Snow Memorial Award for advancing the representation of women in physics in 2011, and the Dean's Outstanding Staff Award in 2009.

From the moment she began working at UMD, Hammer has risen to the challenge of learning new material and stepping into new roles. Adapting a program steeped in hands-on, in-person education and outreach to a virtual world during a pandemic has pushed her yet again to learn a whole new set of skills and don yet another hat.

Written by Kimbra Cutlip

The Extraordinary Adventures of Lifelong Terp Jordan Goodman

Last summer, shortly after arriving at the cosmic ray observatory he oversees in Mexico, Jordan Goodman stepped outside to check on some equipment. No sooner had he seen the snow-covered peaks of Pico de Orizaba towering in the distance than he forgot the task at hand. Goodman knew from experience that his blood oxygen level was low, and his brain wasn’t working at full capacity, so he abruptly went back inside to write down what he was supposed to do. 

“You feel fine, but you’re really not functioning right,” said Goodman (B.S. ’73, M.S. ’75, Ph.D. ’78, physics), a Distinguished University Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland who conceived of and oversaw the building of the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory (HAWC).

Nestled in the shadow of North America’s third highest mountain, HAWC is an array of 300 50,000-gallon water tanks located 13,450 feet above sea level. When working at that extreme altitude, scientists must give their bodies time to adjust.Jordan Goodman at the South PoleJordan Goodman at the South Pole

“From the first trip to Mexico scouting out locations for HAWC in 2006, we learned pretty quickly not to make important decisions in the first few days,” Goodman recalled. 

Among the other important travel tips he has picked up over the years: While working in a Japanese mine, remember to exchange your steel-toed boots for slippers before entering an office; and don’t ignore the recommendation to bring hand lotion to Antarctica—it really is the driest place on Earth. 

“I have definitely been to some interesting and exotic places,” Goodman said. “I tell my students being a professor is like living the life of Indiana Jones. I’ve been to all seven continents for research and conferences, including places most people never get to go.” 

Goodman is one of the founders of the field of particle astrophysics. His work plays an important role in the emerging field known as multi-messenger astronomy, which seeks to understand the universe by probing signals from light, cosmic rays and gravity waves. 

The Quest for Signals from Space

For the past five decades, Goodman has been on a quest to detect cosmic rays bombarding Earth from space and trace them to their source. Cosmic rays are believed to originate from galactic bodies such as stars and supernovae. Cosmic rays consist of charged particles traveling through space at nearly the speed of light and gamma rays, which are extremely high-energy photons. When these particles reach Earth and collide with air molecules in the atmosphere, they create a cascade of secondary particles—electrons, positrons and sometimes protons that multiply and spread out until they hit the ground. 

By studying the composition, shape and arrival direction of this shower of secondary particles, scientists infer information about the primary particles that produced them and their origin.

The highest energy cosmic rays are relatively rare, and the secondary particle showers can cover wide swaths of land. As a result, the detectors scientists use to study them span acres. In addition, cosmic ray detectors work better in some of the most inconvenient places, like high in the mountains where air shower particles can be observed more clearly.

Undeterred by the challenges of building enormous detectors in remote locations, Goodman has led a number of ambitious experiments. He built the first high-energy cosmic ray detector experiment at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1986. From that experiment, he learned that submerging the detectors in water—using above-ground, backyard pools—dramatically increased their sensitivity. That led him to embark on a 10-year project to transform a football-field sized pond in New Mexico into the Milagro gamma ray detector. It was the first wide-field gamma ray detector that was sensitive enough to not only detect cosmic rays, but to trace them to their source. 

Not long after Milagro started producing data, Goodman turned his attention to building the next-generation water detector, HAWC. An order of magnitude more sensitive than Milagro, HAWC has revealed more than a dozen new sources of cosmic rays.

In addition to searching for cosmic rays, Goodman also helped develop a neutrino detector in Japan called the Super-Kamiokande (Super-K). Buried in a mine 3,300 feet below ground, Super-K showed, for the first time, that neutrinos oscillate between three different masses. The principal investigator for Super-K won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for that work, and Goodman was among the researchers awarded the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for Super-K discoveries. 

Goodman also worked on the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a cubic-kilometer detector buried beneath the South Pole. IceCube has detected extraterrestrial neutrinos and likely identified the first point source of high-energy neutrinos. 

A Terp for Life

Goodman’s research has spanned the globe, but his home base has always been the UMD Department of Physics.

“I like to say I have held every academic position here from freshman to Distinguished University Professor,” Goodman said. 

A Terp through-and-through, Goodman also chaired the physics department from 1999 to 2006 and chaired the University Senate in 2016-17. He is the longest serving member of the Alumni Association’s Board of Governors and has served on the University of Maryland College Park Foundation’s Board of Trustees. 

A native of Washington, D.C., Goodman was a child of the Apollo space exploration era and grew up with an interest in space, but he wasn’t sure what career path he wanted to follow. During Goodman’s sophomore year, Physics Professor Gaurang Yodh (1928–2019) invited him to work in his lab, which was investigating high-energy cosmic rays. Goodman began writing computer code for the team, and two years later he was still working in Yodh’s lab and committed to pursuing astrophysics in graduate school at Maryland.

“I stayed at Maryland in part because I had a girlfriend who was here, and in part because it was a great program,” Goodman recalled. “It was the largest physics department in the country. Back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, there weren't very many nationally top-ranked programs at the University of Maryland, but our physics department was one of them.”

His girlfriend, Carole Chansky (B.A. ’73, art education; M.A. ’78, secondary education), would eventually become his wife and mother to their two children. Together, the family has nine degrees from UMD: eight from College Park and one from the medical school. Two Terps: Jordan Goodman on the right.Two Terps: Jordan Goodman is on the right.

Having arrived at UMD as a freshman in 1969, Goodman said he can’t help but feel the parallels with his students of today. He met Chansky while photographing anti-war protests on campus as National Guard troops were marching up Baltimore Avenue. Goodman and Chansky were pepper sprayed that day, and he laments that many of the issues on their minds then remain unresolved today.

“The good thing is, people are once again engaged and active,” he said. “But we haven’t done enough to make a difference in this country. We have to do more, and we have to do better.” 

Goodman understands that the challenges are large and the work ahead is long term, but he said he is encouraged by the global interest in moving the needle on social justice issues. And he knows from experience that big challenges are often junctures for opportunity. 

Trial, Error and Perseverance

Goodman’s first big project ended in failure. It was his Ph.D. research.

“I was working with Goddard Space Flight Center to build a balloon experiment for measuring primary cosmic rays,” Goodman recalled. “I worked with them to build the detectors and all the equipment. This thing was going to be the heaviest balloon payload NASA had ever launched.”

Intended to rise 120,000 feet into the atmosphere, the balloon failed at 60,000 feet, leading to a NASA moratorium on heavy payload balloons. Needing a rapid shift, Goodman turned to an experiment in the mountains of New Mexico that he had been working on analyzing with Yodh. 

“You know, a lot of times in physics the biggest, most important discoveries you make are not the things you set out to look for,” he said. “We were looking for new high-energy particles entering the atmosphere behind cosmic rays. But what we were seeing was a lot of low-energy particles, and I wanted to know why.” 

At the time, scientists believed cosmic rays were composed of primarily lightweight particles, such as protons, but Goodman discovered that the low-energy particles Yodh’s team observed were produced by heavy primary particles, including iron. This discovery became the basis of his Ph.D. research. It took many years for other researchers to confirm and validate his findings, but that work helped set the trajectory of Goodman’s career and eventually led him to Mexico to build HAWC.

“One of the most exciting things for me has been that HAWC has actually sort of revolutionized our view of a lot of the stuff in the sky,” he said. “We've discovered new classes of objects that no one had really seen before. And now the community realizes that there should be another detector in the Southern Hemisphere.”

With an international effort now underway to build the Southern Wide-field Gamma-ray Observatory in South America, Goodman said it is satisfying to see the scientific community moving forward with ideas he spearheaded so many years ago.  

“My job has afforded me the chance to really pursue what I’m passionate about, and it has been rewarding on so many levels: the science, of course, but also the travel has meshed well with my other passions in art, photography, hiking and skiing,” Goodman said. “Not to mention teaching. I love to teach.” 

Goodman’s passion for education shines through in the multiple awards he has received, including the Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award, the Kirwan Undergraduate Education Award and the American Physical Society’s Richtmyer Memorial Lecture Award, among others. 

“I’m looking forward to teaching Physics 105: ‘A Global Challenge: Energy and Climate Change,’ this fall,” he said. “It’s going to be different this year, with so much being done online, but that’s OK, I’m good with technology.” 

And his 51 years at UMD have taught him that another adventure is always just around the corner. 


Written by Kimbra Cutlip

In Memoriam

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

  • David Falk (1932–2020) was a professor emeritus who made multitudinous contributions to the department, senate and entire campus in his years at UMD. More
  • Arnold Glick (1931–2020) was a condensed matter theorist, artist, folk dancer and active citizen in Greenbelt. More 
  • Gloria Becker Lubkin (1933–2020) was a visiting senior research scholar and a former editor of Physics Today. More
  • Phillip Warren Mange (1925–2020) was a Naval Research Lab physicist and Slawsky Clinic tutor.  More
  • Bob Park (1931–2020) was a solid state physicist, author, former department chair, and forceful voice for science and rationality. More
  • Gregory Ruchti (1980–2019) received his B.S. in 2003 and was a data scientist at Veracity Forecasting and Analysis in Alexandria, Va. 
  • Akash Jani “AJ” Shah (1997–2020), a biology major and aspiring doctor who worked as a technician on the Physics helpdesk, died in an accident while vacationing in Puerto Rico on spring break. 
  • Lila Snow (1927–2020) was an accomplished artist and the founder of the George A. Snow Award. More
  • Lincoln Arthur Watkins (1927–2020) received his B.S. in 1951 after serving in the Navy during World War II. He designed hovering missile compensation systems for submarines at Electric Boat until he retired in 1992.
  • Leepo Cheng Yu (1939–2020) received her Ph.D. in 1969, spent her career at the NIH and retired as a section chief in its muscle biology laboratory. Dr. Yu established the Elliott W. Montroll Fund to support undergraduate physics students. More