Hafezi Named Simons Investigator

Associate Professor Mohammad Hafezi has been named a  2020 Simons Investigator in Physics by the New York-based Simons Foundation. Simons Investigator Awards in Mathematics, Physics, Astrophysics and Computer Science support outstanding theoretical scientists in their most productive years, Hafezi SimonsMohammad Hafeziwhen they are establishing creative new research directions, providing leadership to the field and effectively mentoring junior scientists. 

Hafezi holds appointments in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Department of Physics, is a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute and is a member of the Institute for Research in Electronics & Applied Physics, and Quantum Technology Center. He is known for his contributions in a number of works to synthesize and characterize quantum many-body and topological physics beyond electronic systems. Examples of his contributions include cold atoms, and superconducting qubits and photons, which have helped shape the field of topological photonics. Some of his current interests include efficient characterization and probing of many-body properties in quantum simulators. His research group is currently exploring the application of quantum optics to create, probe and manipulate correlated electron systems.

Simons Investigators are appointed for an initial period of five years with the option for renewal for an additional five years, upon the evaluation of scientific impact of the Investigator. An Investigator receives research support of $100,000 per year, and an additional $10,000 per year is provided to the Investigator’s department.

Prof. Christopher Jarzynski was also named a 2020 Simons Fellow, as were Jacob Bedrossian of the Department of Mathematics and the Center for Scientific Computation and Mathematical Modeling and Professor Leonid Koralov of the Department of Mathematics.


Globally Known Physics Education Researcher Joe Redish Retires

Edward F. “Joe” Redish, a nuclear theorist who became a globally recognized expert in physics education research, retired on June 30 after 52 years in the Department of Physics.

Upon earning his Ph.D. at MIT in 1968, Redish came to UMD on a fellowship in nuclear theory. He was hired as an assistant professor in 1970, continuing his work on the theory of reactions and the quantum few-body problem.

Over the next dozen years, technological advances made computers vastly more accessible, and Redish recognized their enormous potential for students grappling with difficult concepts and calculations.  Intending to develop useful tools, he accepted the position of department chair in 1982, and quickly launched the Maryland University Project in Physics and Educational Technology (M.U.P.P.E.T.). Among the results was M.U.P.P.E.T. Utilities, a software package with applications for graphing, simple animations and data management that allowed students to use computing for complex physics problems.

M.U.P.P.E.T. inspired broad interest in incorporating computing into physics instruction. The experience also heightened Redish’s interest in physics education. In 1992, he took a sabbatical at the University of Washington with Dr. Lillian McDermott, a leader in the field, and upon his return launched the Maryland Physics Education Research Group.  

In the 25 years since its creation, the UMD PERG has graduated 23 physics Ph.Ds. and trained several postdocs. Graduates include many tenured physics faculty, two American Physical Society (APS) fellows, and a president of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).

Among the group’s notable efforts was the Maryland Physics Expectations Survey (MPEX), which revealed a chasm between what students and professors thought was happening in introductory physics courses. This paper led to the development of similar surveys in physics and in other fields. Redish and the PERG became leaders in the development of a theoretical framework for Physics Education Research and in developing analytic tools for cognitive modeling of student thinking

In 2003, as part of The Physics Suite, a project unifying multiple active-learning materials with a new textbook, Redish wrote a guide to physics teaching, Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite. A December 2019 review in the UK's Institute of Physics’ education newsletter called it "perhaps the single best book available for a teacher to read who wants to get a deeper insight into teaching and learning in physics." It has been translated into Japanese and Farsi.

In response to his research findings, Redish overhauled Physics 121/122 (required for life science students) to focus on the development of higher-order scientific thinking skills, reconsidering each component and better integrating the labs, tutorials and homework assignments. To provide a more interactive experience, he introduced interactive lecture demonstrations and clickers, which provided real-time feedback to the instructor on what students were absorbing.

In 2010, Redish received funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the National Experiment in Undergraduate Science Education (NEXUS) and created Physics 131/132. This sequence was designed for students planning careers in medicine and bioscience, who will better understand chemical and biological processes with a solid foundation in physics. It is a core element of the multi-university, multi-million dollar National Science Foundation (NSF) project, The Living Physics Portal, a national web resource for organizing, evaluating, and sharing materials for physics classes for life science students.

His more than 100 published papers include three major articles in Physics Today, two of which were cover articles.. He was awarded $7.5 million in federal funding for Physics Education Research.

Redish is a UMD Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the APS.  He has received a broad range of accolades, including the NSF Director's Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award in 2005.

For 12 years, he was the U.S. representative to the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics Commission on Physics Education (C14), and received its Education Medal in 2012. He was awarded the AAPT Oersted and Millikan medals and the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Award for Teaching. In 2015, he received the APS Excellence in Physics Education Award, "For leadership in the use of computers in physics education, applying cognitive research to improve student learning and critical thinking skills, tailoring physics instruction for nonphysicists, and guiding the field of physics education research through a period of significant growth."

He was a leader in helping building the Physics Education Research community, editing the first PER journal and organizing major conferences including the first on Computers in Physics Education (1988), a major international meeting on Physics Education (1996), and the first (and so far only) Fermi International Summer School on PER (2003).

Redish’s wife Ginny, daughter Deborah and son David all hold doctorates in science. In 2011, Joe and Ginny established the E.F. Redish Endowed Professorship in Science Education.  In 2019, they created the E.F. and J.C. Redish Maryland Promise Scholarship

In 2017, more than 150 colleagues and advisees gathered to honor Redish on his 75th birthday.   

In retirement, Redish plans to devote his time to writing papers, contributing materials to the Living Physics Portal, and continuing his research on student use of mathematics in physics.


Phillip Warren Mange, 1925 - 2020

Phillip W. Mange died June on 18, 2020 at the age of 95. Dr. Mange, who received his Ph.D. in physics from the Pennsylvania State University, was a Senior Scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) until his retirement in 1993. Afterwards, he served as a tutor in the Slawsky Clinic for 11 years until returning to his hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

In 2002-03, he discussed his career—which included work abroad as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58 and his ionospheric research for NRL—as part of the AIP Oral History program: https://www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/31144-1



Hafezi Named Finalist for 2020 Blavatnik Award

Associate Professor Mohammad Hafezi has been named a finalist for the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists for the second consecutive year. 

Hafezi is one of 11 finalists in the Physical Sciences and Engineering category.  Awards are also given in Chemistry and Life Sciences. Each of the three National Laureates will win $250,000—the world’s largest unrestricted prize for early-career scientists. The awards are sponsored by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Of the 11 Physical Sciences and Engineering finalists, three are from the University of Maryland: Hafezi, materials scientist Liangbing Hu and computer scientist Mohammad Hajiaghayi.

The Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists recognize the past accomplishments and the future promise of the most talented faculty-rank scientists and engineers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions. This year, 305 nominations from 161 academic and research centers across 41 states were submitted. 

Inspired by the concept of topology in mathematics, Hafezi is making pioneering contributions in the fields of nanophotonics and quantum optics. His innovative research is tackling a common challenge that has hindered the miniaturization and use of devices that use light-based components for decades: nano-scale fabrication defects that lead to random variations in device performance. Hafezi’s topologically-inspired optical devices have proven to be incredibly robust against nano-scale fabrication defects and, together with his theoretical work, have spurred the entirely new field of “topological photonics.” Hafezi is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Physics, and Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics.He is also a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute and Quantum Technology Center. 


David Falk, 1932-2020

Professor Emeritus David Sagal Falk died on June 10, 2020 at his home in Greenbelt.

Falk, a native of New York City, received his Ph.D. in 1959 at Harvard University. He held appointments at the University of Washington and as a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at the Istituto di Fisica dell'Università, Genoa, Italy, before coming to the University of Maryland as part of an 11-person hiring spree directed by then-chair John S. Toll. At the time, Physics Today noted that the additions represented a 30 percent increase in the UMD physics faculty.  Among those hired at the same time were Harry D. Holmgren, Guarang Yodh,  Rolfe E. Gover, Arnold J. Glick, Richard E. Prange  and Wally Greenberg.  

Though his research was in condensed matter theory and statistical and thermal physics, his interests were broad. With Dieter Brill and David G. Stork, he wrote Seeing the Light: Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision, and Holography, a very well-regarded and well-reviewed textbook published in 1986 and still popular today. He also created PHYS 106, the Physics of Light, which has taught thousands of non-majors about the wonders of holograms, lasers, sunsets, rainbows and other phenomena.

While serving as the physics department’s associate chair for education in the mid-1970s, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Slawsky Clinic, which has provided free tutoring to multitudinous UMD students. He also helped to create the department’s renowned lecture demonstration facility.

Falk was active on campus, serving on the Task Force on Academic Decision Making of the UMD Senate during a somewhat contentious 1970s overhaul of requirements in the campus curriculum and an enormous campus reorganization of departments and colleges that is still largely intact.

FALK dbk

After Brit Kirwan was named Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 1981, he enlisted Falk as Assistant Vice Provost.  In this role, Falk oversaw curriculum development and managed academic interests in building construction and maintenance. He created a teaching facilities committee devoted to the upgrade of classrooms and the introduction of teaching technology. Falk continued in that position, working successively for Irv Goldstein, Bob Dorfman, and Jack Goldhaber until he retired in 1992 and was succeeded by another physicist, Victor Korenman.

Korenman recalls that Falk stressed quality control for this university. One example: during finals, Falk would walk the campus “to check that scheduled finals were actually being given, some faculty being inclined to give finals during the term, thus cutting down on actual instructional hours used.”

Falk also worked tirelessly to help guide the university during a 1990 financial crisis, and returned to campus in his retirement to assist with large projects such as the 1996 strategic plan.

Falk was known to be frank and plain spoken. He enjoyed funny hats, and when he left the Department of Physics for Academic Affairs, was bid adieu by the department with a "Mad Hatters" party.

The Falk family has asked that memorial trees be planted in his honor: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=david-falk&pid=196325612

The picture below shows the department around 1976.  Falk is fourth from the left in the third row.

1.Hans Griem, Bill Hornyak, Carroll Alley, Ernst Opik, Alex Dragt (Chair), Joe Sucher, Bice Zorn, Sadao Oneda, John Gilroy 2.Amitabha Bagchi, Arnie Glick, Alvin Trivelpiece, Angelo Bardasis, Richard Prange, Paulette Liewer, Dennis Drew, Madoka Tokumoto, Bob Glasser 3. Kuo-ho Yang, T. N. Padekl, Dieter Brill, Dave Falk, Charlie Misner, Bill Rose, Gene McClellan, George Snow, Larry Krisher, Gus Zorn 4.Yehuda Alexander, Ralph Myers, Ron Davidson, Bob Anderson, Claude Kacser, Jan Sengers, Herb Lashinksy, Ted Einstein, Bob Park, Richard Sohn, Milton Slaughter, Phil Steinberg 5. Steve Detwiler, Bahram Mashhoon, I Bialwicki-Birula, Wally Greenberg, Rolfe Glover, S. Buchner