News and Events


On October 29, around twilight, Grad Phi students hosted a booth of science demonstrations and activities at Boo! at NDSU, a family-friendly, Halloween-themed carnival and trick-or-treating event organized by Residence Life. Over 750 costumed kids haunted Cater Hall and learned some tricks about cryogenics (liquid nitrogen and marshmallows), soft matter (soap films, slime and candy), and rotational motion (spinning wheel). A fun time was had by all.

Red River Market Outreach

On October 5, the NDSU Physics Graduate Student Organization, Grad Phi, hosted a science outreach event at the Red River Market in downtown Fargo. Curious market-goers stopped by to learn about the science of soap bubbles, rotational motion, and optical illusions.  Despite the rain, a good time was had by all!

Research Paper Highlighted

Alan Denton and graduate student Mohammed Alziyadi have published a paper entitled "Osmotic pressure of permeable ionic microgels: Poisson-Boltzmann theory and exact statistical mechanical relations in the cell model" in the Journal of Chemical Physics.  The work was honored as the "editor's pick", which means it stood out to the editor as a particularly interesting and important work.  More great research from NDSU Physics!

Department Receives Advancing Inclusion Award!

The department is quite honored and humbled to receive the "NDSU Advancing Inclusion Award" this year.  The Advancing Inclusion Award is presented annually "to an NDSU department, committee, group or unit that has worked collaboratively to promote an inclusive culture by enhancing or contributing to the overall environment of the community or university.".  The department is especially proud that its nomination came from the NDSU Physics Graduate Student Association.  The department has taken great efforts to find and invest in programs and opportunities that create an inclusive atmosphere for students here at NDSU, and we hope that this is a good sign that it is paying off.  Read more here.

Chair receives honor

Recently, Sylvio May was awarded the Ambassadors Excellence Award award by the NDSU College of Science and Mathematics Ambassadors (a student group).  Sylvio was nominated for (among other things) his exceptional efforts in supporting student success in introductory physics courses.  Sylvio holds great esteem for the award specifically because it was entirely driven by the students involved.  Congratulations Sylvio!

Faculty Publishes in Nature Communications

The Croll research group has had a recent work published in the high-impact, open-access journal Nature Communications.  The work is focused on understanding the strength of a crumpled ball - a rigid object created from a thin film (such as paper).  Such an object is a complex collection of folds and verticies that somehow collectively give the system a significant resistance to compression.  The system has significant potential for use as an engineering material akin to a foam, but one that is much more easily produced.  Read about it here, where you can also find a link to the freely available article!

Student Awarded NSF Graduate Fellowship

Brianna Santangelo, was notified recently that she will receive a 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship!  This prestigious award is a significant national accomplishment that our entire department is proud of.  The funding will allow Brianna to continue working towards her Ph.D. in physics, and more specifically to continue her research in physics education with her supervisor Mila Kryjevski.  Read about the program here.


Experiments in Physics, performed by Alistair McInery, Lina Alhalhooly, Tim Twohig, Jamie Froberg, Rachel Downing Brian Farlow, Wathsala Jayawardana and Deyan Mihaylov, came in second place in the Avenues of Scientific Discovery Grad Student Competition.  Congratulations all!

Three NDSU physics teams participated in the national University Physics Competition held in November.  The results are in and (no surprise) our students did excellent work!  Reed Petersen, Sean Gunderson, and Jacob Abrams were ranked at the Silver Medal level, Matthew Kurtti and Brandon Molina were ranked Bronze and Matt Schoenecker and Noah Seekins were also awarded Bronze status!  Great work everyone!

Class of 1964 Honored

The college of science has awarded the 2017 Distinguished Alumni award to the entire physics class of 1964!  The year, of course, had only two graduates.  Nevertheless, both went on to have remarkable careers after finishing their degrees at NDSU.  Harold Korb specialized in solid state physics while working in industry (receiving a Ph.D. as well) and contributed significant technological advances to the generation of high purity single crystal silicon.  Harold's work has lead to the creation of pure single-crystal silicon wafers that serve as the foundation for the countless integrated circuits of the modern world.  The work continues, with new techniques increasing purity and allowing the continued shrinking of circuit feature sizes.  Harald's classmate Darrell Strobel stayed in the academic world, choosing to specialize in planetary physics.  Darrell has lead a distinguished career contributing to our understanding of the atmospheric physics of many planets and moons in our solar system.  Notably, Darrell played a significant role in the Voyager Mission and more recently in the New Horizons mission to Pluto.  Congratulations to Harald and Darrell on the well deserved award!

Team Wins Innovation Challenge!

James Froberg a graduate student in the department of physics and his teammate Fataneh Karandish a graduate student in pharmaceutical science have received first place in the "Service" track of the NDSU Innovation Challenge!  Their innovation centered on early detection of pancreatic cancers using single cell/molecule testing.  This is a significant prize, not only because of the teams potential impact on the 'real world' but because it highlights the critical role physics plays in advancing technology.  Congratulations James and Fataneh!  Read more here.

NDSU research on Soft Matter Cover!

A recent publication by Bekele Gurmessa and Andrew Croll has been highlighted with the cover of a recent edition of Soft Matter.  The work, funded by ND Epscor and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, examined the transition from smooth wrinkling to sharp folding in patterned plates.  The work is an important step towards understanding how stress localization takes place in real systems and could have implications in understanding other types of localization such as failure (fracture).  Read the article Here.

Collaborative Research Published in High Impact Journal

Recent work from several department researchers, notably including undergraduate student Carly Snell, has been published in ACS Nano.  The Journal has a high impact level, which speaks to the quality and importance of the work.  The team included Erik Hobbie, Sylvo May, several NDSU graduate students and researchers from University of Illinois.  The article can be found here.

Research Hilighted with 'Back Cover'

Recent work by Andrew B. Croll and his graduate student Damith P. Rozairo has been published in Soft Matter.  The article shows how the researchers could measure the drainage of fluid that occurs as an oil drop, coated with a polymer surfactant, moves towards a smooth flat surface.  Like much of physics the situation seems to have little to do with the pragmatic world of industry.  However, nothing could be further from the truth!  Industries (beyond salad dressing) relies heavily on 'emulsion processing' in industries ranging from cosmetics to metal refining.  A key feature for emulsion processing is understanding or predicting how fast droplets can join up into large droplets.  The process necessarily involves draining the fluid between two drops as they coalesce.  The work also garnered the researchers the prestigious 'back cover' of the journal.  See the cover here.

Professor Retires!

Congratulations to Dr. Bruce Rafert, professor of physics and former NDSU Provost on his recent retirement.  Bruce has had a long and prosperous career in science, notably rising to the rank of Provost here at NDSU.  Bruce worked tirelessly to push NDSU to new heights.  We wish Bruce and his family well in this next, exciting stage of their lives.

Two Faculty Promoted and Granted Tenure

The department is excited to announce the promotion and tenure of Dr. Warren Christensen and Dr. Andrew B. Croll!  The two faculty members have worked hard to reach the significant and sustained level of teaching, research and service required for advancement.  Dr. Christensen has focused on physics education research, and in his words "I view my role at NDSU as someone who seeks to improve the instruction, the collegiality, and overall climate for students and faculty".  Dr. Croll's work spans several different area's of polymer science and engineering, notably working on the relation between thin polymer films, material properties and geometric complexity (such as origami).

Tenure is one of the most misunderstood parts of our higher education system, so it is worthwhile to explain what that means here at NDSU.  In essence, tenure guarantees a faculty members academic freedom.  The department chair, or dean, or president cannot force a tenured faculty member to research a specific topic under threat of termination.  It does not mean a tenured faculty member cannot be fired for not living up to the requirements of their contract (for example, not showing up to teach or not doing research).  The actual policy is included below for the interested reader.

"Tenure assures academic freedom and enhances economic security for faculty members who show promise of sustained contributions in those three areas [teaching, service, research]. Tenure aims to both recognize a candidate's potential long-term value to the institution as evidenced by professional performance and growth and to provide the expectation of continued employment. The decision to award tenure rests on criteria that reflect the potential long-term contribution of the faculty member to the purposes, priorities, and resources of the institution, unit, and program. With the individual autonomy derived from academic freedom and tenure comes the responsibility to create and/or maintain an ethical, respectful, and professional work climate for oneself, one's colleagues, one's students, and others with whom one relates professionally. Due to the emphasis on institutional purposes and priorities, tenure recommendations should be reviewed at department, college, and university levels."

Faculty and Students Receive Awards

It is another busy awards season here in the NDSU physics department.  Undergraduate students Carly Snell and Parker Gunderson received Eivind Horvik Memorial Award for the best overall performance in the calculus-based physics sequence.  Vijay Shah and Jacob Wieber received Sinha Family Scholarship intended to support physics majors with junior or senior standing.  Special considerations are given to the students’ academic merit and financial need.  Vijay Shah and Matthew Urich received Physics Achievement Award.  This award is given annually to Physics majors based upon their academic performance with emphasis placed on excellence in Physics and Mathematics and distinction in undergraduate research.
Congratulation Carly, Parker, Vijay, Jacob, and Matthew!  We are very proud of your accomplishments and wish you continued success in your future.

Graduate student Guilherme Volpe Bossa is this year's recipient of the Graduate School Research Award in the College of Science and Mathematics. This is well-deserved recognition for his outstanding research.

Congratulations Guilherme!

Finally, faculty member Dr. Sylvio May was awarded the Paul Juell Award for Excellence in Mentoring Award by the College of Science and Mathematics!  Well deserved, Dr. May! 

Students Participate in University Physics Competition

On the weekend of Nov. 13-15 two groups of NDSU physics students participated in the "University Physics Competition".  The contest allows students to flex their Physics muscles attempting to solve a very challenging problem.  This year group one, Matt Urich, Parker Pavlicek, and Eric Kubischta --
solved Problem A "Terraforming Mars" and were ranked as "Accomplished Competitor".  Group 2, Mitch Zubich, Joseph Roth, and Lane Morrison, solved Problem B "Golfing around a tree" and were ranked on the level of a Bronze medal!

Congratulations Matt, Parker, Eric, Mitch, Joseph, and Lane!

Research Hilighted with 'Inside Cover'

Recent work by Alan Denton and undergraduate student Wei Kang Lim has been published in Soft Matter.  The work also garnered the researchers the prestigious 'inside cover' of the journal.  Read more here.

NDSU accepted into the APS bridge program

Recently the department has gone through the process to become a 'Partnership Institution' in the American Physical Society's bridge program.  We are now happy to announce that we have been accepted!  The program is designed to help minority students achieve their Ph.D. degrees.  These students will be a welcome addition to our state, our doctoral program and ultimately as a member of the highly skilled North Dakota workforce!  read more here.

Faculty Member to give Invited Talk

Faculty member Yongki Choi was invited to speak at an international conference in Ulsan, South Korea this December.  It is always an honor to be invited to such a prestigious meeting, congratulations Yonki and NDSU Research!  More information can be found on the meeting website :"The 20th Innovative Workshop on Soft/Bio Materials" and "The 6th Discussion Meeting on Polymer Physics Theory".

Researcher accredited as HLC Reviewer

Bruce Rafert has been rigorously trained and certified by the HLC to undertake institutional accreditation visits for both Open and Standard Pathways accreditation visits.  The certification resulted from completion of the HLC training for Open and Standard Pathways at their October 2015 training session, three intensive days of individual and group training, simulations, and extensive homework.
Bruce is only the second NDSU Faculty member trained as an HLC reviewer.  Peer reviewers are selected through an application process Their roles are described

This places new responsibility on Bruce's shoulders, but it is a very important roll to fill.

Two Student Teams Win Bronze Medal in University Physics Competition

Our Department had two teams (out of 131 teams total) participate in the 5th annual University Physics Competition on November 14-16, 2014.  One team, with Austin Usselman, Joseph Roth, and Tyler Antony, investigated the problem "Circumbinary Planets". The other team, with Wei Kang Lim, Mitchell Zubich, and Lane Morrison, studied the problem "A Water Fountain".  Both our teams were ranked on the level of a Bronze Medal. Congratulations to Austin, Joseph, Tyler, Wei Kang, Mitchell, and Lane for this remarkable achievement.

NDSU Researcher Receives Prestigious Air Force Grant

Andrew Croll has been honored with an Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator award (YIP)!  From the Office of Scientific Research website:

"The Air Force YIP supports scientists and engineers who have received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last five years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. The objective of this program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering; enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators; and increase opportunities for the young investigator to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering."

Andrew's award was for his proposal "Crumpled and Prescriptively Folded Polymer Films for Advanced Lightweight Materials".  The award will bring $300 000 to the university over the next 3 years.

NDSU Researcher Co-Organizes International Workshop

Thomas Ihle (NDSU) and Vladimir Lobaskin (UC Dublin) are organizing a cross-disciplinary CECAM-workshop entitled "Collective Dynamics in Physics, Biology and Social Sciences" from May 20-22, 2015, at the University College Dublin, Ireland, see
Interested researchers are encouraged to apply for participation.

NDSU Physics on Journal Cover!

A recent collaboration between Andrew B. Croll, Fardad Azarmi and a co-advised graduate student Jared Risan has been honored with the cover of the Journal of Polymer Science B!  See the link for more information: Journal of Polymer Science B.

Student Featured by NDSU

NDSU Physics Education student Kyle Mueller has recently been featured on the NDSU news site.  The story describes his work towards deeply understanding how to teach the unique way of thinking required to do well in physics.  The article also highlights all of the excellent 'out of class' work Kyle has been doing to further his goal of becoming an educator.  Way to go Kyle!

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