Welcome from the Chair

This fall there are many things that are new at CSU and in the department. We welcome our newly appointed President, Joyce McConnell, to the campus. We also welcome new assistant professor Sam Brewer to the department. Professor Brewer has joined the faculty from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder where he worked on the most accurate atomic clock ever made. As part of his research here, he plans to conduct precise measurements of highly charged ions to answer questions about possible types of dark matter and about the stability of fundamental constants, among other things. We have a newly renovated interaction space in the department to give us a place for discussions between faculty, staff, and students.

In addition to the new things, though, there are the many things that continue to stay the same. It is a joy to teach the many students at all levels in our program. We continue to have success in research, especially with respect to achieving a long-held measurement goal (see the description of Prof. Fairbank’s work in this newsletter). We also continue our outreach to the campus, community, and larger world and our service to CSU and to the wider Physics community.

We appreciate the support and good wishes of our many alumni and friends, and hope you are a having a fantastic fall.


Jacob Roberts,
Physics Department Chair

The search for nothing at all – What a never-before-seen radioactive decay could tell us about neutrinos

William Fairbank, Jr. Professor of Physics, in his research laboratory.
William Fairbank, Jr. Professor of Physics, in his research laboratory.

If discovered, neutrinoless double-beta decay would solve longstanding mysteries about the basic properties of neutrinos, which are among the most abundant but least understood particles in the universe.

Department Highlights

New Physics Interaction Space Open

Faculty and students enjoying the new interaction space in the Physics department.

The department has a new interaction space. This space, near the physics office in the engineering building, provides a common area for students and faculty to interact, as well as provides more space for collaboration and research group meetings. Naming rights are available, please contact Jill Higham (jill.higham@colostate.edu) for more information.

Apollo 11 Moon Landing 50th Anniversary Celebration

A group of people learning about Physics during the 50th celebration of the moon landing.

On Friday, July 19, 2019, professor Emily Hardegree-Ullman and Little Shop of Physics, sponsored in part by the College of Natural Sciences, organized a massive public outreach event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Over 200 people attended to learn more about astronomy and physics, and to observe a variety of celestial bodies at sundown. Emeritus professor Roger Culver presented a well-attended lecture – “Why We Haven’t Been Back to the Moon in 50 Years.”

Faculty News

Mingzhong Wu received the College of Natural Sciences Professor Laureate Award

Mingzhong Wu holds the Professor Laureate award.

Mingzhong Wu received the 2019 Professor Laureate award, the highest academic honor given by the College of Natural Sciences. Wu, who has been at CSU for 10-plus years, is a director of CSU’s Designated Center for Advanced Magnetics, which is a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence. The Professor Laureate Awards are given to dedicated faculty who have made outstanding contributions to the missions of research, teaching, mentoring and outreach. The designation is intended to honor recipients and to provide the college with exceptional role models. The title is held for three years and includes an honorarium and two years of research funding.

New Faculty member: Sam Brewer

Sam Brewer, new faculty member in Physics.

Sam Brewer joined the department as an assistant professor in August, coming from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder. Brewer’s work is in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics and is focused on the high-precision laser spectroscopy of trapped highly charged ions for tests of fundamental physics. “I’m really excited to join a department that has a long history of fundamental discovery in a wide variety of research areas.  I feel that this is a rare opportunity to be able to pursue tests of fundamental physics and I look forward to making a meaningful contribution to the research, teaching, and service in the department” says Brewer.

Norm Buchanan shares award for outstanding contribution to High Energy Physics

Norm Buchanan, an associate professor in the Department of Physics, has shared in a prestigious honor from the European Physical Society for his contributions to high energy physics, the examination of the most fundamental building blocks of nature.

Updates from Our Community

Lara O’Connor, senior physics major, attended the Nuclear Physics Summer School

A nuclear reaction illuminates the inside of a machine.

During the summer of 2019, senior physics major Lara O’Connor worked on the NOVA experiment and attended the Nuclear Physics Summer School. After these experiences, O’Connor is more prepared, and excited, to pursue graduate studies in Physics.

Meet Physics Alumnus – Thomas Campbell

Portrait of Thomas Campbell, alumnus.

Recent Ph.D. graduate, Thomas Campbell, looks forward to “doing impactful work for years to come,” in his new position at a Biotechnology company. Campbell is taking his deep interest in machine learning and analysis to develop algorithms and machine learning methods for use in cancer diagnostic tests, as well as performing analyses in collaboration with academic and industrial researchers using the methods the group develops. 

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