Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The 2017 WINNER of the JMU High School Physics Teacher of the Year Award

Last year our department initiated the "JMU High School Physics/Astronomy Teacher of the Year award", intended to be an award offered annually in recognition of a high school physics/astronomy teacher who exhibits exceptional dedication to teaching physics/astronomy and has an outstanding record of going above and beyond in providing education and guidance necessary for their students' success. Thus, the nominations for the award come from former high school students who are currently enrolled at JMU in STEM disciplines and take physics courses in our department.

 We are proud to announce that 

the 2017 recipient of the JMU High School Physics Teacher of the Year Award


Mr. Charles (Jon) Goetz
Science High School Teacher at Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, MD


The student who has nominated Mr. Goetz is Aliyah Hall, currently a physics major at JMU. Here is Aliyah in her own words describing the exceptional attributes of her nominee:
"Mr. Goetz incorporates fun techniques into his teaching skills that make students want to learn what he is teaching. His sense of humor and ability to incorporate it into the class made learning calculus and physics enjoyable for all. He is extremely educated in his field and can answer any and all questions that students ask him. He does not rest until he knows all of his students feel confident in his class, and many students prosper more in his class than in others. He is dedicated to making sure all of his students understand the curriculum, and uses entertaining techniques to make all students excited to come to his class. From creating his own physics games to showing us funny YouTube videos and having us find how physics applies to them, he makes learning math and science a fun and easy activity."

Mr. Goetz will be visiting us at JMU on Tuesday, November 7th when he will get to meet with our faculty and students, see our facilities, and receive a gift in recognition of the award. Feel free to join us in welcoming Mr. Goetz at JMU!

This fall, our second annual of this award program, we had a pretty good response from students with 10 nominations submitted (6 physics majors and 4 engineering majors).  

To all the students who took the time to put forward their nominations we send you a big THANK YOU! We truly appreciate you joining efforts in recognizing those high school teachers out there who have made a positive impact on your studies of physics and related fields!!

Introducing New JMU Physics Faculty Member Kenisha Ford

Kenisha Ford
Kenisha Ford is the newest faculty member of the James Madison University Department of Physics and Astronomy. Student blogger Yvonne Kinsella sat down with her to get to know a little more about who she is, to introduce her to the rest of the department.  

What is your area of research?

I’m doing research right now on genomics using statistical physics to determine if there are environmental factors that lead towards a propensity for certain strains of breast cancer. There’s this strain of triple negative breast cancer that has a very high mortality rate, especially amongst people of African American descent, so I’m trying to see what there is genomically that might determine that.

How did you realize that that was what you wanted to study?

I loved physics, especially the application side of it, but I didn’t necessarily want to do an applied physics program. I worked for about nine years before I went back to graduate school. During that time, I stumbled upon medical physics and I thought that was interesting, but I learned about them mostly doing calculations of dosage of radiation and I didn’t want to do that. I started thinking more about treatments instead of radiation and how you can study that and how physics can be used for that. And, I don’t think that anybody doesn’t know someone who’s been affected by cancer. I’ve known a lot of people with breast cancer, so of course, it intrigued me.

Did anyone inspire you to become a physicist?

Physics kind of happened by accident. I originally wanted to be an engineer. My mom was an electrical engineer while I was growing up. When I was about six, I had this toy — it was one of those itty bitty keyboard things — and it broke, and I’m young so I’m upset about this. So my mom looks at it, she takes the back of, tightens some things or does something, and she fixed it. So I’m thinking she fixed it because she’s an engineer, and I don’t think she thought anything of it, but that’s when I started to think that engineering was cool because they could fix regular things. The school I went to, Spellman College, didn’t have an engineering program so you have to do a dual degree with Georgia Tech, so you have to pick another major. I picked physics kind of randomly. I liked physics in high school but I only got a C, so I wasn’t super good at it, but I decided to try it. So I ended up loving physics after all and never went on to the engineering part of that program.

How did you start working at JMU?

As a graduate student at Howard last year I happened to go to the library one day while they were having a fair, so I started talking to people and I met Dr. David Owusu-Ansah and we started to talk about the preparing future faculty program at JMU. I just asked him what it was and he said that they just try to bring people in to give them an opportunity to teach while they’re working on their dissertation.  He said they usually have people in fields like sociology and psychology, and I said “Oh, you’ve never had physics?” because when people talk about programs like this they almost never bring up physics.  So he ended up asking the physics department if they were interested, and he called me back a couple weeks later and it turned out that Dr. Hughes was interested in seeing if they could do something like that.

What are some of your hobbies outside of physics?

I love music. Just buying it, listening to it, singing, telling people about a new artist that I just heard. In the spring and summer, softball becomes my life. I love pool and bowling but I don’t get to play either of those often enough. I also love shopping which, as a student, I don’t get to do very often. I’m also a big DIY person. When I first bought my house it was a fixer-upper, and I had issues with my contractor, so after he finished the big stuff I took on a lot of the small stuff. Since then, every year I’m like “Oh maybe I’ll change these floors, or maybe I’ll change these lights,” that sort of stuff.

Any other fun facts?

There was one time that I got to hike the Grand Canyon. We camped down there for a few days and hiked the whole twenty miles or something.

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Student Blogger and... Hello from JMU's Society of Physics Students

We will continue to bring you news about our department this year with the great help of our students as well.  We have a new student blogger this 2017-2018 year, Theodore Chu, a sophomore seen before busy working in the soon to be commissioned Madison Accelerator Laboratory, while  Yvonne Kinsella, now a senior, will return with new interesting developments inside and outside the physics world. 

Theodore (seen smiling here and pretty much everywhere) is  actively involved in the social life and student organizations associated with our department, and he takes this opportunity to introduce to you to our department's section of the Society of Physics Students, with a big Hello: 

With the third week of this semester having passed, hopefully we’ve found ourselves back into a steady rhythm for our coursework and we know exactly what extra-curriculars we have and we’ve set aside some time for our own personal affects as well.  That’s the goal, at least. 

Doesn’t sound like you?  That’s perfectly fine!  Normal, even! That’s where the Society of Physics Students (SPS) comes in!

Our primary goal is to help you, as a physics major, figure out how you’re going to balance your life and its many aspects.  Whether it’s help figuring out some tougher integrals or physics solutions, how you can get involved in the department, or just giving you some people who you can talk to, SPS is here to help you with whatever concerns you may have.  There are a few things we do that are designed to get you more involved in our group.

First, we have a mentor/mentee program that helps you get started getting to know some of your peers in the department by pairing you with another more experienced physics major who might be able to provide some insight on how to be successful in the major.  We also try to assign pairs based on common interests, so you’ve got some things to talk about right off the bat! 

Secondly, we host a number of social events for you to get to know your peers a little better.  Some nights, we’ll hit the town and go for bowling, roller-skating or trivia; other nights, we’ll have movie and game nights right in the physics building!  Every semester, we also host a camping trip amongst SPS, where you can spend a weekend away from college to take your mind off things.  These will be announced periodically throughout the semester, so watch for our e-mails!

Another key part to SPS and the department in general is our involvement in outreach programs towards people outside the sciences.  We have a range of opportunities to get involved in what we love, and we’re more than happy to share our knowledge with anyone who is interested!  Among these events are robotics workshops, science (and comedy) shows, as well as public star-gazing and planetarium shows!  Whether you’re a student here at JMU trying to get involved with hosting these events, or a young mind trying to discover more about the world around you, we can’t wait to see you here!

Before we close, I should mention our current board of executives and how to contact them:

Alexandra Goodis, President

Noah Ripchick, Vice President

Christopher Jackson, Secretary

Theodore Chu, Treasurer

Taylor Hodges, Education Ambassador

Parker Given, Social Media Coordinator

We’ll send out e-mails about anything that might be of interest to you as a physics major, whether this be information about internships, tips for taking the GRE, and any upcoming conferences that you can attend.  Keep an eye out for these, since they’re great opportunities that we’re sending directly to you!  All in all, we can’t wait to see what this semester has in store, and SPS has a number of fun events in store for you all!  Drop by the physics lounge if you ever have any questions, and don’t hesitate to shoot us an email at james.madison.sps@gmail.com!  Also, Find, Follow, and Like us at the usual social media outlets. 

Together, to the stars we go!

-- by Theodore Chu

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The new and the old of this new beginning

With the days a tad chilly and breezier than we expected, and after already a full week of classes, we welcome the new freshmen and by now experienced sophomores, juniors and seniors physics majors.  Some enter their first steps into the physics world, while some are getting ready to step outside the ivy towers and blend into the real world.  It will all happen with increasing confidence that more is known about how everything works, because they have inquired into it.

Here is this year's PandA (Physics and Astronomy) team of friends and helpers (left to right):

Front row (sitting): Kenisha Ford, Lynn Lucatorto, Kim Emerson, Chris Hughes, Sean Scully, Klebert Feitosa

Back row: Jason Sterlace, Masoud Kaveh-Baghbadorani, Jacob Brown, Mark Mattson, Harold Butner, Ioana Niculescu, Scottie Pendleton, Gabriel Niculescu, Geary Albright, Costel Constantin, Anca Constantin, Tehani Finch, Giovanna Scarel, Keigo Fukumura, Kevin Giovanetti, Adriana Banu, Harry Hu

We now stare at the specter of the teaching and research we planned for the 2017-2018 year and the life beyond it.  We, the faculty, are eager to get to know you all better every day, whether that is through the derivations and explanations of physical phenomena, the quiz questions, the labs and homework sets we devise especially for you, or through the hall conversations we end up luring
you in, and therefore pausing you from your way to whatever your life takes you at that moment. 

We are, as usual, pretty psyched to keep you posted about our busy schedules, about why, what, and how we learn about state-of-the-art technologies and about the basics of physics needed pretty much everywhere you turn your head to, that we are pursuing in our labs.   

It continues to be a blast!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Make a nomination for the 2017 JMU High School Physics/Astronomy Teacher of the Year Award!!

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is now accepting nominations for the 2017 JMU High School Physics/Astronomy Teacher of the Year Award!!

The award will be given to a high school physics/astronomy teacher nominated by former students who are currently enrolled at JMU in STEM majors.

The nominee should be an individual who exhibits exceptional dedication to teaching physics/astronomy and has an outstanding record of going above and beyond in providing education and guidance necessary for the success of the students.

 NOMINATION DEADLINE: Friday, September 29, 2017

MAKE YOUR NOMINATION here: https://goo.gl/forms/cLWC9I1QDHuSRWy92