Saturday, August 27, 2011

PandA Photo

On Friday, we took time to gather (nearly) everyone together for our annual department photo.

Standing, left to right:
Anca Constantin, Deepshikha Shukla, Kevin Giovanetti, Costel Contantin, Gabriel Niculescu, Art Fovargue, Shanil Virani, Shaleen Shukla, Chris Hughes, Mark Mattson, Giovanna Scarel, Harry Hu and Steve Whisnant.

Seated, left to right:
Sean Scully, Ioana Niculescu, Harold Butner, Brian Utter, Scott Paulson, Klebert Feitosa, Adriana Banu, Geary Albright and Kim Emerson.

Not present:
Don Chodrow and Elizabeth Jeffery.

We have an amazing and diverse faculty. Our size is impressive, comparable even to some PhD granting institutions. We are up to 21 full-time faculty now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nanoparticles and atomic layer deposition

A team of researcher from NCSU and JMU has discovered a method to fabricate FePt nanoparticles using atomic layer deposited Al2O3! The paper is published online by Nanoscale: A.C. Johnston-Peck, G. Scarel, J. Wang, G.N. Parsons, and J.B. Tracy, “Sinter-free phase conversion and scanning transmission electron microscopy of FePt nanoparticle monolayers”. G. Scarel - JMU - has deposited the Al2O3 layers.

For us, its tomorrow...

While students are flocking in (except for freshmen, who are already here) this weekend for classes to start on Monday, for the faculty, it begins tomorrow. We have a day filled with the joy of meetings: all faculty in the university followed by a college meeting and finally one for the department.

On the other hand, we do get fed twice, once by the university and once by the college. But by the department meeting we're all full and just ready to go home. Thus, it starts with a meeting of mostly announcements and is over pretty quickly. There will be another department photo this year, so watch for this next on the blog.

So, all you students and former students, just realize that the work starts sooner for us (and in May lasts longer). While you are out having the last party before classes this weekend, we're having a last fling as well home making final preparations for class and getting our syllabi and notes in order.

Welcome back. See you on Monday.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spend your money on "Awesome"

This morning one of our 1985 graduates, Gregory Meeks, send along a link to a video that gives a good explanation what NASA is doing and why it should be supported. Gregory is the NASA Liaison to the State of Florida and works at the Kennedy Space Center.

Thanks to Gregory for passing this along

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Phys 105

This fall we have 33 enrolled in Phys 105. This isn't quite a record, but it is within a few of our largest class. According to the declared degree programs and majors for these folks we have

  • 1 major pursuing a BA degree, 32 in the BS program.
  • 2 majors in the pre-physician assistant program.
  • 3 in the pre-med program.
  • 1 in pre-law
  • 1 in pre-professional secondary education
  • 8 are women
The pre-professional students in the program indicate that the word is getting out that physics is the best place to start such a career. We are trying a combination of making this explicit in the catalog and educating the orientation advisors.

Secondary education and the BA degree continues to appear in very small numbers. Nevertheless, they are still present. With a new effort starting this fall to encourage students into teaching, having only one on the list now is not indicative of the graduation rate down the road four years. The BA degree, in its current incarnation, will always be appealing to a small number of students.

Perhaps most encouraging is the presence of 8 women in the class (yeah!). This puts us at just shy of 1/4 of the class being female. This is a strong showing and is just a bit on the high side of the national norm.

Since Phys 105 meets on a Tuesday in a 75 minute time slot, we are going to start taking full advantage of this and schedule two faculty presentations in most class meetings. Thus, instead of a 50 minute presentation on one topic, we'll get two 35-minute discussions by two different people. This way, the entire faculty fits into the semester with room left over for pizza and demos.

Looking forward to the beginning of an exciting new year.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

JMU Researchers Get Gold to Stick to Plastic

Getting gold film to adhere to plastics is a tricky task. Finding a sure-fire, low-cost way to accomplish it would be a real breakthrough for a number of industries from biomedicine to computer chip manufacturers. Professors Brian Augustine (JMU Chemistry) and Chris Hughes (PandA), along with students they advised, are on to something.  Check out their story in the latest issue of  Madison Scholar.

Another way to look at things...

Information is routinely posted here about the size of our major as measured by the number of students. Today we look at the number of faculty. Consider the chart above. This shows the average size of physics departments in the US sorted by the highest degree granted. A data point has been added to show the current size of our department at 21. While individual departments vary in size and finding a few much larger than the average is possible, we are larger than the average size of both BS and MS granting departments by a lot.

For every MS granting department our size, there must be, on average, two with 7 or 8 faculty. It gets hard to imagine a successful MS program with a faculty this small. For every BS granting department our size there must be 7 with, on average, 4 faculty. Departments this size certainly do exist and are quite common.

This puts us in rare company, indeed.