For the first time since 2019, the department hosted our spring honors event in person. This year the primary focus was on our students and their achievements. The Society of Physics Students also honored a Teacher of the Year and introduced a new award for Research Advisor of the Year. Learn more about our honorees:
Raghav Chari, Assistant Professor Max Lavrentovich
(undergraduate awards presenter), and Hugh Jones
Raghav Chari and Hugh Jones
This award recognizes exceptional achievement by a student in his or her first year of physics study. The faculty selects honorees based on academic excellence and scholarly potential.
Raghav Chari first reached out to our department while still in high school and has joined the computational astrophysics research group, in addition to excelling in classwork. Hugh Jones has not only done well in introductory physics; he also does in-class assignments in advance and shares resources with fellow students.
This award goes to undergraduate students who have excelled based on research acumen and a demonstrated penchant for solving problems through physics theory and experimentation.
Preston Waldrop started working in astrophysics as a high school junior. He developed data analysis tools for tracer particles included in supernova simulations and has built on that work for the past four summers. He will be co-author on a paper to be published in Astrophysical Journal. With his ability to work independently and generate computational tools, his nominating professor writes that he is "among the most capable undergraduates I have encountered in the research environment."
Max Lavrentovich and Bill Good
This honor goes to undergraduates who have made the most significant contributions to the department outside the classroom.
Bill Good has held multiple SPS offices and helped revamp the chapter, including managing both activities and finances. SPS plays a crucial role in connecting our undergraduates to the broader physics and departmental communities. Our group has an excellent national reputation in part because of leadership like his. Beyond that, he helps other students by sharing what he knows, be that advice on graduate school applications or help with homework.
This honor recognizes undergraduate physics majors who have senior standing and who have demonstrated outstanding performance in academic coursework.
Immanuel Schmidt is a double major in physics and math. He has taken, and excelled in, our most advanced courses. He has supplemented his classroom ambitions by working with multiple professors, most recently in biophysics. Here he’s made excellent progress in understanding the theory of phase transitions, membrane mechanics, and Monte Carlo simulation. His nomination reads that he is constantly looking to challenge himself academically, asking thought-provoking questions and pursing advanced math and physics concepts at the cutting edge.
Max Lavrentovich and Jesse Farr
This award honors a student exemplifying the attributes of Douglas Roseberry, an energetic student with a penchant for both physics and leadership. After his untimely passing in 1959, the department awarded the first Douglas V. Roseberry Award to recognize a student of like qualities.
Jesse Farr has worked in three different research groups focused on nuclear and particle physics, spanning both theory and experiment. All three projects have papers in progress, and she will be a co-author on all of them. She’s also been a TA for six different physics courses. She also consistently packs her schedule with challenging courses, including those aimed at graduate students, surpassing degree requirements to find every possible learning opportunity. Jesse has been a force in our SPS chapter, hosting events to bring students together and helping them create bonds with faculty. She’s created a support network for students who are struggling financially, connecting them to existing resources, and pushing for the creation of more. Jesse is always working to make physics a more inclusive space.
The Lide Citations recognize students who have made exceptional contributions to the undergraduate instructional labs.
Haley Snyder's nomination reads that she "sets up all of the labs exactly as (the lab director) would like them set up. She goes above and beyond to make sure that everything is working and ready for the students. She does her work cheerfully and in a timely manner."
Director of Undergraduate Labs Christine Cheney
presented the Outstanding GTA Award to Scarlett Wilson
The Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award goes to graduate students who earn the highest rating from students taking undergraduate physics labs.
As one of Scarlett Wilson's student nominations read, "(She) has been so, so helpful and friendly in every lab. She answers every question I may have (which is a lot) very clearly and thoroughly, and never makes me feel bad about not understanding a concept. She incorporated Kahoots and discussion into our labs and encouraged teamwork with our peers. She made the lab for Physics 222 so enjoyable."
Shaun Vavra with Lab Director Christine Cheney
Established by Physics Alumnus Richard Manley and his wife, Melissa, this award recognizes a student who shares Dr. James Parks’ commitment to hands-on, innovative physics teaching in a laboratory setting.
Shaun Vavra goes the extra mile to make sure that students are learning the material. He also works with his fellow GTAs to make sure that everything runs smoothly for the week. He also gets to the lab early to make sure that everything is ready.
This award goes to a student who makes an exceptional effort to support student learning.
One of his students wrote that Keegan Dolan, "alongside Dr. Breinig, teaches Physics 221 in front of our large class. He goes over how to solve the clicker questions in the class in a very understandable manner as well as demonstrates the work on the board. I feel he is excellent at explaining complicated concepts in easier ways in front of students. He also has student hours once a week and exam review days. He would make an excellent lecturer/professor/teacher in his future because he is already a great one now!"
J.T. Ternullo with Senior Lecturer and Astronomy
Coordinator Sean Lindsay
The Kincaid Award honors a student who shares the attributes of Wayne Kincaid, who combined his love for astronomy with his writing and computing talents for the good of astronomy and astrophysics education.
J.T. Ternullo has been an exceptional asset in Astronomy 217 and 218. He has the respect and admiration of his students, and they often seek him out for additional help in understanding the course concepts. In response, he prepares his own notes and materials to give the students supplemental instruction to the lectures. He has also created a few labs of his own related to current lecture topics, which are also well-received. For these labs, he develops exercises that simulate the practices of observational astronomers.
Professor Mike Fitzsimmons (graduate awards presenter)
and Maninder Singh
Maninder Singh and Junyi Yang
Paul H. Stelson's family established the Stelson Fellowships in his memory to assist aspiring physicists in completing their education and to continue the fruitful interactions in physics between UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Maninder Singh is studying decays of radioactive nuclei with a neutron detector array. His expertise in detector technology and digital electronics, up to his work on constructing the detector itself, have been invaluable. He is now working on analyzing data from a complex experimental system. His nomination reads that "he has reached a high level of independence and maturity and that he always seeks to improve his qualifications and training. He always shows initiative."
Junyi Yang's advisor writes, that "his ability to understand and master sample synthesis makes vital contributions to our research. He was able to learn a variety of synchrotron techniques and also wrote his own proposals to secure beamtimes. He is a leader and a role model and is in charge of training new group members on pulsed laser deposition and x-ray characterizations. I consider him an outstanding young researcher with great potential and a bright future. I am proud that he will be representing UT in the new generation of physicists."
Mike Fitzsimmons and Brennan Hackett
The Fowler Marion Award acknowledges the graduate student who has excelled in scholarship, research, and departmental citizenship.
Brennan Hackett is working in neutrino-less double beta decay. She is part of an international group working on the development of a novel cryogenic scintillator – PEN. She has done measurements and data analysis, making significant progress even during the challenges of COVID. She is also an informal leader of her research group and an active proponent of diversity in physics. Brennan's nominating professor writes "She has excellent communication skills … her presentations and explanations are very clear and always straight to the point and she has an excellent work ethic."
Assistant Professor Larry Lee
This honor is sponsored by the UT chapter of the Society of Physics Students and goes to an outstanding teacher as selected by the undergraduate students.
SPS awarded this honor to Assistant Professor Larry Lee, who joined the department in August. They praised his incredible teaching ability as well as his genuine concern for the students, showing empathy for students in tears as well as sharing their triumphs.
SPS presented the Research Advisor of the Year Award to Nadia Fomin
Associate Professor Nadia Fomin
Introduced this year, this award recognizes an outstanding research advisor, as selected by the undergraduates.
The inaugural winner is Associate Professor Nadia Fomin, selected for her dedication to mentoring students and guiding them through their research projects with patience and unfailing support as they prepare for their scientific careers.
Sigma Pi Sigma Inductees
As the National Physics Honor Society, Sigma Pi Sigma exists to honor outstanding scholarship in physics, encourage interest in physics among students at all levels, promote an attitude of service, and provide a fellowship of persons who have excelled in physics. Election is a lifelong membership and includes a once-year complimentary membership in the Society of Physics Students. Sigma Pi Sigma is an organization of the American Institute of Physics, and a member of the Association of College Honor Societies. It was founded in 1921, and there are now more than 90,000 historical members.
UT’s 2022 Sigma Pi Sigma inductees are:Graduate Students
- Casey Sobecks
- Rosa Luz
- Garrett Rowcliffe
- Chris Monaghan
- Luke Carpenter
- Paul Harmston