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Director’s Newsletter

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September 2010

Dear AEP Alumni and Friends,

Greetings! Here is a brief update on activities in the School of Applied and Engineering Physics.

News from Clark Hall and the Physical Sciences Building

Wednesday, August 25 was a big day for AEP - we taught our first classes in the new Physical Sciences Building. A picture from the first class is below. Professor Pollack is teaching AEP 3610, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. We are in the process of moving our undergraduate laboratory courses (Introduction to Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, Introduction to Lasers and Photonics, and Computerized Instrumentation) into beautiful space in the new building, and we are even teaching our computer instrumentation lab in the building this semester. With laboratories specifically designed for our courses, we believe that we will do an even better job of delivering them, which are taken by a significant fraction of Cornell engineers.


Professors Pollack, Brock, Craighead, Xu, and Gaeta are moving into new research laboratories in the Physical Sciences Building. Several laboratories have electrically-shielded walls and anti-vibration floors, which are needed to perform sensitive experiments. The new building should be very attractive to faculty candidates. Construction work continues on the upper floors of the building, which will be completed late in the fall semester. Here is a view of the building from East Avenue, with Baker Lab on the left edge and Rockefeller on the right:


The second floor of Clark Hall will be under construction during the coming academic year. We will move the AEP offices, and the second floor will undergo major renovation. We will experience some moving and inconvenience over the next months, but the reward will be beautiful new department offices, and seminar and meeting rooms that will open onto the atrium of the Physical Sciences Building.

Interest in the AEP undergraduate major continues to be strong. We have 54 seniors and 44 juniors affiliated with the program. We just welcomed a new group of graduate students to Ithaca. This includes the first students in our new Master of Science degree program, which allows students to focus in optics, nanotechnology, or biophysics/biotechnology.

As many of you know, Lance Collins became Dean of the College of Engineering in July. Lance was professor and chair of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering before becoming Dean. We look forward to working with Dean Collins.

We have recently received permission to search for two new faculty members. This is extremely important to us as we are chronically spread thin by faculty serving in administrative positions in the University. The resumption of hiring is one of the indications we have that the budget situation is improving. Staff and services in the College of Engineering are in the process of significant reorganization, all part of making Cornell more efficient.


At this year’s graduation ceremony, 44 students received the BS degree in Engineering Physics, 8 students completed the MEng degree in Engineering Physics, and 8 earned PhDs in Applied Physics.

Cuykendall Awards

Friends and former students of Trevor R. Cuykendall, one of the founders of the EP program, endowed two prizes in his honor: one for the most outstanding A&EP teaching assistant of the year, and one for the senior who has compiled the most outstanding academic record at Cornell. This year we had two teaching assistants who did exceptional work. Timothy Kelly did an outstanding job in our sophomore-level computer interfacing lab, and Jeremiah Wala was recognized for excellent work in our senior-level statistical physics class. Both received Cuykendall Awards.

Clark Award

This year’s winner of the David Delano Clark Award for the best Master of Engineering project was Siddharth Karkare. Siddharth worked with Professor Ivan Bazarov in the Laboratory of Elementary Particle Physics. Siddharth also received the Sack Award for the highest grade average among Master of Engineering students.

Chau Awards

Fred Chau MS ’74 and Dorothy Chau are great supporters of our school, and they have endowed an award to recognize outstanding undergraduate research. There were several strong nominations this year, and the faculty was happy to recognize several students with Chau Awards. Munier Salem worked on magnetohydrodynamic simulations of magnetized accretion disks around newly formed stars with Professor Lovelace. Sophia Sklan did work in theoretical solid-state physics with Professor Henley in Physics, and also published (as the sole author!) a paper on cloaking of objects from acoustic waves – hiding them so that there is no evidence that the acoustic wave interacted with the object. Finally, Timur Babakol and Ankit Disa used x-ray scattering to study vacancies in crystals, in Professor Brock’s lab.

Hartman Prize

Paul Hartman was one of the patriarchs of the AEP school, and one of the architects of the advanced experimental physics lab. Physics and AEP students are eligible to receive the Hartman Prize, which recognizes the best work in experimental physics by an undergraduate. This year the Hartman Prize was awarded to Jacob Nichols of Physics.

Findley Prize

A few years ago, the school received a gift from the estate of William Findley MS ‘39. In addition to providing support for our computer instrumentation laboratory, this gift created a prize for the best published paper each year authored by an Applied Physics graduate student. This year two students received Findley Prizes. Yongtao Cui was recognized for his paper "Single-Shot Time-Domain Studies of Spin-Torque-Driven Switching in Magnetic Tunnel Junctions." Working with Professor Ralph of Physics, Yongtao investigated the magnetic switching induced by electrical currents, which is relevant to magnetic random access memories. Lena Fitting Kourkoutis was also recognized, for her paper “Imaging the Phase Separation in Atomically Thin Buried SrTiO3 Layers by Electron Channeling,” work done with Professor Muller. Lena developed an electron microscope technique to image layers of atoms buried below a material surface.

What an impressive set of accomplishments by our students!

Sack, Smith, and Cuykendall E.P. Founders Fund

In June 2008, a new PhD fellowship endowment was created by merging the E.P. Founders Fund and a portion of the Henri Sack Memorial Fund. We would like to grow this fund with contributions from alumni, so please read the enclosed details about the fund and consider giving to support a critical need of the school.

Alumni Activities

We always enjoy hearing news from AEP alumni. Please feel free to send us a note to update us on your activities. Approximately 20 alumni attended the AEP Reunion Breakfast in June and it was great to hear what they have been doing.

Let us know if you plan to visit campus in the future. Stop by our offices to say hello -- we would enjoy catching up with you.

Best Wishes,

Frank W. Wise MS ’86, PhD ’88

Professor and Director