In this edition of the Friday Newsletter, we meet the newest member of the Physics Phamily and we take a look at Admitted Student Day on March 4.
CHAIR’S WEEKLY MESSAGE
“Rhythm and Stride”
I noticed something in the last week. Everyone seems to have hit their stride for this semester. While these are still difficult times – in many big ways, growing more challenging by the day – in the teaching and research spheres of our department there seems to be a rhythm and a flow.
We saw last week the publication of a key paper on the ATLAS Experiment’s Liquid Argon Calorimeter trigger electronics upgrade. ATLAS is not alone; great science is getting out there from many people and groups in the department in a steady press that isn’t always advertised in this newsletter. That stream is apparent in faculty CVs and on the paper pre-print sites.
The first wave of exams in many or most of our classes has just passed, and now those courses have essentially hit the “rinse and repeat” phase. Sure, there is new material every week … but the essential framework of the course has been established by the instructor and will not cycle until final exams.
We may even be getting into some kind of weird rhythm on winter storms. While nothing that has hit the state is half as bad as what we saw a year ago, it’s also true that people are just more clever and resilient than they were a year ago, or a year before that. The pandemic, combined with new expectations for the kinds of weather we can expect in a warming world (and, yes, that means more extreme cold, too!), has given us the technological tools to keep classes and research moving forward … even on a “snow day.”
There also seems a little extra calm in the department. Maybe there is even some relief … at least, as regards the workload and its natural cycles in the spring. Somehow, there seems to be more lightness in the work environment these days … more easy conversations and less stress about just making it through the pile of grading, lecture notes, proofreading, hardware tasks, and code editing.
As we are hitting our stride this semester, we keep pressing forward with the newsletter! In this edition, we meet the newest member of the Physics Phamily and we take a look at Admitted Student Day on March 4. Don’t forget those potential power outages on the next three Saturdays. If you don’t have a UPS connected to your work computer or other sensitive equipment, it’s best to power it off before you leave today.
Stephen Jacob Sekula
Chair, Department of Physics
Admitted Student Day is Next Friday, March 4!
Prospective graduate student candidates will be on campus next Friday for Admitted Student Day. We are currently expecting about half of our admitted candidates to join us that day. The day is largely organized by the Moody School, but as in the past there is a block of time in the afternoon where Departments can organize events. Prof. Jodi Cooley, Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) ad Interim, has organized a program of events for that day, some of which are open to all members of the Physics Department. Please check the schedule below and sign up for or join in those parts!
|Moody Graduate School Program||9:00am-1:00pm||Various|
|Prospective Physics Ph.D. Students: Welcome and Discussion with Chair and DGS|
(Prospective Students Only)
|Individual Meetings, Department Tours, and Meeting with Current Graduate Students|
(Arranged Using Google Sheet shared in email by Dr. Cooley)
|Joint Chemistry and Physics Department Reception|
(All members of both departments,, including students, are welcome!)
|3:00-4:00pm||Fondren Science Building Foyer|
REMINDER: Possible Power Outages Due to Electrical Work Upcoming on Feb. 26, March 5, and March 12
Oncor will be conducting work at the Greenville electrical station on three upcoming Saturdays. The work may lead to short outages or power glitches in Fondren Science Building around 8am on any of Feb. 26, March 5, or March 12. Everyone is recommended to do the following:
- For a non-essential computer, make sure it’s powered off when you leave on the Friday preceding each day.
- For an essential computer, make sure it is plugged into a battery backup and that the battery backup is in good working order. If you cannot plug it into a battery backup system (e.g. a UPS), make sure it is plugged into a surge protector to prevent electrical energy spikes from damaging the equipment. This would also apply to any other sensitive equipment.
For more information, please contact the Dedman College Facilities Manager, Scot Montague.
What’d I Miss?
We all get too many emails from the University and College. Here are a few things you might have missed this week.
- Graduate Students: Trivia night is March 4! See the announcement from the Moody School for the details. (“Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Newsletter 2.24.2022” sent by the SMU Grad email account on 2/24/2022.)
If you have something to share please feel free to send it along. Stories of your activities in research, the classroom, and beyond are very welcome!
The department staff continue to work on behalf of Academic Operations and Research Operations (Michele Hill). They can be contacted for assistance, or to make appointments for input and help, through the Department Main Office (FOSC 102).
Meet Benisha Young, the New Academic Operations Coordinator (Coordinator 2) for Physics
We asked Benisha Young, the new Academic Operations Coordinator for Physics (Coordinator 2) to introduce herself to the Department. Enjoy!
My name is Benisha Young, and I’ll be joining the Physics Department on March 1st in the Coordinator 2 position. Here’s a little about myself and what you can expect from me:
Background: I was born and raised in Oklahoma. I come from a family of farmers, field workers, athletes, and educators. I was raised in a very small town, outside of Oklahoma City with a population of 1,300 residents (at that time). Upon graduating high school, I attended the University of Central Oklahoma. There I obtained my Bachelor of Science in 2009, and then went on to complete a Masters in Adult & Higher Education (Student Personnel focus) in 2015. In that same year, I uprooted from Oklahoma along with my daughter and sister and moved to Texas upon accepting a position at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Personal Insights: I am all about learning. Lifelong learning is not only a passion for me, but it’s a way of life. I thrive in environments where I am able to create, teach, learn, and help others. As long as that space for me is there, the possibilities are endless. One of my favorites, I will often apply Jack Mezirow’s Transformative Learning theory to help with creating, understanding processes, problem solving, and rectifying issues.
Hobbies and Interests: In my spare time I enjoy woodworking, building with Lego with the help of my daughter, writing short stories and poetry, gardening, and spending time outside. My academic interests included research and program development. I hope to one day get back into the world of research. My interests are in working with underrepresented students, spirituality and religiousness, how workplaces deal with microaggressions and bullying, and many other topics!
Furthermore, March 1st can’t come any quicker! I’m so excited to start this new role and for the chance to get to know everyone!
Thank you so much again,
If you have something to share please feel free to send it along. Stories of students in research, the classroom, internships or fellowships, awards, etc. are very welcome!
If you are an alum of the doctoral, masters, majors or minor programs in Physics at SMU, or have worked in our program as a post-doctoral researcher, and wish to share news with the community, please send your story to the Physics Department and we’ll work with you to get it included in a future edition.
THE BACK PAGE
What is Astrochemistry?
Students in the new course, SCI-4301 (“Astro-eXtraordinary: The Universe Beyond Earth”) have seen, so far this semester, how building blocks shape the universe around us; how stars are born, live, die, and birth new stars; how chemistry, history, and the cosmos intertwine; and where the solar system came from, as well as the nature and history of its inhabitants. Now, students are learning about computational chemistry and how this informs our understanding of chemical reactions on distant places like Titan, the moon of Saturn. What is “astrochemistry”? This short video is a nice introduction and combines physics and chemistry together to help us understand this fascinating subject.