Department News

Aug 13, 2021 - Robert Lewis-Swan contributes to Science article

Robert Lewis-Swan, an assistant professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma and a CQRT member, contributed to a study led by physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published in Science. Read more here. Congratulations to Robert and collaborators!

Apr 16, 2021 - HLD students win first prize at Undergraduate Research Day presentation

HDL undergraduate students Cora De Francesco and Julianna Voelker were selected as First Prize winners in the Multidisciplinary Research category at the 2021 Undergraduate Research Day. Both are advised by HLD Physics and Astronomy professor Karen Leighly. Cora and Julianna received an award of $500 for their research presentation on the subject of FeLoBAL Quasars. Congratulations!

Mar 16, 2021 - Joseph Choi & Kellen Lawson awarded Bullard Dissertation Completion Fellowships

Joseph Choi & Kellen Lawson are recipients of a 2021-2022 Bullard Dissertation Completion Fellowships from OU's Graduate college.  The fellowship will provide Joseph & Kellen with a semester's worth of GRA support to work on completing their PhD dissertation.

Mar 04, 2021 - A blazing nearby super-Earth

A hot super-Earth in our neighbourhood promises to be a suitable candidate to test rocky planet atmosphere models.

During the recent two and a half decades, astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets made of gas, ice and rock. Only a few of them are Earth-like. However, probing their atmospheres with the currently available instrumentation is challenging at best. Now, astronomers of the CARMENES consortium have published a new study, led by Trifon Trifonov from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, which reports the discovery of a hot rocky super-Earth orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 486. Despite its small separation from the parent star, the planet designated Gliese 486b possibly has retained a part of its original atmosphere. Therefore, Gliese 486b is uniquely suited to examine its atmosphere and interior with the next generation of space-borne and ground-based telescopes. The results are published in the journal Science.
Dr. Vera Maria Passegger,  postdoc in the Homer L. Dodge Department
for Physics and Astronomy, contributed to characterizing the planet by
deriving fundamental parameters of the host star. An accurate and precise
determination of the star's mass, radius, and temperature is essential for
constraining the size of the planet itself, and therefore its bulk
density, and as well as for estimating the surface temperature.
More details are here:

Feb 20, 2021 - OU Alumnus Accepts Prestigious Postdoctoral Position

Adrian Lucy ('14, Astrophysics & History of Science) has accepted a
4-year postdoctoral position at the Space Telescope Science Institute
in Baltimore, the science operations center for the Hubble Space
Telescope and the soon-to-be-launched JWST. Adrian will divide their
time between personal research and functional support for MAST, the
Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes. While at OU, Adrian worked with
Prof. Karen Leighly on quasar outflows. They are currently a graduate
student at Columbia University, working with Dr. Jeno Sokoloski on
finding symbiotic binaries with visible accretion disks. Their
research is funded by an NSF graduate fellowship.

Feb 03, 2021 - Joseph Tischler joins HLD faculty

Dr. Joseph Tischler joined the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy as an Associate Professor at the beginning of 2021. He holds an Avenir Foundation Chair in Condensed Matter Physics. His experimental research program focuses on light-matter interactions, including the development of photodetectors, lasers, and new quantum technologies. Welcome Joe!

Dec 23, 2020 - Kellen Lawson awarded Sigma Xi GIAR

Graduate student Kellen Lawson won an external grant from Sigma Xi's Grant in Aid of Research program, that will allow him to purchase a GPU for his dissertation work.  A brief summary of Kellen's proposal:
The light from circumstellar disks (disks of dust and gas around stars from which planets are thought to form) is normally buried beneath the intense light of the parent star. Removing this starlight requires the computationally expensive comparison and manipulation of large sets of images. Tuning of the parameters that govern this process can substantially improve results but is often prohibitively time consuming using traditional CPUs. Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), however, have been shown to speed comparable calculations by factors of 20–200.  By leveraging modern GPU operations, parameter optimization for direct imaging can be fully realized — maximizing the results of state-of-the-art direct imaging facilities and enabling otherwise unlikely detections.

Dec 21, 2020 - Nature Physics article out: Dynamics of the weakly bound helium dimer

OU postdoc Qingze Guan and OU faculty member Blume collaborated with Maksim Kunitski, Reinhard Doerner and others from Frankfurt University and the GSI in Darmstadt on the helium dimer. The helium dimer is one of the most weakly-bound “naturally” occurring molecules. Since it’s so weakly bound, the preparation and manipulation of this fascinating molecule are rather tricky. Unless you isolate the dimer and are extremely careful, it tends to fall apart… Maksim and coworkers set up an ingeneous molecular beam experiment and used femto-second lasers to probe the system. The theory calculations by Qingze do not only match the experimental data, without a single adjustable parameter, but additionally provide unique insights. Check out the article entitled “Ultrafast manipulation of the weakly bound helium dimer”, which just appeared in Nature Physics, and the accompanying “News & Views” highlight entitled “Gently stirred not shaken” by Daniel Rolles.

Dec 18, 2020 - Update from the Community and Inclusion Committee

The departmental Community and Inclusion Committee was formed in summer 2020. It currently has eight members: one undergraduate student, two graduate students, one postdoctoral researcher, one staff member, and three faculty members. The committee is proud to launch its website; please check it out at

The committee worked on a number of initiatives this semester, including creation and approval of a departmental Code of Conduct ( and a departmental “Drop Box” ( We look forward to receiving your suggestions, ideas, and feedback through the Drop Box or via email ( The Drop Box can also be used to submit anonymous comments on a sensitive subject, related to any member/aspect(s) of the department. The committee members would like to thank the faculty for comments and feedback on earlier drafts of the Code of Conduct and Drop Box.

The committee has also been working to promote the concept of shared leadership within the department. We are happy to report that the Undergraduate Studies Committee, the Graduate Studies Committee, and the Graduate Recruiting and Selection Committee now have student representation. Many thanks to Jamie Boyd, AJ Yates, Dave Hill, Geo Jose, Adam Moss, and Joe Muse for agreeing to serve on these committees!

Stay tuned for the first Town Hall meeting of the Community and Inclusion Committee, which will take place at the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester.

Dec 10, 2020 - Amber Roepe selected for APS Division of Particles and Fields Ethics Advisory Committee



This past summer, the American Physical Society’s (APS) Division of Particles and Fields (DPF) formed the Ethics Advisory Committee (EAC). The main goal of the EAC is to propose and oversee the development and implementation of ethics policies for the DPF. They will also participate in training on anti-harassment and anti-racist practices, collect and develop educational materials to support physicists at educational institutions and governmental and industrial research laboratories, and enforce the DPF community guidelines as necessary. Based on her success on many diversity and inclusion initiatives in our department, including organizing the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics in January 2020, being a founding member of our Community and Inclusion Committee, and her work in the DPF Snowmass Process, the DPF Executive Committee and the DPF Ethics Task Force selected Amber Roepe to serve on this important committee. On Nov. 20, 2020, Amber was announced as the sole graduate student member of the APS DPF EAC in the November issue of the DPF newsletter. We are very proud of her accomplishment and we know she will do an excellent job serving on this committee!


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