The 2020-2021 academic year saw our community face many new challenges. We are extremely proud that, despite the hardships, our graduate students continued to achieve great things and we are able to recognize their accomplishments through department awards. The awards detailed here are just a small glimpse into the exciting work and contributions our students have made this past year. 


    The Peter Franken Award is presented every year to honor outstanding work by a first- or second-year Physics graduate student.  This year’s recipient of the Franken Award is Xiaoyu Guo for his role in Raman and nonlinear optics studies of the two-dimensional magnetic material CrI3.

    The Wirt and Mary Cornwell Prize is awarded to a graduate student who has demonstrated the greatest intellectual curiosity and given the most promise of original study and creative work. This year’s recipient of the Cornwell Prize is Johnathon Jordan. Johnathon has made important contributions to both the hardware and the development of the detector simulation and reconstruction software for the J-PARC Sterile Neutrino Search at the J-PARC Spallation Neutron Source (JSNS2) experiment, as well as a measurement of monoenergetic muon neutrino charged current interactions with the MiniBooNE experiment at Fermilab and neutrino phenomenology.

    The Kent M. Terwilliger Memorial Thesis Prize is awarded in honor of past physics faculty member Kent Terwilliger. It goes to a recently graduated student with the most outstanding PhD thesis. This year’s recipient of the Terwilliger Prize is Andrei Klishin.  His dissertation, “Statistical Physics of Design,” makes a number of important contributions to design thinking and provides the basis for building new bridges between physics and previously unconnected disciplines. Whereas much of the existing literature applying quantitative techniques to design problems has focused on formal mathematics, e.g., proofs of existence and uniqueness or the refinement of optimization algorithms, Andrei’s work takes an approach that is both methodologically and conceptually physical.  


    The Frank Sevcik Award is awarded to a committed physics student who enhances the international environment of the University and plans to contribute to academic, government, or corporate research communities based in the United States. This year’s recipient of the Sevcik Award is Jem Guhit.  Jem has been conducting analysis with the ATLAS experiment at the LHC and working to develop a new security system for the Great Lakes Cluster. Jem is also a member of the Physics Graduate Council and the Society for Women in Physics (SWiP).

    The Physics Department seeks to annually recognize the efforts of its students in building a better environment. Those nominated for the Community Engagement Award must be Physics graduate students who have proactively worked to improve the overall department community and sought to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion ideals within their interactions and efforts. The recipients are selected by the faculty on the DEI committee. This year’s recipients of the Community Engagement Award are Cynthia Nunez, Huy Nguyen, and Michael Viray.

    Cynthia has been active in helping with graduate student recruitment. In 2019/2020, she and a fellow graduate student started a new initiative to “host monthly grad student/faculty lunches to provide an opportunity for students and faculty to meet together and have discussions about things that matter to them.”  Cynthia also helped to write the proposal to host a Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at Michigan and was one of the organizers of the Physics Graduate Student Symposium in summer 2019.

    Huy has provided dedicated leadership and service as a member of the Physics Graduate Council. Huy has played a leading role in planning and organizing department social events and graduate student recruitment. For instance, Huy’s contributions to our Fall 2020 recruitment cycle were highly appreciated and he has also helped organize the Graduate Student Symposium and Life in Grad School seminars. 

    Michael has been a dedicated member of Physics Grad Council and helped to organize many Friday coffee/cookie hours, department picnics, happy hours, and a pre-Thanksgiving potluck. These social events are important to maintaining a strong graduate student community.  

    The family of Marcellus Lee “Marc” Weidenbeck established the Marcellus L. Weidenbeck Teaching Award to honor his forty years of service on the Michigan faculty. The Wiedenbeck Award is presented to a graduate student that exemplifies outstanding teaching abilities. In 2021, we recognized three graduate students due to the extraordinary efforts we saw from our GSIs in the classroom during a difficult year. This year’s recipients of the Wiedenbeck Award are Alisher Duspayev, Eric Gonzalez, and Emery Trott.

    Alisher has taught introductory physics labs (PHYSICS 241), a discussion section for an honors course (PHYSICS 360), and a discussion section for upper-level undergraduate electricity and magnetism (PHYSICS 405). During the pandemic, he has adapted by offering his students more flexibility and individual feedback and preparing demonstration videos to explain concepts.

    Eric has served as a Lead GSI since Fall 2019 and made numerous contributions to improving the introductory labs. In summer 2019, he wrote a new lab manual and worksheets for PHYSICS 241 and organized the GSI training program, rewriting several sections of the GSI training manual. During Winter 2020, Eric provided all the necessary materials for teaching the labs in a remote setting. During Summer 2020 and Fall 2020, Eric helped the DIALUP team to incorporate computational tools into the PHYSICS 141 labs using Jupyter notebooks and, in Winter 2021, found an online platform for hosting Jupyter notebooks that allowed online collaboration.

    Emery has served as a Lead GSI for two years and has been instrumental to the success of the Life Sciences introductory labs. In Fall 2019, he converted the pre-class quiz to an online Canvas quiz, expediting grading and standardizing the quiz for students in different sections, and implemented a system for students to upload their work on Canvas, allowing for the use of Canvas-based grading tools.  In March 2020, when instruction shifted online due to the pandemic, Emery worked with other GSIs to create videos for the remaining labs in PHYSICS 136.  Over Spring 2020, he converted the group lab report templates to Google sheets so that students can collaborate more easily.

Congratulations to each of these students! We look forward to yet another fruitful year in 2021-2022.