The Physics Department offers several awards each year to outstanding students in the department. As such, the department would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Spring 2020 winners of these awards.
Each year, the Kent M. Terwilliger Memorial Thesis Prize is awarded, in honor of past physics faculty member Kent Terwilliger, to a graduate student determined to have the most outstanding Ph.D. thesis in physics. The department is thrilled to award this prize to Dr. Rachel Hyneman this year. In her work with the EGamma group, Dr. Hyneman has aided immensely in the search for diphoton resonance and in photon calorimeter isolation, and in the process has shown scientific maturity and understanding beyond her years, as well as unwavering dedication to her research.
The Wirt and Mary Cornwell Prize, funded by a bequest from the Cornwell family, is an annually-awarded gift distributed to the graduate student who, over four years, has shown the greatest intellectual curiosity and has shown the most promise in original and creative work in one of six disciplines, one of which is physics. This year’s prize goes to Elizabeth Drueke, a fourth-year graduate student in the department. In those four short years, Elizabeth has proven herself to be a capable, confident leader and scientist. Her research focuses on optical measurements of Weyl semimetals, and in her first year alone managed to independently build a femtosecond laser-based time-resolved optical reflectivity apparatus. She has co-authored work accepted into Nature Physics, has aided in building and now teaches the use of a 2D material fabrication platform, and has served as a mentor to several undergraduate students, among other accomplishments.
As the name suggests, the Community Engagement Award is a prize offered annually by the department to reward students who have served to improve the environment and community of the department. The department offers this award to three students this year: Rachel Owen, Chelsea Hendrus, and Alexa Rakoski. For the past four years, Alexa has served on the Graduate Council, where she has written meeting minutes, planned social events, led the first-year mentoring program, and served as a voice of reason for the Council. Rachel has also served on the Graduate Council for the past three years. In addition, she has served on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee and in the Society for Women in Physics (SWIP), represented the department at a number of conferences, greatly helped in improving recruitment weekend, and helped lead the charge to make the department more environmentally friendly, among other accomplishments. Chelsea, too, has served on the DEI committee and in SWIP, where she has been a leading force in getting the University of Michigan provisionally approved to host a regional Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP).
In honor of past Physics faculty member Peter Franken, the department presents the Franken Award to one first- or second-year graduate student who shows outstanding work. This year’s Franken Award goes to second-year Aiden Herdeschee. As an undergraduate, Aiden collaborated with graduate students to write two theory research papers, both of which have been published in the Journal of High Energy Physics. He has also discovered a new way to add the masses of models with scattering amplitudes, showing incredible ingenuity and creativity. Since then, Aiden has been collaborating with highly respected researchers in the field, with whom he has written and submitted a paper to the Journal of High Energy Physics. In addition to being a successful student and researcher, Aiden also serves as a role model for other students and participates in a number of clubs and extracurricular activities.
The Frank Sevcik Award is given to one physics student each year who shows outstanding commitment to improving the international environment at the University of Michigan and who plans to contribute to academic, government, or corporate research communities in the United States. This year’s Sevcik Award is proudly presented to Ceren Dag. Ceren’s research focuses on the theory of quantum physics, including quantum information, quantum computing, and quantum measurement. One of the primary goals of this type of research is to achieve scalable quantum information processing, which may be the key to the next information technology revolution. Ceren’s thesis serves as a bridge between the problems fundamental to quantum physics and the technology revolution, and also focuses on the thermalization in quantum many-body systems. In this research, Ceren has shown incredible independence for a student of her level and has been published ten separate times, with six of them including her as the first author. These studies and contributions to the fields of quantum physics and quantum information have led Ceren to be invited to a number of leading institutes for seminars and presentations.
The family of Marc Wiedenbeck established the Wiedenbeck Teaching Award to honor Marcellus Lee “Marc” Wiedenbeck’s 40 years of service as a physics faculty member. The award is presented each year to a graduate student who exemplifies outstanding teaching abilities. This year’s winner is Grace Kerber, who has been the GSI for all four sections of the studio-style Physics 140x class for two semesters. In this position, Grace has proven invaluable. She runs group work, is in charge of the grading process, and helps in executing demonstrations in class. She has consistently gone above and beyond to assist students and teachers alike in class. Her optimism, determination, and calm demeanor have allowed her to be the rock grounding the entire course.
We are continually proud of our graduate students and are happy to honor just some of their accomplishments each year.