Winter 2021 was certainly a semester to remember. Everyone was dealing with the difficulties of an ongoing global pandemic while starting to see hope on the horizon that things might be able to return to a semblance of normal with the introduction of vaccines. Despite the challenging circumstances, our students showed grit and determination while many went above and beyond in their academic careers.
In a normal semester, the past few weeks would have been spent celebrating better weather, graduation, and the end of the semester. Part of the celebration for our department is the recognition of our undergraduate awardees at our department graduation and awards ceremony. Although we would prefer to celebrate in person, we wanted to be sure to highlight the outstanding achievements of our award winners. There were a number of outstanding applicants and nominees for the awards, and the decisions were difficult, but these students, selected by the undergraduate awards committee, rose to the top.
The department has a number of awards that are given to undergraduates for a variety of reasons. The first student we would like to recognize are the winners of the Ralph B. Bodine Award, Anna Simpson and Laura Zichi. The Bodine Award is given to a sophomore student (or students) with proven academic ability. Anna’s application for this award was supported by Professor David Gerdes while Laura was supported by Professor Liuyan Zhao. Among her many qualities, the letter of recommendation submitted on Anna’s behalf highlights the software tools she developed as well as her desire to engage in active research. Laura was commended for her Python coding skills and adaptability with remote research.
The next awardees that we’d like to recognize are the winners of the William L. Williams Thesis Award, Jiani Fei and Luc LePottier. Jiani’s thesis is entitled A Probe into Propagators and Luc’s thesis is Using Machine Learning for Model-Independent New Physics Discovery at the Large Hadron Collider. This award is given to a senior student or students who submits an outstanding senior thesis exemplifying the ability to pose a question, investigate it, and find an answer. Jiani spent time during her undergraduate career working with Professor Emanuel Gull on her research, which focused on condensed matter theory. Together they were published as an editor’s suggestion in Physical Review Letters with Jiani being listed as the first author. Luc worked with Professor Christine Aidala for two academic years and focused on machine learning. He also spent time working at CERN in Geneva.
The department is fortunate to have numerous exemplary students. Additional outstanding students we want to recognize are Daphne Blumin and MaryKate Bossard, the recipients of Patrick Dahlin Memorial Award, is given to a physics major or majors showing great promise. Daphne was nominated for the award by Professor Tom Schwarz, who worked with her for two years as an undergraduate researcher in the ATLAS group where she helped to build muon drift tube detectors. MaryKate was nominated by Professor Bing Zhou. MaryKate worked with the ATLAS group on multiple projects and her recommendation highlighted her use of Python programming in her study of high-energy physics.
Sabrina Corsetti and Jiaheng He were the students awarded the Wirt and Mary Cornwell Prize. This prize is awarded to a student or students honoring research or other contributions to the department. Sabrina was nominated by Professor Tom Schwarz has been involved in research with the department for the past three years. Her research includes studying abroad at CERN and working on the installation of the muon spectrometer at the ATLAS experiment as well as working with the ATLAS group here at the University of Michigan. Jiaheng was nominated by Professor Rachel Goldman with whom he’s worked for multiple years. His research involved working on a project including understanding the limitations of p-type doping of GaN.
The Walter W. Wada Award is given to a member of the physics community that has looked for ways to build community, increase cultural understanding, and promote respect for diversity within the department. The winner of this award was this year was Kevin Zvonarek. He was nominated by multiple people including Professors Roy Clarke and Leopoldo Pando Zayas as well as the president of the Society of Physics Students (SPS), Grant Weldon. Some of the many qualities for which he was nominated include serving as an SPS liaison to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee as well as taking on an outreach initiative with a high school in Detroit, which has been hailed as a big success.
The department is fortunate to be able to offer a number of awards. Jiadong Liu was the recipient of the Otho Lyle Tiffany and Mary Lois Tiffany Fellowship this year. His application for this award was supported by Professor Jianming Qian. The Tiffany Fellowship is awarded to a non-graduating student who shows promise and progress in their academic efforts. Jiadong has consistently been a high academic achiever. His academic path has taken him through multiple honors courses.
In addition to all of the department awards, the C. Wilbur Peters Chapter Service Award is given to a member of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) in recognition of their contributions to the chapter. This year, based on nominations from fellow SPS members, the recipient of the award is Grant Weldon. Among his many qualifications, Grant’s willingness to help other students and commitment to outreach were highlighted among his multiple nominations.
Each of these students has demonstrated excellence across a variety of areas such as academics, research, and outreach. We are fortunate that they chose our department and know that they have bright futures ahead. We’d like to offer you best wishes, congratulations, and every success as you move forward with your academic, career, and personal goals. Go Blue!