The seminars listed below will take place at 2:20pm in EnGeo 1301. 

Please contact Dr. Ioana Niculescu if you have any questions.

Spring 2024


  • Speaker: Alex Cimino-Hurt, Cascade Energy, Inc. 
  • Title: Physics Beyond the Degree
  • Abstract: This is a seminar for folks interested in alternative paths for physics majors post-graduation where maybe research and a PhD aren’t your thing. We’ll discuss the surprising benefits of the discipline of Physics beyond the theory and the advantages that thinking like a physicist can offer physics majors in other careers. I’ll share how physics has been fundamental to my career path in Sustainability and Decarbonization Engineering, which I have cultivated for over a decade.
  • Bio: Alex Cimino-Hurt is a licensed mechanical engineer, a naturalist, a martial artist, a humanist, and an ever-curious soul. Since graduating from James Madison University in 2007, he has traced a winding course across the country and across disciplines to find his true passion in Industrial Sustainability. Whether it be foraging wild mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest or cross-country skiing on the Great Plains, he always looks to nature for great inspiration and replenishment.


  • Speaker: Dr. Catherine Witherspoon (Colorado College)
  • Title: Shutting Down Star Formation in Low-Mass Galaxies
  • Abstract: With the discovery that actively accreting supermassive black holes – active galactic nuclei (AGN) – can inhabit low-mass galaxies, it becomes possible to study how AGN influence a low-mass galaxy’s gas content and star formation. However, it is difficult to disentangle whether a galaxy is shutting down its star formation due to the presence of an AGN or because there are external effects such as interactions between galaxies. My research uses the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory (MaNGA) survey to select samples of low-mass galaxies with and without AGN via their optical emission lines. I will discuss our study of the individual effects of the environment and the presence of an AGN on a galaxy’s star formation.
  • Bio: Dr. Witherspoon received a BS in physics from JMU in 2017 followed by an MS in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2019 and an astronomy PhD from UW-Madison in 2023. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Colorado College through Spring 2025.


  • Seminar Panel: Adam Stavola (Jlab), Scott Bender (UVA), Nik Roeske (Georgia Tech, IEN Cleanroom)
  • Topic: We will host 3 P&A alumni as panelists who have taken different career paths after they graduated from JMU. They will briefly introduce their academic and career background and subsequent paths, followed by answering pre-selected questions. Towards the end of the session, the panelists will be available for any open questions from the audience.
  • Bios:
    • Adam Stavola (Jlab, remote) - Adam Stavola is a Certified Health Physicist and Registered Radiation Protection Technologist with over 15 years of experience in a variety of areas including: emergency response, operational health physics, and various aspects of dosimetry. Adam has served on the NRRPT examination panel and currently serves as the website administrator for the Virginia Chapter of the Health Physics Society and as the President of the Accelerator Section of the Health Physics Society.  Adam began his career at Norfolk Naval Shipyard within the Radioactivity Analysis Laboratory and Environmental Monitoring program.  He then moved to run Oak Ridge National Laboratory's radioanalytical lab and then served as Technical Lead for the In-Vitro Bioassay program. Adam currently works at  Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility where he is the Acting Radiation Control Manager, Health Physics Group Leader, and Dosimetry Technical Lead.  Adam is a subject matter expert in Health Physics laboratory instrumentation and measurements. He is a member of the Department of Energy's Laboratory Accreditation Program's Oversight Board for internal and external dosimetry.  Adam's current research work focuses on AI/ML tools to enhance laboratory operations and radiation protection applications. Adam received a Bachelor of Science in Physics from James Madison University, a Master of Science in Applied Physics and Computer Science from Christopher Newport University, and a Master of Engineering from Old Dominion University in Electrical Engineering.  Currently, Adam is pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Old Dominion University.   
    • Nik Roeske (IEN Cleanroom, remote) - Nik received his BS in Physics (with minor in Math) from JMU. While at JMU, he worked in a material/optics lab studying the optical and electrical properties of nano particles and wires. He performed image analysis for TEM and SEM images. He also fabricated gold plates using an E-beam deposition chamber. These plates were then studied using an oscilloscope and multimeter to test their conductivity.
    • Scott Bender (UVA, in-person) - Scott received his BS in Physics from JMU. He is currently in UVA's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering PhD program with a focus on nanoscale heat transfer in materials.


  • Speaker: Kevin McFarland, Professor in Physics and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, University of Rochester
  • Title: Measuring the Structure of Protons with Accelerator Neutrinos
  • Abstract: High energy electron elastic scattering measurements, in which the target remains intact after the collisions, have been used to study the time-averaged structure of protons, neutrons, and atomic nuclei since the 1950s.  However, similar measurements of neutrinos scattering from protons had never been performed until our recent measurement in the MINERvA experiment.  This might seem surprising given that the structure measured in such an experiment is physically interesting, is difficult to calculate, and is important for applications in neutrino physics.  I’ll discuss the technical challenges of making such a measurement using neutrinos, what we have found by making it, and future prospects.
  • Bio: Kevin McFarland is the Steven Chu Professor in Physics and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at the University of Rochester. He received his Sc.B. in mathematics and physics from Brown University in 1989. He did his graduate work in physics at the University of Chicago and received his M.S. in 1991 and his Ph.D. in 1994. He held a Lederman Fellowship at Fermilab from 1994 to 1998 and joined the University of Rochester in 1998. He was named an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in 1998, a Department of Energy Outstanding Junior Investigator in 1999, a Cottrell Scholar in 2001 and received a National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2002. McFarland was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2005. He and his collaborators on the T2K neutrino experiment are recipients of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. He served as the founding co-spokesperson of the MINERvA experiment at Fermilab from its inception until 2017.


  • Speaker: Prof. Andrea Richard (Ohio University)
  • Title: Statistical Nuclear Astrophysics Studies at Stable and Radioactive Beam Facilities
  • Abstract: The origin of heavy elements in the universe is a longstanding question in nuclear astrophysics, and the 2023 Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science poses the question, “What are the nuclear processes that drive the birth, life, and death of stars?” as one of the big questions we seek to answer over the next decade of nuclear science experiments, theories, and models.  Since the birth of nuclear astrophysics in the 1950s, three main processes were thought to account for all of the heavy element abundances, namely the ps, and rprocesses. While these three processes are strong contributors to the production of heavy elements, new observational data have shed light on additional processes that may have significant contributions to heavy element production in the cosmos. This talk will present the new intricate picture of heavy element production and the statistical nuclear physics properties that help us understand the origin of heavy elements in the universe using both stable and radioactive beam facilities.
  • Bio: Dr. Andrea Richard obtained her B.S. degree in Physics and Mathematics with minors in English and Engineering from Muskingum University in 2011. She obtained her M.S. degree in 2014 from Ohio University, where her focus was neutron time-of-flight spectroscopy of the deuteron breakup reaction. Andrea then completed her Ph.D. from Ohio University in 2018 focusing on in-beam and b-delayed gamma-ray spectroscopy of the A=33 isobars in the N=20 Island of Inversion. After obtaining her Ph.D., Andrea worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University as a Nuclear Science and Security Consortium Postdoctoral Fellow and then at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Her work was primarily related to indirect neutron-capture constraints for the astrophysical i-process (intermediate neutron-capture process) and nuclear security applications using the beta-Oslo method and Surrogate Reaction Method at facilities like the NSCL, FRIB, CARIBU, and TRIUMF. Andrea is actively involved in mentoring, outreach, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. As of January 2024, Andrea is a tenure-track assistant professor at Ohio University in Athens, OH. 


  • Speaker: Prof. Nadir Kaplan (Virginia Tech)
  • Title: Controlled dynamics of shape-shifting soft matter
  • Abstract: Realizing next-generation materials that move rationally and rapidly by discerning environmental cues greatly benefits from inspiration from biological systems. The first part of my talk concerns a soft matter analog of controlled actuation in living matter: I will present theory and experiments of a hydrogel system that is activated upon reaction and transport of chemical stimuli. Specifically, I will discuss how the gel deformations can be made arbitrarily faster to overcome the damping of the deformation rate with increasing gel size. The second part of my talk is focused on a novel approach to designing temporal shape change: We leverage constituent polymer molecular features (rather than external fields), specifically the viscoelasticity of gelatin bilayers, to achieve dynamical three-dimensional (3D) curls and helical twists. Our experiments and simulations together reveal the underlying mechanisms of the nonlinear shape dynamics in space and time. In the final part, I will describe a machine learning algorithm that we developed to address the following optimization problem: Can we directly and efficiently minimize a corresponding functional to find the physical states of a system in lieu of solving the equations of motion (a.k.a. the Euler-Lagrange equations), which can be computationally costly to determine all possible states? Our solution to this problem has important implications for the inverse design of emergent soft matter actuation, bringing us closer to acquiring autonomous shape-shifting capabilities of living systems.
  • Bio: Nadir Kaplan earned his B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from Istanbul Technical University (Turkey), M.S. degree in Physics from Koç University (Turkey), and Ph.D. in Physics from Brandeis University. He then held postdoctoral positions in Applied Math and Materials Science at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of Physics at Virginia Tech. His research at the interface of fluid mechanics, elasticity, and geometry is aimed at developing novel theoretical and computational approaches to state-of-the-art materials design.


  • Speaker: Dr. Rozenn Boissay-Malaquin (NASA/GSFC/UMBC)
  • Title: Observing Active Galactic Nuclei in X-rays: Emission Mechanisms, Galaxy Evolution, and XRISM Expectations
  • Abstract: The supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of massive galaxies are fed by accretion of surrounding matter, forming compact regions called Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN), which are among the most luminous objects in the Universe. The SMBH at the center of an AGN is thought to play a major role in the evolution of the host galaxy, quenching star formation and explaining some close relationships observed between black holes and galaxies. The strong X-ray emission from AGN is produced very close to the SMBH, and is responsible for the ionization of the surrounding medium. Therefore, X-ray observations are powerful tools to study what happens in the strongest gravitational fields in the Universe, probing the inner regions of AGN, and to determine how they affect their surroundings, in particular when combined with observations at different wavelengths (from radio to gamma-rays). I will talk about the structure and emission mechanisms of AGN, focusing in particular on an excess of soft X-ray emission (whose origin is debated) and on multi-component and multi-velocity winds (especially Ultra-Fast Outflows which can have an impact on galaxy evolution). I will present studies performed on AGN observed with several X-ray satellites, such as Chandra, XMM-Newton, Swift, and NuSTAR. In a second phase, I will talk about the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM), the promising collaborative mission between Japan, U.S. and Europe, that was launched in September 2023. I will give an overview of the mission and its current status, and I will explain how it will revolutionize our understanding of accreting SMBHs.
  • Bio: Dr. Boissay-Malaquin is an Assistant Research Scientist at NASA Goddard. She grew up in France and studied Physics Engineering science and Astrophysics in Strasbourg, before obtaining a Ph.D. in Astrophysics in Geneva, Switzerland in 2016. She then moved to Boston to work as a postdoc in the Chandra/HETGS group at MIT. In October 2019, she joined the X-ray mirror team at NASA Goddard to work on the XRISM mission. Her main interest is the study of Active Galactic Nuclei, especially in X-rays. She really enjoys being able to mix engineering and science in her current job.



  • Speaker: Dr.  Matthew Kerr (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)
  • Title: Searching for Low-frequency Gravitational Waves with Gamma Rays
  • Abstract: The Fermi Large Area Telescope has detected more than 100 millisecond pulsars (MSPs) in the 0.1-10 GeV band.  It constantly monitors all of these, and with its good timestamping it has amassed over 15 years of high-precision pulsar timing data.  It is thus a high-energy pulsar timing array (PTA), comparable to ground-based PTA experiments which use large radio telescopes to monitor MSPs.  Radio PTAs have recently published the first evidence for a background of nHz gravitational waves which presumably originates from merging supermassive black holes.  Because the gamma-ray PTA (GPTA) is immune to some of the major systematic noise sources of radio PTAs, its rapidly improving sensitivity promises a clear view of this background within the coming years.  In this talk, I will give an overview of pulsar timing, PTAs and their recent results, and the latest measurements from the GPTA.
  • Bio: Matthew Kerr, Ph.D., a research physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, was part of an international team of astronomers and astrophysicists recognized by the 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science Cleveland Prize for a discovery that improved the understanding of FRBs in distant galaxies. The team detected and localized FRBs using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, a radio telescope located in Western Australia. 


  • Speaker: Dr. Matthew Bressler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
  • Title: Updated Results from Runs 2 and 3 of the Muon g-2 Experiment at Fermilab
  • Abstract: Due to their relatively high mass and long lifetime, muons are an attractive probe for the potential existence of physics beyond the Standard Model. The Muon  experiment studies the precession of muons’ spins as they orbit in the magnetic field of a circular storage ring, with the goal of making the most precise measurement of the muons’ so-called “anomalous” magnetic moment, the constant a=(g-2)/2, which arises from the muons’ interactions with virtual particles during their interaction with the magnetic field. Particles, forces, or interactions presently unknown to physicists would show up in the measurement by creating a deviation between the experimental result and calculations from the theorists, which can only include the physics we know about. In August 2023 the Muon  collaboration released our newest result from data collected in 2019 and 2020, which included a factor of 4 more data than the Run-1 result (from data collected in 2018) and more than a factor of 2 improvement in systematic uncertainties over the previous measurement. This new result achieves a total uncertainty of 0.20 ppm on the anomalous magnetic moment. In this talk, I will describe the principles of the measurement, discuss some of the improvements made on the systematic errors, and briefly summarize the experiment’s progress since 2020, looking ahead to the next results. 
  • Bio: Matthew Bressler is a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, based in the Chicago area as a Fermilab Intensity Frontier Fellow working on magnetic field measurements in the Muon g-2 and Mu2e experiments. As an undergraduate, he attended Messiah College, a small liberal arts school near his home town of Harrisburg, PA, and earned a B.S. with a double major in physics and mathematics. He earned his Ph.D. from Drexel University in 2022, where his thesis research focused on calibration and commissioning of bubble-chamber-based dark matter direct detection experiments PICO and SBC. Throughout his research career, Matt’s focus has been on understanding the fundamental effects of his experiments’ hardware in the data, aiming to balance the need for the best possible measurements with practical constraints of performing experiments “in the real world”.


  • Speaker: Dr. Costel Constantin (JMU)
  • Title: Ellipsometry, Transmission, and Photoluminescence Characterization of Mn-doped Indium Tin Oxide Films Deposited by DC Magnetron Sputtering
  • Abstract: Manganese-doped Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) thin films (0 – 12.8 at% Mn) were fabricated via DC magnetron sputtering. Analyses covered structural, electrical, and
    optical aspects, with a focus on optical properties using ellipsometry, transmission, and photoluminescence (PL) measurements. PL spectra and Tauc analyses revealed key features of the energy band structure of both ITO and Mn-ITO. It was deduced that ITO possesses a fundamental bandgap of ~2.8 eV, with a separate deep valence band situated approximately 0.8 eV below the valence band maximum, influencing higher energy optical transitions. These findings aligned with recent theoretical and spectroscopic studies (e.g., XPS, XES). Mn incorporation induced a decrease in transition energies, alongside observed Burstein-Moss shifts.
  • Bio: Dr. Costel Constantin earned his BS in Electrical Engineering from University Politehnica of Bucharest in 1999. He then pursued an MS in Material Science from Ohio University in 2002 and completed his Material Science PhD from Ohio University in 2005. Following this, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University until 2007, and from 2007 to 2010, he held a tenure-track position at Seton Hall University. Since 2010, Dr. Constantin has been a faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at JMU, where he became an Associate Professor in 2017.
Fall 2023


  • Speaker: Dr. Brian Wolin (Northrop Grumman Space Systems)
  • Title: Eyeballs, SmallSats, and other adventures of a physicist turned “Mission Architect”
  • Abstract: I will discuss my experiences as a physicist-turned-engineer working in the private sector. Physicists bring unique skills and perspectives to engineering problems, and can find interesting physics-adjacent projects in a variety of domains. Examples include prototyping novel imaging sensor systems, modeling & simulation, and satellite systems. As academia and industry evolve, career paths for physicists in aerospace & defense continue to expand.
  • Bio: Dr. Wolin is a Mission Architect and physicist working at Northrop Grumman Space Systems. He joined Northrop Grumman in 2017 and currently serves as Chief Architect for several programs delivering integrated space security missions. Brian earned his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017, studying low-temperature magnetic materials using magnetic force microscopy.


  • Speaker: Dr. Victor Galitski (University of Maryland)
  • Title: Strongly correlated electron–photon systems
  • Abstract: An important goal of modern condensed matter physics involves the search for states of matter with new emergent properties and desirable functionalities. Although the tools for material design remain relatively limited, notable advances have been recently achieved by controlling interactions at hetero-interfaces, precise alignment of low-dimensional materials and the use of extreme pressures . In this talk, I will discuss a new paradigm, based on controlling light-matter interactions, which provides a new way to manipulate and synthesize strongly correlated quantum matter. I'll focus on the case in which both electron-electron and electron-photon interactions are strong and give rise to a variety of novel phenomena including photon-mediated superconductivity, cavity-fractional quantum Hall physics and optically driven topological phenomena in low dimensions.
  • Bio: Victor Galitski received his Ph.D. in theoretical condensed matter physics under Prof. A. Larkin at the University of Minnesota after earning a Ph.D. in applied math (in a record 18 months)at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI). He joined UMD as an assistant professor in 2006. He has received a Simons Investigator Award, CMPS Board of Visitors Faculty Award, and an NSF Career Award. He recently finished translating from Russian to English a textbook, “Exploring Quantum Mechanics: A Collection of 700+ Solved Problems for Students, Lecturers, and Researchers" co-written by his grandfather, physicist V.M. Galitskii. He studies several subfields of condensed matter theory.


  • Speaker: Dr. Paul Gueye (Michigan State University)
  • Title: The power of complementary and adjustable lenses for a quest in understanding nuclei 
  • Abstract: Electron scattering and rare isotopes are unique complementary techniques that provide powerful magnifying glasses to probe the interactions between nucleons inside nuclei. Over more than a quarter century, the 4 GeV and now 12 GeV (un)polarized electron beam of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Newport News, Virginia, USA) has unraveled unprecedented insights into nuclear physics, including its unique program to understand elementary strangeness production. On May 10, 2022, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (East Lansing, Michigan, USA) started its highly anticipated experimental nuclear astrophysics program, opening a new window into our current understanding of a large number of predicted unstable (neutron and proton rich) nuclei.  Scientific discoveries have historically been rooted in the desire for some to take on a quest to tackle the unknown, often with relentless commitments and efforts, and sometimes bold actions that have proven to uncover new pathways. This talk will provide some brief reviews on the role and successes as well as future prospects of nuclear physics experiments and theories at these facilities as they pertain to my journey in becoming a nuclear physicist, including programs to broaden participation for workforce development in nuclear science.  
  • Bio: Prof. Paul Guèye received his BS (1987) and MS (1990) in Physics and Chemistry from the University Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar, Senegal), and his Ph.D. (1994) in Nuclear Physics from the University of Clermont-Ferrand II (Aubière, France). His thesis focused on electron/positron scattering experiments at the CEA Saclay linear accelerator to probe higher order corrections to the Born Approximation using carbon and lead nuclei. He then joined the nuclear physics group of Hampton University (Hampton, Virginia, USA) as a postdoc and was part of the first sets of experiments conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy funded Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Newport News, Virginia, USA). Prof. Guèye joined the MoNA Collaboration in 2013 to study neutron unbound nuclei through low energy nuclear physics experiments at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams/National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (East Lansing, Michigan, USA). He was the Chair of the HU Physics Department from 2015-2018. He joined MSU in the Fall 2018. Some of his accomplishments include the validation of the effective momentum approximation in electron scattering, development of the JLab/Hall C arc energy drift correction tool for its nuclear physics program, development of a silicon-beryllium segmented target at NSCL and several scintillating fiber-based detectors for medical applications that lead to commercially available systems. Prof. Guèye has been and is still actively engaged in various national and international organizations such as: Chair of the Liaison Committee for Under-Represented Minorities of the American Institute of Physics, President of the National Society of Black Physicists, Executive Director of the MoNA Collaboration, Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Founder and Chair of the Minority Sub-Committee of the American Association for Physicists in Medicine and African Strategy for Fundamental and Applied Physics amongst others. Prof. Guèye was recognized by President Barack Obama in 2015 for some of his work.


  • Speaker: Dr. Xiaoyan Tan (George Mason University)
  • Title: Disorder behavior in non-centrosymmetric magnetic oxides
  • Astract: Materials with non-centrosymmetric (NCS) crystal structures and magnetic ordering are widely used in laser technology, access memory elements, energy conversion, and spintronics. The discovery of such materials has been challenging due to limited design strategies. Here, we report that non-centrosymmetric magnetic oxides can be achieved by introducing the disordered metal sites in centrosymmetric oxides. The disorder behavior and NCS crystal structure were confirmed by the Rietveld refinement using synchrotron X-ray and neutron diffraction data and convergent-beam electron diffraction. The oxidation state of transition metals was confirmed by near-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy. The magnetic properties of prepared NCS compounds will be compared with these of parent centrosymmetric compounds. 
  • Bio: Xiaoyan Tan received her B. S in Applied Chemistry from Hefei University of Technology and M.S in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China. She came to the United States in 2011 and earned her Ph. D degree in Inorganic Chemistry from Florida State University in 2016. After working as a postdoc under Prof. Martha Greenblatt at Rutgers University between 2016 and 2018, she joined the Department of chemistry and biochemistry at George Mason University (GMU) as an assistant professor. Her research group focuses on understanding, designing, and characterizing non-centrosymmetric and polar inorganic materials, including intermetallics and oxides as multifunctional materials with applications in spintronics and magnetic memory devices and energy conversion and storage.


  • Speaker: Lauren Pearce from Penn State New Kensington
  • Title: Wave of the Future: Gravitational Waves and High Energy Physics
  • Abstract: In 2014, scientists at the LIGO observatory measured the first gravitational wave signal, and now there are a variety of upcoming experiments planned. What can we learn from them? In this talk, we’re interested in what we can learn about the early universe and high energy physics from these experiments. We’ll focus on how an early period of matter domination- when there’s more energy in heavy particles than in radiation and relativistic particles- makes gravitational waves these experiments can see. If we have time, we’ll then connect these to questions such as why does the universe have more matter than antimatter and supersymmetry, a proposal in high energy physics.
  • Bio: Lauren Pearce is an Assistant Professor of Physics. Before coming to Penn State New Kensington, she completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She maintains an active research program in theoretical physics, focusing on the intersection of cosmology and high energy physics, looking at questions such as how the universe came to have more matter than antimatter and what enduring evidence an early period of rapid growth, called inflation, might leave.


  • Speaker: Dr. Kent Yagi (University of Virginia)
  • Title: Fundamental Physics Probe with Gravitational Waves
  • Abstract: In 1915, Einstein proposed his famous theory of gravity, general relativity, which replaced the notion of a gravitational force with that of curved space and time. The distortion of spacetime in response to an object's motion can create ripples in spacetime called gravitational waves. These fluctuations of spacetime produce extremely small displacements, which in 2015, 100 years after Einstein’s theory was published, were observed by dedicated gravitational-wave detectors called LIGO. In this talk, I will first give an overview of the current status of gravitational wave astronomy. I will next explain how we can use gravitational-wave observations to probe fundamental physics including gravitational and nuclear physics.
  • Bio: Prof. Kent Yagi received his Ph.D. in physics at Kyoto University, Japan in 2012. After working as a postdoctoral researcher at Montana State University and Princeton University, he joined the University of Virginia in 2017 as a faculty member. He has received the Sloan Research Fellowship as well as the Young Scientist Prize in General Relativity and Gravitation from the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP). He is an executive committee member of the Division of Gravitational Physics (DGRAV) at the American Physical Society (APS) and Chesapeake Sector of the American Association of Physics Teachers (CSAAPT). He also works as an associate editor of the journal General Relativity and Gravitation.


  • Speaker: Anita J Vincent-Johnson, MD
  • Title: The Physics of Medicine
  • Bio: Anita Vincent-Johnson, MD, is a fellowship-trained nephrologist. She helps patients manage acute kidney injury and electrolyte and acid base disorders. She also cares for people with chronic kidney disease and those who need end-stage renal dialysis. She has expertise in renal replacement  therapy, including: Hemodialysis, Peritoneal dialysis and Continuous renal replacement therapy.

    She joined the UVA faculty in 2021 after completing her fellowship training in nephrology at UVA. She has a bachelor’s degree in physics from James Madison University and a medical degree from Ross University. She did her internal medicine residency training at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.Growing up with two veterinarians as parents, Dr. Vincent-Johnson had an early interest in medicine. “In high school and again in undergraduate, I took human physiology classes, which I greatly enjoyed,” she says. “I decided my last year of undergraduate school that I wanted to pursue medicine because of my interest in human anatomy and physiology as well as my interest in working and caring for patients.”She adds, “I am hard-working so that my patients get my best care. I work with you to come up with a diagnostic and treatment plan, and I work to accommodate distance, finances or whatever your interests or limitations may be. I make sure to incorporate your health goals as my main goal. I like to get patients interested and invested in their healthcare. I use guidelines to guide my clinical decision-making but also understand that patients are all unique and conform treatment plans to what works best for each patient.”


  • Speaker: Dr. Craig Dukes, UVA
  • Title: Probing the Structures of Pyramids using Cosmic Ray Muons
  • Abstract: The pyramids of ancient Egypt and of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica have fascinated people since the cultures that built them vanished into the annals of history.  How were they built?  What were they used for?  Are there unknown internal substructures, perhaps hidden chambers that have yet to be discovered?  Using the detector technology, we developed for the Mu2e experiment at Fermilab, we intend to perform non-invasive searches for hidden structures in the Temple of Kukulkán at Chichén Itzá and the Great Pyramid of Khufu, in Egypt.  The apparatus will detect cosmic-ray muons produced high in the atmosphere that course through the pyramids to produce a tomographic image of their interiors. I will review the status of both projects, describe in detail the technique we intend to use, present recent simulation results and detector prototype results.
  • Bio: Professor Dukes’ research is in experimental Elementary Particle Physics where he has worked on experiments at several major accelerator laboratories in the world, and held visiting positions at: Brookhaven National Laboratory, CERN Lab in Geneva, Switzerland, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the SSC. He is currently the head of the Frontier Physics Group at the University of Virginia. Professor Dukes’ current research lies in two experimental areas: elucidating the source of the slight asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the universe, or CP violation; and discovering dark matter. CP violation is thought to be responsible for the nearly absolute asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the universe, indeed why there is any matter at all in the universe.  By far the largest contribution to the mass of the universe is dark matter, which we know must exist from its gravitational interactions, but of which we know little else. 


  • Speaker: Dr. Jason Czack (JMU Physics and Astronomy)
  • Title: A study of the effects of spatially localized time-delayed feedback schemes on spatio-temporal patterns
  • Abstract: In attempts to manage spatio-temporal chaos in spatially extended systems, these systems are often subjected to protocols that perturb them as a whole and stabilize globally a new dynamic regime, as for example a uniform steady state. We show that selectively perturbing only part of a system can generate space-time patterns that are not observed when controlling the whole system. Depending on the protocol used, these new patterns can emerge either in the perturbed or the unperturbed region. Specifically, we use a spatially localized time-delayed feedback scheme to perturb a chaotic state of a system to create novel periodic patterns within a region of the system.
  • Bio: Dr. Jason Czak is a Lecturer at James Madision University. Dr. Czak earned his doctorate at Virginia Tech in Physics. His research centers on using mathematical modeling and applying elements of control theory to chaos producing models. Some of his other current and past research interests include mathematical modeling of optical properties of semiconductors and applying machine learning to auto-contouring models used in radiation therapy. He has published on several of these topics in Physical Review Journals.


  • Speaker: Dr. Tilda Pendleton (JMU Physics and Astronomy)
  • Title: Attotouch, Attotime: Going Out Of Our Heads To Make Attosecond Lasers Measure Electrons Going Round
  • Abstract: The Nobel Prize in Physics in 2023 was awarded to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L’Huillier for their work on developing lasers that can emit pulses with attosecond (10-18 s) pulse widths. The highly novel optical methods they employed to create such short pulses have enabled dynamic measurements such as the time evolution of electron behavior in atoms and molecules. This talk will give an overview of how attosecond laser pulses were developed and produced and explain what science they have enabled.
  • Bio: Tilda Pendleton is the lab manager of the Madison Accelerator Laboratory at James Madison University. She completed her BS in physics at the University of Washington and her PhD at the University of Southern California, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awardee. Her previous work has primarily been in fast optical diagnostics and pulsed power with applications ranging from geophysics to combustion to plasma generation. She has worked on these topics at Los Alamost National Laboratory in New Mexico, Ecole Polytechnique in France, Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, The Ohio State University, and Old Dominion University before coming to JMU to manage the accelerator facility.


  • Speaker: Gabriel Niculescu (JMU Physics and Astronomy)
  • Title: It's time to move-it, move-it!: Using ML techniques to investigate the behavior of P. Coquereli and P. Verreauxi 
  • Abstract: The ubiquity of miniaturized, accurate, and affordable sensors helped bring forth demiurgic revolutions in all fields of human endeavors, allowing for groundbreaking, in-depth studies of unprecedented precision in medicine, as well as sports, defense, and, yes, even science. In turn, this veritable tsunami of data brought to the forefront challenges and eventually advancements in communication, Data Analytics, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. This presentation focuses on a long-term study, spearheaded by JMU biology and physics students and faculty, of several lemur species’ behaviors. Problems, challenges, as well as successes on this journey will be documented.
  • Bio: Dr. Gabriel Niculescu’s professional preparation spans a couple of decades, a few drastically different political regimes, and a couple of continents, with notable stops in Bucharest/Magurele Romania, Cambridge, Mass., and Hampton and Charlottesville, Virginia. A nuclear/particle physicist by trade Dr. Niculescu finds time for interdisciplinary, cross-field endeavors such as robotics, engineering, ML/AI, and even biology. 40+ years into his coding journey, Dr. Niculescu has honed his coding skills from assembler to ada and from FORTRAN77 to Python on devices as tiny as a 16kB machine or as large as a Cray or, these days, on massively parallel arrays spanning the globe. To paraphrase a former, and much missed JMU PandA faculty, Gabriel has not met a programming challenge he did not like.  


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