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Physics Highlights from 2017-18 Celebrated at Department Social

October 5, 2018

Highlights from the Physics Department’s accomplishments during the 2017-2018 academic year were celebrated at the fall Physics Department Social on October 5. Department Chair Ajay Gopinathan shared the following items:

New faculty: Daniel Beller joined the department from Brown University, and Kinjal Dasbiswas joined the department from the University of Chicago.

Promotions: Sayantani Ghosh and Lin Tian were promoted to the rank of Full Professor. Jing Xu was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor.

The UC Merced chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) won an Outstanding Chapter Award from the SPS National Office. 

UC Merced hosted the 2017 meeting of the American Physical Society's Far West Section.

Notable papers from UCM Physics Faculty:

• Nature communications paper on coupling between graphene-based mechanical resonators (Luo… Lin Tian, G.P Guo)

• Nature Physics paper on topological kinematics of origami metamaterials (Bin Liu,…,Itai Cohen)

• Science paper on measurement of helicity and its dynamics in vortex tubes (Scheeler…,Dustin Kleckner, Irvine)

• Science Advances paper on frustration-induced phases in migrating cell clusters (Katherine Copenhagen,…, Ajay Gopinathan)

(UCM corresponding authors in bold, UCM students underlined)

Notable Grants:

• $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to develop solar-thermal desalination technologies. Additional awards for energy research at UC Merced include $816k from California Energy Commission for cooling and heating and $1 million from ARPA-E for Solar PVC systems (Roland Winston).

• NSF-CMMI $390k grant on swimming agents in complex fluid flows (Kevin Mitchell); NSF-DMR $625k grant on self-mixing active fluids (Linda Hirst, Kevin Mitchell).

• DoD HBCU/MI Instrumentation/equipment program grant of $600k for a combined atomic force and con-focal microscopy system for low temperatures (4K-300K) and high magnetic fields (0-9T) (Michael Scheibner).

• Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration ($900k) and Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences ($1.58 million) (David Strubbe in collaboration with colleagues in theoretical chemistry).

Graduate Alumni placements

The department celebrates the achievements of its talented alumni, including several UC Merced Physics Ph.D. recipients who have begun new positions in science academia and industry over the past academic year:


Katie Copenhagen (Gopinathan Group): Princeton University
Nathan Melton (Hirst group): Lawrence Berkeley National Lab – Advanced Light Source
Sulimon Sattari (Mitchell group): Hokkaido University
Mekena Metcalf (Chien group): Sandia National Lab


Makiko Quint (Ghosh/Hirst group):  KLA-TenCor Instruments
Qiaochu Li (Xu group): Apple
Josh Casara (Scheibner group): LAM Research
Cyprian Czarnoki (Scheibner group): Decision Science

In addition, the following graduate alumni started new jobs after completing postdoctoral research:

David Ando (Gopinathan Group): Amazon Research (following postdoc at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab)
Andrea Rodarte (Ghosh/Hirst group): Staff Scientist at Sandia National Lab (following postdoc at UCSD)
Ron Pandolfi (Hirst group): Staff Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab – Advanced Light Source (following postdoc there)