Annual Report 2019-2020


The Chair's Message from "Reflections," the 2019-2020 Physics & Astronomy Annual Report:

WE BRING TO YOU OUR “REFLECTIONS” on the last academic year, which has been like none other. Our courses suddenly went remote in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am happy to share with you how well the faculty and students responded. Many felt lectures with a tablet plus stylus, backed up with live chat windows, went at least as well as ever. Our at-home laboratories proved that physics works everywhere, not just in Knudsen Hall and the Physics & Astronomy Building. And our astronomy students, scattered around the world, still had the sky and planet to work with. We devote our feature article this year to how this went.

The new stay-at-home learning was hard on everyone, especially those sharing their space with young children or siblings. I sympathize. And I am proud of how everyone made and continues to make their best of it. While the club meetings, graduations, study sessions, seminars, and special events have persisted by videoconference, we miss each others’ company in person and look forward to better days.

I especially thank at this time the generosity and foresight of our supporters. Your donations meant we had funds in-hand to solve many problems by purchasing needed equipment on a moment’s notice.Individual undergraduate and graduate student challenges were also solved in a number of creative ways, since we had the financial means under our own control. That flexibility was vital.

We are over the moon with the breaking news of Prof. Andrea Ghez’s 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics. Because this came in during the following academic year, just as we went to press, we have included a brief review for now. We are planning a full celebration in next year’s Reflections magazine.

As we enter the third year of this departmental administration, I want to thank the Vice Chairs for all they have done in the past years and during this special time: Prof. Wes Campbell for Resources oversaw the careful research ramp-up safely, following health department protocols. Prof. Jay Hauser for Academic Affairs solved new challenges with remote teaching and learning. And Prof. Alice Shapley took care of all the myriad needs of Astronomy & Astrophysics, including helping new astronomy faculty launch their careers successfully under these difficult circumstances.

I also thank our staff who worked through this unexpected difficulty and kept the department humming. We welcomed new members and bid farewell to many dear friends who contributed for decades.

This magazine cannot cover everything. I invite you to visit our webpages at to learn more about what our 150+ graduate students, 100+ undergraduates per year, 40+ researchers, project scientists, and adjunct faculty, 50+ postdoctoral scholars, and 50+ staff have been doing to continue making this department excellent and unique.

Chair, Department of Physics & Astronomy

Read the entire issue of "Reflections"