Woman Physicist of the Month – 2014
Giuliana Di Martino, Imperial College London
Dr. Giuliana Di Martino holds a PhD in Physics at Imperial College London and, as a researcher, the key word of her life is “challenge”. During her career she developed a deep passion for being on the cutting edge of advanced technology. Her PhD work on quantum information was in the newly emerging field of quantum plasmonics – an interdisciplinary field, combining quantum optics science with nanoplasmonic engineering. As a visiting researcher at the Boston University, she worked on the fabrication of advanced and more efficient semiconductor solar cells, enhanced by aperiodic plasmonic nanostructures.
Dr. Di Martino is an explorer, fueled by passion. Her talent for science has been recognized by a number of awards, from Mathematics and Physics Olympic games, in her early career, to the 2014 ABTA Doctoral Researcher award. She puts enormous energy and determination into her work; she always pushes herself to the limit of her capabilities and beyond them. This is demonstrated by her success in so many different fields, from her active career as a teacher at Imperial College to winning her first scholarship at the age of 19. Dr. Di Martino authored a number of scientific articles published among the highest impact journals and her outstanding results have been presented in the most important international conferences.
Jena Meinecke, University of Oxford
Jena Meinecke is an inspiring graduate student in the Physics Department at the University of Oxford. Her scientific achievements, including a recent Nature Physics publication, are impressive. Meinecke’s doctoral work is based on using high power lasers to simulate, in the laboratory, powerful events such as high Mach number shocks, relevant to those sweeping the interstellar medium after a supernova explosion. Meinecke was able to demonstrate, in laboratory experiments, the mechanism of magnetic field amplification in a turbulent medium, a result that was directly applied to explain the large magnetic fields seen in the interior of the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant. In this case, it confirmed the idea that the forward shock wave is expanding at an atypical circumstellar medium with a cloud back surrounding the progenitor star. Meinecke’s results have far reaching implications, as they will help to piece together a better understanding of magneto-genesis processes in the early Universe. Because of her work, she has received a prestigious invitation for a talk at the European Physical Society.
Meinecke has quite a personal story to tell: from a community college in Los Angeles, to a four year internship at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for her undergraduate research, and then as a DPhil candidate in Oxford, one of the oldest universities in the world. Meinecke is not only an excellent scientist, but she is strongly committed to promoting women in science and encouraging underrepresented youth to pursue higher education through physics outreach activities. In the Physics Department, she is the Founder and President of the Oxford Women in Physics Society, an association to promote career development of women in physics while providing a welcoming support network. Her society has received an impressive attendance from many female scientists in the department. She is now coordinating the first UK Intercollegiate Conference for Women in Physics.
Susan Blessing, Florida State University
Susan Blessing, a Professor of Physics at Florida State University (FSU), has done almost everything an educator can do to encourage undergraduate women to pursue science and engineering careers.
Blessing is the Director of Florida State University’s Women in Math, Science and Engineering (WIMSE) Program, which is a living-learning community for science and engineering majors. She is also the Director of the Physics Department’s Undergraduate Program. Dr. Blessing was the 2013 Chair of the American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and served as the organizer for one of the APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics sites, which was held at FSU in January, 2014. In addition to all this, she has created an innovative course for physics majors to ease the often wrenching transition from introductory to upper division courses.
Dr. Blessing encourages her WIMSE students to join FSU research groups early in their time here. She also encourages the students to venture out into the bigger world during the summers, joining undergraduate research programs around the globe. One WIMSE physics major spent the summer of 2012 at CERN and was in the CERN seminar room when the Higgs announcement and history were made.
Ibtesam Saeed Badhrees, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology
Ibtesam Saeed Badhrees is a leading research scientist in experimental particle physics and a Distinguished Fellow of New Westminster College. She is the first Saudi woman with a PhD to work in the National Center for Mathematics and Physics at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
Throughout her career, Badhrees has received many awards and gained much recognition including the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission Academic Excellence Award in 1996, 1997, and 2007. Her role with CERN as the first and only Saudi woman to join the organization as a user researcher in 2006 is also notable, as well as her service as a CERN courier in 2006. In this role, she published in several magazines and journals and participated in several interviews nationally and internationally.
Badhrees has, on many occasions, provided services to the physics community through the organization of workshops and presentation of talks in different countries to trigger the enthusiasm and passion of the younger generation of scientists in science and especially in the field of high energy physics.
Kathryne Sparks Woodle, Penn State University
Kathryne Sparks Woodle is a senior graduate student at Penn State University. Her research interests are experimental particle astrophysics, particularly cosmic ray and gamma ray astronomy. Woodle works on the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) very high energy gamma ray observatory being built at Sierra Negra near Puebla, Mexico. In her role with HAWC, she has been asked to contribute in many areas, from site surveying to software development and data analysis. Faculty and scientists from several institutions around the collaboration have remarked on the variety and importance of her contributions.
Woodle is also interested in Women in STEM issues and STEM education research. She has demonstrated leadership in a large number of areas related to science outreach and educational initiatives within Penn State including the Penn State Graduate Women in Science group and the summer Upward Bound Math/Science mentorship program in her particle astrophysics research group. On the national stage, Woodle served as the Local Organizing Committee Chair of the recent APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) at Penn State, which hosted nearly 150 attendees. She is a recipient of the Downsbrough Fellowship (2011) and Duncan Fellowship (2011-2013), both from Penn State.
Veronica Barone, Central Michigan University
Challenging, inspiring, and leading … Since her first day in the Physics Department at Central Michigan University, Dr. Veronica Barone has challenged her colleagues to improve their teaching and research, inspired students to excel, and led the department in exciting new directions. She plays a vital role in the intellectual and educational life of our community of physicists.
Dr. Barone was instrumental in designing the curricular and governance structure of CMU’s interdisciplinary Science of Advanced Materials Ph.D. program, emphasizing student success, especially for those who are underrepresented in physics. She was a role model for the first two female students enrolled in the program, guiding the dissertation work of one of these students, which culminated in a university-wide outstanding dissertation award. She is an innovative teacher. Committed to developing critical thinking skills in her students, she introduced novel active learning activities in the introductory physics course and is currently leading an effort to revise an inquiry-based physical science course for elementary education students. Finally, Professor Barone is a gifted materials physicist whose primary research focuses on the physical and chemical properties of graphene. Her density functional theory-based computational studies of graphene are widely known and highly cited. She is particularly interested in the potential of graphene-based electrodes to improve the storage capacity of batteries. She has also made important contributions to our understanding of the optical properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes, to the theory of NMR chemical shifts, and to the development of improved density functionals. Dr. Barone actively involves undergraduate students in her research.
Agnes Mocsy, Pratt Institute
Dr. Mocsy is an accomplished theoretical physicist working on a broad range of topics within the field of finite temperature QCD. She is a recognized expert on Quarkonium production in Heavy Ion collisions as a probe of the properties of the Quark Gluon Plamsa. She has also made original and ground-breaking contributions to other topic in her field including the phases of nuclear matter, correlations and flow, and the production of exotic atoms. She has authored review articles and several highly cited papers within her field.
Dr. Mocsy is also a leader of the community and an excellent mentor and teacher. She has lectured extensively throughout the world and is known as an excellent communicator. She is a passionate advocate for the sciences and has lobbied Congress for increased funding for Nuclear Physics. Dr. Mocsy has also organized several workshops and conferences including the Hot Quarks Conference, a meeting for younger members of the community.
In addition to her research, Dr. Mocsy works in creative and original ways to bridge the gap between science and the broader community. She has given public lectures, and since joining the faculty of Pratt Institute, she has worked to develop projects that allow students from non-science backgrounds to work with scientists for their mutual benefit. She aims to pass her enthusiasm about the fascinating discoveries in science on to her students and to provide the public the tool of scientific skepticism as a method for seeking truth in all areas of life. She has developed a variety of projects that bring together artists and scientists in order to develop a richer vision of nature. These projects include an animated video and web-site entitled “the Sound of the Little Bang.” The project was featured as an APS meeting highlight and went on to get picked up by dozens of international news sites. The video was viewed more than 35 thousand times.
Shohini Ghose, Wilfrid Laurier University
Shohini Ghose is a very accomplished theoretical physicist with a truly international reputation. She publishes in the top journals in her field and recently co-authored the first Canadian introductory astronomy textbook, which is now being adopted by several universities in Canada.
Dr. Ghose’s research is in the area of quantum information science. She explores how the laws of quantum mechanics may be harnessed to develop next-generation quantum computers and novel protocols like teleportation. Canada is a leader in this exciting new field and Dr. Ghose is playing an active role in building Canadian research expertise and reputation, and training the next generation of highly skilled workers for the high-tech sector.
One of Dr. Ghose’s other significant contributions is her vigorous promotion of careers in science to women. She is the founder (2012) of the Centre for Women in Science at Wilfrid Laurier University, vice-chair of the Canadian Association of Physicists’ Committee to Encourage Women in Physics and chair of the local organizing committee for the 5th International Union of Pure and Applied Physics International Conference on Women in Physics. Dr. Ghose is willing to speak to any audience on her research, science in general, and her life as a scientist, and she will be reaching a vastly larger audience this year as a TED Fellow–one of only 20 selected for 2014 out of more than 1,000 candidates worldwide.
Lisa Whitehead, University of Houston
Lisa Whitehead is in her third year at the University of Houston after serving a postdoctoral appointment at Brookhaven National Laboratory. She is an experimentalist in neutrino physics and is a member of both MINOS and DAYA BAY. Dr. Whitehead is a very active member of the collaborations with responsibilities as a Co-Convenor for Cosmogenic Isotopes for DAYA BAY as well as being a Co-Convenor of the νe appearance analysis group for MINOS. She has organized and hosted major collaboration meetings and shouldered other service activities such as being on the Fermilab User’s Executive Committee.
Dr. Whitehead has been active in advancing the situation for women STEM faculty at the University of Houston, and has a Department of Energy Career Award. Whitehead is highly thought of by her students and has been a popular person on the seminar and colloquium circuit. She is also seen as one of the budding young leaders in experimental neutrino physics.
Karen Daniels, North Carolina State University
In eight years at North Carolina State University Dr. Karen Daniels has built an exciting, diverse research program in nonlinear physics. She has proven herself to be a creative, engaging, and dedicated teacher in both the classroom and the lab. She has been a mentor and advocate for graduate students, undergraduates and middle school students.
Her research covers a broad spectrum of applications, from the propagation of cracks in Jello to the transmission of forces in seismic faults. The topic provides exciting opportunities for students to design, build, and execute table-top physics experiments with real-world applications. Her lab encompasses a wide set of hands-on and computer techniques and a diverse group of students, including 23 undergraduates in the last eight years. Most of her publications since coming to NC State have a student as first-author. A paper with graduate student Eli Owens was named one of the “Best of 2011” articles published in EPL. She has developed collaborations around the world, leading to a von Humboldt Fellowship in 2011 to study in Germany. In the past year she has given invited talks at, among others, the Lorentz Center in The Netherlands, Harvard University and École Normale Supérieure.
In addition to teaching core undergraduate and graduate physics courses (with excellent reviews), Daniels created and taught an Honors seminar, designed a new graduate course in statistical mechanics, and taught a Scale-Up engineering physics class. On campus and off, she is a vocal supporter of women in science. A former precollege science teacher, Daniels has organized and presented at Expanding Your Horizons Conferences for middle school girls. She has served on the NCSU task force on Women Faculty, she co-organized the first two annual meetings of the Southeastern Conference of Undergraduate Women in Physics, she has been the keynote speaker for the annual NCSU Women in Science and Engineering banquet, and she has initiated a women-in-physics lunch in the department each semester.
Gabriela Gonzalez, Louisiana State University
Gabriela Gonzalez, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University, is currently serving her second term as the Spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. In this position, she oversees the work of over 900 scientists from 86 institutions and 17 countries, representing the Collaboration professionally to the scientific community and to the public. In the years before being elected as LSC Spokesperson, Gonzalez led the LIGO working group on detector characterization (instrumentation) and the working group on seeking gravitational waves from compact binary coalescences (data analysis), and held countless scientific and administrative positions in the LSC. What isn’t always as visible is the time and attention she invests in the people around her. Once you have come into her sphere of influence, she’ll always have time for you and care for you as a whole person — both as a physicist and a unique individual.
Through her demonstrated excellence in experimental instrumentation, data analysis, student advising, and education and public outreach, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration has grown and is scientifically thriving. The list of Dr. Gonzalez’s accomplishments would not be complete without a mention of her efforts to promote higher participation of women and underrepresented groups in the field. Under her leadership, the Collaboration has endorsed a statement to recognize the importance of diversity and pledge to work to increase the numbers of women and under-represented minorities in the Collaboration, appointed an LSC Ombudsperson office to serve the needs of the Collaboration, and created a working group charged to propose an action plan for improving diversity and further promote cultural and gender inclusiveness in the Collaboration.
Gonzalez is a fellow of the APS, the International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation, and the Institute of Physics. She has been awarded the APS Edward A. Bouchet Award (2007) and Woman in Physics Lecturer by the Australian Institute of Physics (2001).