News Archive

A virtual file cabinet of interesting news items from our front page. Not everything ends up here, but most of the items with long term interest do....

Summer 2017

Want to find out a little more about the 2017 North American Eclipse? Check our Eclipse Page....

The Summer 2017 Newsletter has just come out. Learn about the Science Center, Sigma Pi Sigma Congress, Biophysics research, and more. 

Students on the road: Juan Solario, Alexander Stafford, and Mark Samuel Abbott are working with Dr. Moss's collaborators at CERN this summer. Mary Ann Mort is working as a Society of Physics Students intern at the American Center for Physics in College Park Maryland. 

Our ATLAS research team was showcased on the University website this winter.

Summer 2016

We are pleased to welcome two new tenure-track faculty members: Mikkel Jensen and Michael Ray. Prof. Jensen is a experimental biophysicist with an interest in the dynamics of cells. He post-doc'ed at Harvard University and earned his PhD from Boston University. Prof. Ray is an experimental physicist who studies quantum behavior of solids and gases at extremely low temperatures. He did post-docs at Berkeley and Amherst College. He earned his PhD at the University of Massachusetts. 

We are pleased to announce the Prof. Josh Moss has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to remain a member of the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.  

Spring 2016

We're hosted the fall meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Northern California Nevada Section on Saturday November 14. We're warming up for the Annual Meeting of AAPT that's coming to Sac this summer!

Fall 2015

We are pleased to welcome two new tenure-track faculty members: Matt Block and Joshua Moss. Dr. Block is a condensed matter physicist with a background in computational techniques. He post-doc'ed at University of Kentucky and used supercomputers to model the magnetic properties of material. Dr. Moss is a high-energy experimental physicist who has worked at the ATLAS experiment at CERN and was part of the team that discovered the Higgs Boson.

Congratulations are also due to Profs. Jerome Buerki, Vera Margoniner, and Tatiana Sergan who received tenure and were promoted to Associate Professor. Congrats also to Prof. Chris Taylor for his promotion to Professor!

We are saddened to announce the passing of Emeritus Professor Hossein Partovi. Dr. Partovi was often recognized for this teaching and scholarly work. He served two years as Department Chair, but was a behind the scenes advocate for our Department and our students for many more years than this. He played an instrumental role in the area of development for the department and his work has left our program in a very strong position to support our faculty and students. 

We wish to offer our sincerest congratulations to Prof. Gary Shoemaker as he has completed his time in the FERP Program and fully enters retirement. As a nine-year Chair of the Department, he played a major role in the direction that our department is headed, overseeing the hiring of six of our tenured faculty members. Shoemaker will still be around campus as he continues to pursue research in the area of metamaterials. 

Spring 2014

Congratulations to Prof. William DeGraffenreid, winner of the 2013-14 NSM Outstanding Teaching Award and to Prof. Vera Margoniner, winner of the NSM Outstanding University Service Award.

Our Society of Physics Students chapter hosted the Zone 18 Meeting on the 20th of April. Our guest speakers were Natalie Batalha, co-investigator for the Kepler Mission and Henry Garcia from Pixar Animation Studios.

Fall 2013

Prof. William DeGraffenreid was been elected president of Sigma Pi Sigma, the Physics Honor Society for 2012 - 2014. 

We are pleased to announce that Profs. Vassili and Tatiana Sergan were awarded the 2011-2012 Outstanding Scholarly Activity Award for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Congratulations are also due to Prof. Christopher Taylor who won the 2011-2012 Natural Sciences and Mathematics Outstanding University Service Award. 

Prof. Vassili Sergan has been awarded the 2011-12 President's Award for Research and Creative Activity. This is one of the highest profile awards given to faculty members on campus.  He is to be congratulated!

Fall 2012

Congratulations to the class of 2012! All are bound for further studies: either graduate school or teacher credential programs. A  special shout out to Sage Bauers, who won the 2012 Dean's Award for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

On June 5th Professors Vera Margoniner and Chris Taylor set up several telescopes on the roof of Amador Hall to offer people the chance to view the transit of Venus across the sun. Transits of Venus are infrequent, they occur in pairs approximately 100 years apart. Since the last one occurred in 2004, this was likely the last chance to see one in our lifetimes.The skies over Sacramento cooperated and we had quite a crowd. For several hours, with Campus Police assistance, a line of people snaked through Amador Hall as approximately 1000 people patiently waited for their chance to see Venus slide across the Sun. Several news crews covered the event and even California State Treasurer Bill Lockyear came by for a look. We wish our future colleagues similar success in 2117.

Fall 2011

After two years at the helm of the department, Prof. Hossein Partovi has stepped down as Chair and entered the Faculty Early Retirement Program. Prof. William DeGraffenreid will try mightily to fill his shoes in this role.

Prof. Lynn Tashiro, has been appointed director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. For the past several years, she has been the director of the First Year's Experience Programs. The mission of the Center for Teaching and Learning is to provide activities and services that help individuals, departments and programs to identify and achieve their desired level of teaching excellence. Congratulations on this new opportunity!

Professors Vassili Sergan and William DeGraffenreid have been promoted to the rank of Professor. Congratulations to both!

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is pleased to announce the creation of a new Certificate Program, open to all Sac State Students. The Certificate in Scientific Computing and Simulation is designed for Science and Engineering students and will give students experience in computer-based skills needed in problem solving, modeling, and simulation. For more information, please see our program flier.

Summer 2011

We are both happy and saddened to announce a number of retirements in our department. Professors Sukhbir MahajanJim Phelps, and Peter Urone have ended their time in the Faculty Early Retirement Program and will be moving on to some well earned rest and relaxation. Also, our longtime technician, Varney Johnson has also retired. These four gentlemen have over 120 years of experience in our Department and they will be very sorely missed. Enjoy your retirement!

The campus is producing a series of videos about STEM programs and facilities at Sac State. The Physics and Astronomy segment that showcases our anechoic chamber was the first one done. Check it out here (requires Real Video player).

Summer 2010

Congratulations to Prof. Chris Taylor for winning the 2010 Outstanding Community Service Award for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Congrats are also due to Prof. William DeGraffenreid for winning the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Outstanding University Service Award.

April 2010

Award Winner Robert With MoskalevaThe Department of Physics and Astronomy is pleased to announce that the 2009 winner of the Feynman Award for Student Research has been awarded to Robert Barchfeld for his Senior Project titled "Photometric Redshifts with Artificial Neural Networks." This work was done under the supervision of Prof. Vera Margoniner. The Feynman Award was endowed by Professor Emeritus Gene Barnes to recognize outstanding student research projects.

Physics Major Sasha Moskaleva, also a member of the Sac State Honors Program was recently profiled in their newsletter. Sasha currently serves as the Vice President in the Sacramento State Chapter of the Society of Physics Students.

Congratulations to Physics Major Lisa Winters. Lisa will be the first to graduate from our new concentration in Physics Teaching. She's been accepted into the Sacramento State Teaching Credential Program.

September 2009

Congratulations to Professor Chris Taylor on receiving tenure and promotion to Associate Professor!

Congratulations to Prof. Gary Shoemaker who has stepped down after nine years as Department Chair and joins our illustrious group of faculty serving the Faculty Early Retirement Program. Prof. Hossein Partovi will serve as Department Chair.

Congratulations to Bret Polopolus, who has been elected to serve as the Associate Zone Councilor for the Society of Physics Students in 2009 - 2010. In this role, he will represent student members of SPS from California, Nevada, and Hawaii on the National Council. 

Three Sac State Physics Majors spent their summers working as summer interns: James Macdougall at CERN, Bret Polopolus at Kansas State, and Darren Steele at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

December 2008

The Department of Physics and Astronomy welcomes new Assistant Professors Tatiana SerganVera Margoniner, and Jérôme Bürki. Dr. Bürki comes to us from the University of Arizona and Drs. Sergan and Margoniner have most recently been serving as lecturers in our department. 

After many years of working in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rachel Lyman has retired. Her long-time dedication to the students and faculty of the department will be sorely missed. If you would like to send her a message, please email it to and we'll make sure she get's it.

July 2008

Congratulations to Prof. Peter Urone, who is the 2008 recipient of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Outstanding University Service Award. Prof. Urone joins the long list of departmental honorees. As the winner of this award, he will be giving the faculty address at the 2008 Natural Sciences and Mathematics Commencement. Congratulations!

Eight students and Dr. DeGraffenreid traveled to UC Santa Cruz on the weekend of May 3 to attend the annual Zone 18 Society of Physics Students Meeting. They had the chance to meet students from about eight other campuses in California and Nevada as well as participate in campus tours, student research talks, and keynote addresses.

May 2008

Big Glasses! The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), the most powerful optical telescope ever built, has recently been turned on. Located on Arizona's Mount Graham, near Tucson, the LBT has two 8.4 meter diameter mirrors and has ten times (10x) the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. For more information, see the LBT site.

It's never too late to finish your studies. We've had our fair share of "non-traditional" students. However, one of the coolest stories of "seeing it to the end" involves Brian May, the guitarist for the rock group Queen. Thirty seven years after dropping out of Imperial College to found the band, he's finished and defended his PhD thesis in Astrophysics. If you have any questions about his thesis, titled "Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud", I'm sure he'd love to answer them.

February 2008

Professor Michael Shea, who has a long and distinguished career at Sacramento State has retired, effective the end of the Fall 2007 Semester. Prof. Shea has served Sac State not only as a dedicated Professor, but also as Physics Department Chair and as the Associate Dean for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He will be missed, but we suspect that we'll see him often. Congratulations, Mike!

Congratulations to Winter 2007 Graduate Mark Kerfoot! Good Luck and visit us often!

December 2007

Sac State Physics Alumnus Henry Garcia (2005) is a member of the team that has constructed the world's first nanoradio. The research group of Alex Zettl at UC Berkeley has produced a radio out of a single carbon nanotube that is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. The nanoradio is a complete system, with the nanotube serving as the antenna, demodulator, and amplifier. You can also see the San Francisco Chronicle article on the project.

2007 Nobel Prize in Physics: Albert Fert (France) and Peter Grünberg (Germany) have won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics for their independent discovery of the phenomenon known as Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR). Very small changes in magnetic fields can yield major differences in the electrical resistance in certain materials. This effect has been used to miniaturize hard drive "read heads", thereby enabling the miniaturization of a whole host of electronic equipment - including your iPod. Read the press release here

September 2007

Congratulations to our Spring 2007 Graduates: Victoria Brandt, Laura Diaz, Joshua Kline, Zhuo Huang, Joshua French, and Kris Karas!

May 2007

On Thursday April 26, the Department of Physics and Astronomy held its 37th annual Awards Dinner and Sigma Pi Sigma Induction Ceremony. Congratulations to: Kris Karas (Sigma Pi Sigma Inductee), Vickie Brandt and Mark Kerfoot (Senior Awards Winners), and Phil Jackson and James Macdougall (Vanderberg Award Winners). Forty five students, faculty, staff, alumni, and emeriti were in attendance. See the photoalbum!

April 2007

The Sac State Chapter of the Society of Physics Students sent 5 students to this year's SPS Regional Meeting held on April 13 - 14 at USC. This year's meeting was held jointly with the Southern California Chapter of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Student Zhuo Huang presented a poster on his research at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Prof. William DeGraffenreid was an invited speaker for the meeting. His talk addressed teaching professionalism to undergraduate students.

March 2007

Congratulations to the Sac State Chapter of the Society of Physics Students. They just won their third Outstanding Chapter Award in the past four years.

December 2006

Congratulations to Chris Parmelee, who graduated in Fall 2006. Good luck and don't forget to stop by and see us!

November 2006

The Department is looking for a new Instructional Support Technician. This full time staff position provides instructional support and services for our physics and astronomy labs. Please see our employment page for more details. November 29: This position is now closed.

Professor Chris Taylor and Instructor Jason Ybarra were recently interviewed by the Sacramento Bee about the transit of Mercury on November 8. Transits are infrequent events where Mercury or Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth.

October 2006

2006 Nobel Prize in Physics: The 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to John Mather (NASA) and George Smoot (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab) for their work with the COBE satellite project. The COBE satellite measured the cosmic microwave background, the radiation from the deepest parts of the universe. Their measurements of the spatial fluctuations in the intensity of the signal could only be explained by the big-bang theory.

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Russia's Joint Institute of Nuclear Research have announced the creation of a new element, currently identified by its atomic number 118. Formed by smashing together Calcuim and Californium atoms, the new element lasted for approximately 1 millisecond. Element 118 had once been previously announced (in 1999), but was later retracted (in 2002) based on charges of mishandled and/or falsified data. The current results have been published in the journal Physical Review C.

August 2006:

The International Astronomical Union has adopted guidelines for what are to be classified as planets and dwarf planets. Sadly for friends of Pluto, it is now considered to be a dwarf planet.

An email circulating has been claiming that in August or September of 2006, that Mars will be at its closest approach to Earth in many years. In fact, Sept. 2006 found Mars passing behind the sun, thus being near its furthest distance from the sun. It will not look spectacular, it's actually hard to see at all. More information on the Mars Spectacular Hoax can be found here.

July 2006:

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is announcing a vacancy for a tenure-track position in physics with an emphasis in theoretical/computational physics. Details and application information can be found at our employment page. Review of applications will begin Oct. 1, 2006 and the position will start in Fall 2007. Oct. 3: This position has been canceled due to budgetary issues.

May 2006:

Congratulations to the Class of 2006: David Stafford, Ben Topham, Jon Villalva, and Curtis Castrapel. Good luck on what comes next and don't forget to visit us often!

October 2005:

Department hosts the 2005 Meeting of the California Section of the American Physical Society. Two hundred physicists from California and nearby states converged on Oct. 21 - 22 for a meeting filled with exciting research talks, plenary sessions, and fellowship.

August 2004:

Department hosted the 129th National Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). This weeklong meeting brought high school, college, and university physics teachers together to share ideas, strategies, and techniques. Highlights included sessions on the physics of music and the human body as well as the Demonstration Spectacular and BBQ hosted by our friends at Pasco. Over 1200 people participated in the meeting.