News Archive - 2009


Dr Robert Leamon

Bob received his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in 1999, and then joined Dick Canfield at MSU as a post-doctoral scholar, investigating the nature of solar coronal mass ejections and the solar wind. Dr. Leamon then took a position as Principal Support Scientist, performing basic science, mission operations for the SOHO satellite, and future mission planning at NASA/GSFC. Since 2006, Bob has worked with ADNET Systems, Inc., continuing investigations of solar wind models using results from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Now, he has been invited to work under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) agreement at NASA headquarters, supporting various aspects of solar physics through the Living with a Star program. Dr. Leamon is currently PI on one grant, and co-I on a second. The initial IPA will run for two years, beginning in 2010, with a possibility for renewal. During this time he will advise a minimum of one graduate student at MSU, working in collaboration with Dr. Dick Canfield, Research Professor at MSU. While on the IPA agreement, Bob will be working at NASA GSFC, and residing in Greenbelt, MD. 

Welcome, Bob!

Dick Smith (12/07/09)

Dr. Piet Martens has returned to the Physics Department at MSU, effective December 1, 2009, after working for two years at the Center for Astrophysics in Boston. Dr. Martens received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics (Cum Laude) in 1983 from the University of Utrecht. He joined the Research Faculty at MSU in 1999 as an Associate Research Professor after working as a Research Associate at NASA-GSFC (3 years), a Research Scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (4 years), a Research Scientist at Lockheed Solar and Astrophysics Lab (3 years), and as SOHO Science Operations coordinator with the European Space Agency (5 years). At MSU-Bozeman he was promoted to Research Professor in 2004. In 2008, Piet rejoined the astrophysics staff at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics, and remained as an Affiliate Professor with the Physics Department at MSU. While at MSU Piet worked with graduate and undergraduate students, mentored post doctoral scholars, and voluntarily taught graduate level classes. He assisted in running the solar REU program, and consequently developed a similar REU program at CfA. Piet has considerable experience in theoretical modeling, data analysis, mission operations, and space instrumentation. His research interests include long-term solar activity in the context of the Sun-Earth connection, solar and stellar X-ray and EUV emission, MHD of solar flares, particle acceleration, coronal loop models, filaments and their eruptions, solar and stellar wind, solar and stellar dynamos, and nonlinear processes. Piet is currently advising two graduate students at MSU, and is PI on several grants. Be sure to give Piet, Kathleen, and their five children a warm welcome during these cold days. And, if you don't see Piet in the hallways, look for him at Bridger Bowl.  

Welcome back Piet!

Dick Smith (12/07/09)

Sherry Heis

Welcome to Sherry Heis our new Fiscal and Operations Manager as of December 1, 2009. Some of you may not realize that Sherry has been temporarily in this position while the department carried out a campus wide search to find a replacement for Jeannie Gunderson, who retired from the position on June 1, 2009. Sherry brings a different perspective to this position with her background in math and statistics. Her association with Montana State University is extensive. She received the Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at MSU in 1992, completed several graduate level statistics courses and taught Stat 216 for several semesters. Sherry worked for 10 years in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, as Computer Specialist and Program Assistant, eventually becoming the program administrator for the web-based math placement exam for all MSU students. In 2007 Sherry joined the Physics Department as Travel Coordinator, and now assumes the position of Fiscal and Operations Manager. Sherry is also a Volunteer at the Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, where she "plays with the cats". It is rumored that her extensive skills in training cats to learn a routine (target!) may also be effective on faculty members who lose receipts. Watch your step! 

We are excited to have Sherry on board - Welcome, Sherry!

Dick Smith (12/01/09)



NASA has awarded a three year, half million dollar grant to Associate Professor Neil Cornish to develop analysis techniques for the future Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA). The LISA mission will open up a new field of astronomy by observing low frequency gravitational waves from the collision of massive black holes and other violent astrophysical events. Cornish has been a member of the LISA science team since 2005, and his group is at the forefront of research in the field of gravitational wave astronomy. Congratulations, Neil!
Dick Smith (10/23/09)


Communicating science to the public: Greg Gabrielsen, a graduate student from Chicago, Silvina Guidoni, a graduate student from Argentina, and Jayson Nissen, a junior from Havre, were among the 20 students accepted into "Communicating Science to the Public," an eight-week seminar series sponsored by the Montana Space Grant Consortium and MSU Extended University. Over the eight-week span of the project, students will learn about various strategies for communicating science, including: public presentations, new technologies, writing, working with the media, etc. The students will also be creating digital multimedia exhibits about their research, which will remain permanently available to the public in BTC Studio 1080. We look forward to the public presentations which the students will give later this semester. For more information see: Http://

Dick Smith (10/19/09)


SSEL's two MISSE-6 active experiments have begun their journey home after approximately 18-months in space on the "back porch" of the Columbus module on International Space Station. In a few short weeks we will finally begin to realize an outcome of this investigation that started 5-years ago.



Measurements of the stochastic gravitational wave background offer the possibility of probing alternative models of early Universe cosmology. Professor Neil Cornish and members of the LIGO and VIRGO collaborations discuss the possibilities in a recent Nature article.


Members of the Space Science and Engineering Lab (SSEL) recently traveled to the Black Rock Desert, north of Reno, NV, to test magnetometer components for the SpaceBuoy satellite project currently underway at MSU under AFOSR and MSGC support.


Dick Smith (08/24/09)


The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph(IRIS)
Congratulations to Charles Kankelborg, Dave Klumpar, and the entire SSEL team at MSU for their parts in attracting NASA support for the IRIS project. Understanding the interface between photosphere and corona remains a fundamental challenge in solar and heliospheric science. IRIS fills a large gap in our knowledge of the solar atmosphere by tracing the flow of energy and plasma through the chromosphere and transition region into the corona using spectrometry and imaging in three ultraviolet windows. The unprecedented combination of high angular resolution, short temporal cadence, good spectral resolution, and high-speed data transmission will provide information critical to understanding the lower boundary of the heliosphere as well as fundamental astro- and plasma-physical processes. IRIS is a NASA small explorer mission ($105M) that completed a phase A concept study in December 2008 and was recently selected by NASA to continue into the hardware phase. The IRIS Program is led by Lockheed Martin with Alan Title as PI. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) will provide the telescope and participate in science and education/public outreach (EPO). Montana State University (MSU) will participate in the uv spectrometer design, will specify, procure, and test the spectrometer optics, will participate in the integration and test of the spectrometer at Lockheed Martin in Palo Alto, will participate in the science and EPO. MSU will also provide the Gegenschein Imager (GI) instrument, as a student collaboration if funding is available.

Read MSU News Service story here...
Dick Smith (07/24/09)


News from the 40th meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the AAS in Boulder, CO:
MSU students attended in force. Several of them (Andres Munoz, Anna Malanushenko, and Lewis Fox, as well as former student Trae Winter) presented plenary talks to wide-spread acclaim. There was a judging of 27 student posters from all over the world resulting in:

  • Honorable mention for Maria Kazachenko, and 1st prize (best student poster) award to Silvina Guidoni. 

Congratulations to all.

Dana Longcope (06/19/09)


Angela Des Jardins, formerly the Deputy Director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, has been appointed as MSGC's Interim Director, following the passing of Bill Hiscock, Professor of Physics and former Director of MSGC. Glenda Winslow will continue to assist with MSGC management as Program Coordinator. A formal search to appoint a permanent director for MSGC will take place later this year. The MSGC staff were excited to receive the news that MSGC was the only Space Grant Consortium (of 52) to be ranked in the top tier in each of the three evaluation categories as a result of the recent Space Grant 20 year review. Angela and Glenda will use this feedback in carrying out the MSGC programs that have been so successful in the past. Please join me in congratulating Angela in her new role.

Dick Smith (06/4/09)


Congratulations and welcome back to MSU-Bozeman to newly named Professor Emeritus of Physics: Dr. Gerald F. Wheeler. Dr. Wheeler retired in September, 2008, from the National Science Teachers Association after serving as Executive Director for 13 years, and returned to Bozeman. Gerry joined the faculty at Montana State University as Assoc. Prof. of Physics in 1981, and continued as Prof. of Physics from 1988 until 1995 when he became Executive Director at NSTA. During his years at MSU-Bozeman Dr. Wheeler also served as Director of the Science/Math Resource Center and continued his role as consultant for Children's TV Workshop, and a variety of national advisory committees for improving science education and science outreach to the public.


Congratulations to the following winners of fellowships and scholarships from NASA EPSCoR and the Montana Space Grant Consortium for the 2009-10 academic year:-
Steven Price - Graduate Research Fellowship from NASA EPSCoR.
Joseph Plowman - Graduate Fellowship from Montana Space Grant Consortium.
Timothy Brox - Undergraduate Physics Scholarship from Montana Space Grant Consortium.
These honors reflect the students' past achievements as well as present and future commitment to the aerospace sciences and engineering. They join an elite group of approximately 1900 Space Grant Scholars and Fellows nationwide.

Dick Smith (05/21/09)


Please join me in congratulating David McKenzie on his promotion to the rank of Associate Research Professor, effective July 1, 2009.
In his promotion reviews, David is noted for the cutting-edge nature and international caliber of his research, as well as a significant publication record and outstanding grant activity. Thank you, David, for your contributions in carrying forward the solar "torch" for the department.
Dick Smith (05/19/09)

Congratulations to all of our graduating students

  • Ph.D (5). Jack Dostal (Jeff Adams, adv); Tyson Littenberg (Neil Cornish, adv), Trae Winter (Piet Martens, adv), Sytil Murphy (John Carlsten, adv), Ijaz Zafarullah (Randy Babbitt, adv)
  • M.S. (10)  Nick Childs, Eric Curtis, Muhammedin Deliorman, Greg Gabrielson, Adam Kobelski, Michael Lerch, Jacob Plovanic, Lucas Tarr, Scott Wagemann (Randy Babbitt, adv), Jeremy Wolf (Jeff Adams, adv)
  • B.S. (19)  Aaron Browning, Patrick Burr, Eric Gustafson, Daniel Herber, Kasey Lund, Justin Moore, Megan Stoebe, Ian Vrable

       Graduating with Honors (3.25 GPA or higher) Eric Barth, Orion Bellorado, Ryan Callahan, David Coll-Segarra, Nathan Haydon, Conrad Martin
       Graduating with Highest Honors (3.75 GPA or higher) Set Chart, Pat Kujawa, Nathan Martin, Bryan Ostdiek, Geoffrey Wicks

2009 AJM Johnson Outstanding Senior Awards:
  • Pat Kujawa
  • Bryan Ostdiek

Dick Smith (05/08/09)


Bill Hiscock

We announce with great sadness the news that Bill Hiscock passed away in the hospital on Tuesday evening. Bill had been ill for some time, and it was this illness that forced him to step down as Department Head last summer. Bill was an outstanding faculty member in this department, serving as Head of the Department from 2003 to 2008, and at the same time as Director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, and the NASA EPSCoR program. Before his illness, Bill was known for his animated lectures on cosmology, including his own special course for entering freshman Physics majors, "From Quarks to the Cosmos". Bill also led a very active research group investigating topics in the quantum theory of gravity, space-based gravitational wave detection, relativistic fluid dynamics, and the application of elementary particle physics to relativistic astrophysics and cosmology. Bill was a member of NASA's Mission Definition Team for LISA, a space based laser interferometer gravitational wave detector. Bill continued to be active as the MSGC Director during the past year, working from home, submitting proposals, and providing advice for the new Head of the Department. As a member of the MSGC, Bill had the rather unique opportunity to serve as a member of the Obama Transition Team this past winter. We all have benefited from Bill's strong leadership in promoting teaching and research in the department, and his thoughtful perspective on matters important to the future of our department. Contributions to the family in Bill's name will go towards scholarships to students working on NASA-related research. 

For details see
Please also refer to the MSU News Service webpage for more information.
Link to David McKenzie's slide show memorial to Bill

Dick Smith (04/23/09)

Dr. David McKenzie

Congratulations to David McKenzie for being selected as the 2009 winner of the College of Letters and Science Award for Meritorious Research and Creativity. This award acknowledges David's work in solar coronal and flare physics, and his work as chief observer of the X-Ray telescopes of both the Yohkoh and Hinode spacecrafts. David is acknowledged by his colleagues as having a keen grasp of where the field is going, and what the important problems are. He is recognized not only as a researcher with numerous publications and over $3 M in grant funding, but also as a mentor of students at all levels of education, from high school to postdoctoral assistants. His work with students and public outreach is exceptional, and highlights the important contribution Research Faculty are making to the missions of CLS and MSU. 

Congratulations, David!

Dick Smith (04/13/09)

Margaret Jarrett

Congratulations to Margaret Jarrett for being selected as the winner of the Kathy Griffith Employee Excellence Award in the College of Letters and Science for 2009. This recently named award recognizes employees who embody the professionalism, excellence, and dedication of Kathy Griffith, who worked for many years in the Dean's office in CLS. Current and former members of the department have commented on Margaret's ability to help undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty, move smoothly through the degree process in the department. She has been described by members of the department as the "glue" that holds the department together, "absolutely crucial", "heroic", "a true professional", "keeper of the office candy bowl", and "official reader" at the morning staff meetings. 

Thank you, Margaret!

Dick Smith (04/09/09)

William "Bo" Glaspey

Welcome to William "Bo" Glaspey, our new Electronics Shop Manager. Bo brings to the department broad experience in repair and maintenance of general purpose instrumentation, especially involving high vacuum and particle spectroscopy. This experience is based in part on Bo's past appointments as a student assistant in the electronics shop, a teaching assistant for our electronics classes, and a Lab Technician/Manager in ICAL. Bo has experience mentoring students and will serve as a valuable resource to students using the electronics shop for research projects. He also has considerable experience as a supervisor that will serve him well in this position. 

Welcome, Bo!

Dick Smith (03/12/09)


Congratulations to Dana Longcope on being awarded a sabbatical leave for Spring semester, 2010. He will split his time next Spring, working first with the research group of Prof. James Drake, at the University of Maryland, and then moving to the group of Prof. Eric Priest, at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Dana will be developing collaborative projects that will add new technology to an existing research model of magnetic reconnection in the solar corona. Congratulations, Dana. We hope you enjoy the "far" east.

Dick Smith (03/12/09)


Congratulations to Nathan Martin for his 2009 Alumni Association/Chamber of commerce Award for Excellence. The Award for Excellence signifies exceptional achievement - both academically and in community leadership - over a student's entire MSU career. The selection for this award recognizes Nathan as one of MSU's most outstanding seniors. Congratulations, Nathan!



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