2015 Women Physicist of the Month

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Previously Recognized Women of the Month
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January 2015 Woman of the Month: Marjorie Corcoran, Rice University 

CorcoranMarjorie Corcoran, a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University, is a leader in the particle physics community and a great role model for women in physics.

Professor Corcoran has made important contributions to the KTeV and D0 experiments at Fermilab and is currently playing a leading role in detector construction for the new muon-to-electron-conversion experiment (Mu2e), which seeks to understand how heavy leptons decay. Her research focuses on CP violation, tests of fundamental symmetries, and searches for physics beyond the standard model. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and has held many leadership positions, such as being a member of the American Physical Society Executive Board, the Department of Energy’s High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, the Fermilab Board of Overseers, and the Fermilab Users Executive Committee. She has also been the American Physical Society Counsellor and Convener of the D0 Luminosity Group and B Physics Group.

Corcoran devotes significant time to outreach and promotion of physics, such as serving on the executive committee for the Texas Section of the American Physical Society, which was very involved in the recent battle to save many Physics Departments at public universities in Texas from closure. She also co-founded the Houston Quarknet Program, which has introduced thousands of secondary school students and dozens of teachers to the excitement of fundamental physics research. At Rice, Prof. Corcoran has served as the first speaker of the faculty senate and chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department. She is a wonderful mentor to undergraduate students, and has played a particularly important role encouraging women to pursue STEM careers. She fostered the development of a Women in Physics Group and secured financial support for students attending the APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics.


February 2015 Woman of the Month: Dawn Williams, University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa

williamsDawn Williams received her PhD from UCLA in 2004 and started with the University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa in 2008. Williams, now an Associate Professor, was the first tenure-track female professor in physics for the institution, which now boasts three female faculty. The Williams group is developing techniques to identify tau neutrinos detected with the IceCube experiment, the largest neutrino detector on Earth. Dr. Williams is a true leader within the collaboration, taking on many responsibilities and convening several working groups.

Dr. Williams is a brilliant and dedicated scientist who also makes time to serve as a top-notch supervisor and mentor for students and postdocs. Williams has been noted to volunteer time and efforts to postdocs transitioning to academic positions, even those not at her institution or within her IceCube working groups. In addition to her work and mentorship, Williams helped establish a Women Physical Society community which meets monthly and showcases talks from established women in science.


March 2015 Woman of the Month: Qudsia Quraishi, Army Research Laboratory

QQDr. Qudsia Quraishi is an accomplished atomic physicist working in the field of quantum science and quantum engineering. Her work focuses on investigating quantum systems capable of generating, storing and processing entangled quantum information in a quantum network. The aim is to develop modular and compact quantum devices, including detectors, quantum interfaces and quantum memories for integration into a quantum network.

Dr. Quraishi received her PhD from the Univ of Colorado working in the Quantum Physics Division at JILA and the Time and Frequency Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Boulder, CO. As a graduate student she was nominated and served for two years as the Lead Graduate Teacher for the physics department where she coordinated graduate teaching assistants and wrote extensive teaching manuals for the four introductory physics courses. She was selected for an Intelligence Community (IC) Postdoctoral Fellowship where she worked on trapped ions for quantum information and chosen as a National Research Council (NRC) Post-doctoral Fellow to work on neutral atoms for quantum-enhanced sensing.

Dr. Quraishi leads a team of engineering and physics students and postdocs both at the University of Maryland and Army Research Laboratory. She is active within the research community and has strong collaborations with university partners in the US and internationally. She is the Guest Editor of the 2015 Special Issue on Trapped Ion Quantum Information Processing for journal, Quantum Information Processing. She serves on technical committees, including the 2014 and 2015 subcommittee on Quantum Science, Engineering and Technology for the Conference on Lasers and Electro-optics (CLEO) and she is also a member of the 2015 program committee for the first meeting on Quantum Repeaters and Networks. She has diversified the lab's research portfolio and is the technical lead for multimillion dollar programs. She is dedicated to broadening the reach of STEM disciplines and activity encourages students, particularly under-represented minorities and women, to pursue careers in science and engineering.


April 2015 Woman of the Month: Sheila McBreen, University College Dublin

McBreenDr. Sheila McBreen is a lecturer at University College Dublin’s (UCD) School of Physics. She has published extensively in her research area of high energy astrophysics, in particular on gamma-ray bursts and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. She is a member of the NASA Fermi/GBM team.

In her 6 years at UCD, which is Ireland’s largest university, McBreen has made a significant impact on the departmental and institutional culture. She is dedicated to providing access to research opportunities for undergraduates and has championed the department’s research internship program.

In 2013 Dr. McBreen became founding chair of the UCD Women in the Sciences committee. She set up a seminar series to bring speakers with international experience and best-practice stories around gender equality in academia to a local audience, including decision-makers. For example, the first unconscious bias workshop in UCD was organised by McBreen. She networked nationally with other universities and with Governmental agencies to propose that Irish higher education institutions participate in the UK-based ‘Athena SWAN’ program which awards academic institutions and departments for cultural and systemic changes to address gender inequality, particularly in STEM and medicine.


May 2015 Woman of the Month: S. Burçin Bayram, Miami University

BayramExtraordinary energy and enthusiasm for science, creativity in the lab and at the white board, and firm dedication to the success of her students…Dr. Burçin Bayram is an Associate Professor of Physics at Miami University in Ohio, where she is a respected in-classroom educator and researcher specializing in experimental atomic, molecular and optical physics. She has built an excellent and well-supported and state-of-the-art laboratory for precision study of excited state atomic and molecular hyperfine structure, and for collisional relaxation of polarized and optically excited atoms at a predominantly undergraduate institution. However, her laboratory is far more than a specialized location for studying details of atomic and optical physics; it has been and is most importantly a physics learning home for her many current and former students, where they have discovered, with Professor Bayram’s guidance, both the joys and challenges of experimental physics research.

Since 2002, when she joined the Physics Department at Miami University, Bayram has guided a large number of undergraduate and graduate students through, in many cases, their first experiences in rigorous experimental physics. From freshman level students, who are just entering the university, to terminal Masters Level students, she has directed tremendous determination towards her students’ success in their scientific careers.

Dr. Bayram is also passionately involved in teaching-related service to physics and science at large by disseminating new pedagogical tools. As an example, she has served as an Invited Immersion Workshop Leader sponsored by ALPhA/NSF. Within the Miami University community she promoted the visibility of her Physics Department students through appearance on an NPR Radio program, through several featured cover papers in American Journal of Physics; one of these papers, written with her students, was featured on a video for the membership website of the American Association of Physics. Bayram has also been involved with many outreach activities; each year she welcomes more than one hundred elementary and high school students into her research lab, mentors high school students through the Ohio Academy of Science, and serves as a judge at local and state-wide scientific activities.


June 2015 Woman of the Month: Chiara La Tessa, Brookhaven National Laboratory

LaTessaDr. Chiara La Tessa’s career in physics started in 2003 when she graduated from the University "Federico II"of Naples, Italy. The passion for research brought La Tessa around the world: graduate school at Chalmers University (Goteborg, Sweden), a postdoc at the University "Tor Vergata" of Rome (Italy), a second postdoc at GSI (Darmstadt, Germany), which evolved into a tenure track, and a visiting position at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) that was initially programmed for one year and instead turned into a full position.

La Tessa’s scientific effort addressed the role of radiation in space radioprotection and cancer therapy, focusing on the characterization of nuclear processes of interest in those fields. She tackled the problem from different angles, acquiring competences in both experimental and theoretical approaches. La Tessa participated in ground and space-based experiments, gained expertized in detectors and electronics, data acquisition and data analysis as well as model development and Monte Carlo simulations. Working on relatively small projects, she was able to actively follow every phase from the experimental design to the data interpretation.


July Woman of the Month: Kathy Prestridge, Los Alamos National Laboratory

KPrestridgeAs Team Leader of the Extreme Fluids Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Kathy Prestridge studies the behavior of materials under high strain conditions, shock-driven instabilities, mixing and turbulence at high resolution. Prestridge is the Principal Investigator for the horizontal shock tube, vertical shock tube, and turbulent mixing tunnel experiments. Her and her team’s research has been highlighted on the cover of Journal of Fluid mechanics.  Prestridge has harnessed her passion for helping women succeed in Physics by leading the Professional Skills Development Workshop sessions at various APS meetings, as well as serving her second term as Chairman of the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics. She serves as a role model for all her colleagues.

Kathy Prestridge received her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 1998 in Applied Mechanics and Engineering Sciences. She has a B.S. from Princeton University in Aerospace Engineering.


August 2015 Woman of the Month: Connie Wells, Pembroke Hill School

Connie WellsConnie Wells has a M.S. Degree in Physics from The University of Kansas and has been an AP Physics teacher since 1991 at Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri. She has been active in test scoring and development for The College Board, serving on the AP Physics Test Development Committee from 1997-2001. From 1995 to 2006, she served in various roles as Reader, Table Leader and Question Leader for the A.P. Physics Reading. In November 2003, Connie was a Regional Winner of the 2003-04 Siemens Award for Advanced Placement Teaching sponsored by The College Board and The Siemens Foundation.

As a workshop leader and College Board institute consultant, she has presented teacher training institutes throughout the United States and abroad, including Hawaii, Saipan (Northern Marianas Islands), Barranquilla (Colombia), Bangkok, Skopje (Macedonia), Shanghai, and Tokyo. She is an author of several physics review guides and College Board focus booklets. Connie served as the Chair of the Committee on Teacher Preparation for the American Association of Physics Teachers and is outgoing Co-Chair of the AP Physics 2 Test Development Committee, having served as a member of the AP Physics Redesign Commission and as Co-Chair of the Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee for AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2.


September 2015 Woman of the Month: Karin Dahmen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

DahmenKarin A. Dahmen, professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is a world-leading theorist who studies noise and slip avalanches in disordered media far from equilibrium. Her work touches condensed matter physics, materials science, geophysics, and even neuroscience, and she is heavily involved in three research centers at the University of Illinois—the Institute for Condensed Matter Theory, the Center for the Physics of Living Cells, and the Institute for Genomic Biology.

Dahmen’s infectious enthusiasm for physics has made her a fine lecturer, but her commitment to teaching goes far beyond the classroom. She has one of the largest undergraduate research groups in our department, regularly mentoring four to six undergraduates at a time, involving them in independent, hands-on projects, and providing them with precious personal attention that prepares them well for future success. Three of the undergraduate women that she originally mentored have gone on to obtain doctoral degrees in physics, chemistry, and theoretical astrophysics.

Another measure of Dahmen’s commitment to teaching is her indefatigable work in organizing workshops and conferences to train young scientists and nucleate new research collaborations, such as the three-month research program on “Avalanches, intermittency, and nonlinear response in far-from-equilibrium solids” at the Kavli Institute last fall. Dahmen has been an administrative leader as well, both for the University of Illinois and for physics. She has served on the Graduate College’s postdoctoral affairs advisory committee and its fellowship board. She was elected a member of the governing boards of both the American Physical Society’s Division of Condensed Matter Physics (2007–2010) and its Topical Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics (2010-2013).  She is an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow and Fellow of the APS.


October 2015 Woman of the Month: Jessica Kirkpatrick, Hired.com

KirkpatrickJessica Kirkpatrick earned her undergraduate physics degree from Occidental College and her graduate physics degree from the University of California, Berkeley. As an undergraduate she performed research analyzing data from a particle detector, and as a graduate student, she collaborated on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey— another project that gathered what was then an unprecedented amount of astronomical data.  Kirkpatrick took her skills in large dataset analysis and became a data scientist in industry—one of the hottest jobs of the 21st century.

As a data scientist, Kirkpatrick uses information collected from millions of Internet users to look for trends and suggest ways to improve algorithms and how websites function. Her work has transformed how companies design their websites and services. Kirkpatrick is a member of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and is the Blogger-in-Chief for the committee’s very active Women in Astronomy blog.


November 2015 Woman of the Month: Angela Laird, Florida International University

LairdDr. Angela Laird is an Associate Professor of Physics at Florida International University and the director of FIU’s Neuroinformatics and Brain Connectivity Laboratory. Her work focuses on mining and exploring big data in neuroimaging to better understand human brain function. Her work includes the development of brain mapping data analysis algorithms, neuroscience informatics tools and hierarchies of concepts in neuroimaging that may lead to more effective ways to analyze the functional brain networks of healthy individuals and those with psychiatric and neurologic diseases or disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Laird was recently identified on the Thompson Reuters’ list of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2014.” Angela Laird ranks among the top 1 percent most cited for the field of neuroscience and behavior between 2002 and 2012. Laird has published nearly 100 neuroimaging studies investigating brain function in patients with various mental health disorders, such as depression, autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Her research is funded by multiple awards from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Laird’s passion is educating the next generation of scientists, both in the classroom and in one-on-one student research mentoring. In her research group students are exposed to an interdisciplinary perspective during their training since this is an important component of being a successful academic scientist.


December 2015 Woman of the Month: Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American

MoskowitzClara Moskowitz is a science writer with Scientific American. Moskowitz earned her undergraduate degree in physics from Wesleyan University, and while there, she used Wesleyan’s telescope to collect and analyze data.  It was during this time that she realized her passion for science writing. Moskowitz now translates complex findings in physics and astronomy into interesting stories that non-scientists can read and understand, and she is increasingly spending more time editing others’ work, creating podcasts, and helping design and assemble magazine issues.

Moskowitz’s first full-time job was with the online publication Space.com, where she covered NASA’s space shuttle missions. Among her many features, she has interviewed working astronauts like Katie Coleman as well as superstars like Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon.