Department News

REU Program Looks To Bring Students

OSU Graduate College, 29-Apr-2019


Oklahoma State University Physics REU Class of 2018The Oklahoma State University Physics Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) Program is in the business of making new Cowboys.

If you need proof, just look at Calvin Ainsworth and Jacob Crosby – two of seven students who came to Stillwater last year to be apart of the program – who will be starting class at OSU in the fall.

You can also talk to Lucas Blake – who attended the program last summer as well.

"[REU] is a great opportunity. It's a great résumé builder. It's a great way to make a great cohort, make new friends, and learn a lot about that university," Blake said.

The ten-week National Science Foundation program spans over the summer and brings undergraduate students from across the nation to Stillwater. The program includes a $5,000 stipend, attendance at a national professional meeting and the participants' travel, housing and meals covered.

"The program is necessary because it gives students who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to do research to be involved in research," Dr. Mario Borunda, one of the co-directors of the program, said.

"It applies to universities that don't have research facilties and it also helps us recruit some of those students. We want some of those students to come back to OSU as grad students," he said.

Which is exactly what Blake is considering now.

"From last summer, I decided I'm really interested in going [into] photonics as a career. So I'm actually considering OSU for graduate school," Blake said.

Which is quite different from where he was before the program.

"I had actually never heard of photonics before I came to OSU this summer," he said. "I had originally talked to the physics REU and I ended up in photonics. I didn't know the subset of optics that was photonics beforehand."

Blake was definitely given an introduction though.

Each student in the program goes through eight-hour workdays in the lab working in fields such as condensed matter physics, atomic and molecular optics and photonics, and high energy physics.

Participants also get to attend multiple workshops including how to apply to grad school, what is required for taking the GRE and finding the best way to present data.

"I didn't have a thorough background in optimal electronics or anything photonics related," Blake said. "I used a lot of stuff I learned in quantum mechanics and other undergraduate level physics courses and I could see the transition between that and the graduate level courses involving photonics. And the stuff I learned there I got to work from scratch."

Oklahoma State University Physics REU 2018 Research Poster SessionThis is one experience Borunda believes all REU participants should have in their time in the program.

"[They] get a research project from start to finish. So, they can see if they enjoy research or not," Borunda said.

"In grad school, you go to classes, but your main accomplishment is to do some original research," he said.

Borunda also realizes that for students who do fall in love with the research in the program that there's also a chance for the student to fall in love with the place they are researching at.

To help participants get acquintanted with each other and their surroundings, the weekends are saved for fellowshiping and interacting in a more social environment. Particpants as well as faculty and graduate student mentors enjoyed a picnic the opening weekend, intramural softball as well as visiting the zoo and National Cowboy Heritage Musuem throughout the ten weeks.

At the close of the program there is Research Symposium where high school science teachers as well as physics faculty judge the participants' work on how well they can explain the research they've been working on to a science teacher.

Blake, Crosby, and Ainsworth were given the People's Choice, Best Poster, and Overall Presentation awards respectively at the symposium.

"I feel like an all-around better student after leaving [the program,]" Blake said.

"Working with the graduate level content and stuff like that, it's the hardest things I've probably worked with. But after thinking at such a high level all summer, it made everything else seem easier."

For more information on the Summer 2019 program, visit


Physics Awards Banquet 2019



Congratulations to this year's award recipients, scholarship recipients, and graduates!


Kylie Hagerdon, Outstanding Senior
Limu Ke, Outstanding Graduate T.A.
Sreekul Rajagopal, Outstanding T.A.

Anil Thapa, Outstanding Graduate T.A.

Daniel Stevans Scholarships - Aaron Austin, Mary Catlett, Sofia Gomez, Jacob Maisch, James Mantooth, Wyatt McCoy

Earl Lafon Scholarship - Zackary Alegria

Elton Kohnke Scholarship - Dylan Chapman

Friends of the Observatory Scholarship - Dylan Chapman, Tristan Dornon, Kyle Henry

Physics Graduates (B.S.) - Emmanuel Stephen Burke, Justin Elrod, Addy Evans, Kylie Hagerdon, Mason Keesling, David Motes, Mingzheng (Martin) Yang

Physics Graduates (M.S.) - David Gary

Physics Gradautes (Ph.D.) - Solmaz Bastani, Tim Gustafson, Sudip Jana, Limu Ke, Maryam Mashayekhi, Paul Smith, Tao Tang

Faculty Spotlight -- The Language Of The Universe

Kevin Sharp, College of Arts & Sciences, 17-Apr-2019


Dr. Joe HaleyDuring his freshman year of high school in the state of Washington, Joseph Haley took a class in physics. Despite many warnings from friends and mentors about its difficulty, he took the challenge.

"You have to have a really solid math background to get into physics, but that was a moment in my life when it just clicked," Haley explained. "I took that physics class and just took to it like a duck to water. I'm extremely lucky in the sense that I knew that's what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."

After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Washington, Haley expanded his horizons with a Princeton graduate program and a post-doctoral study at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Haley said, "It's incredibly empowering to look at something and think, 'How does that work?' and then be able to break it down to its most basic components and glean knowledge from the journey."

During his post-doctoral studies, Haley worked at both the famous Fermilab near Chicago and later the distinguished CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.

"What I learned from traveling was that people are basically the same wherever you go," Haley said. "Eventually I went to Europe, and learned that we're all just humans. We're all after the same things in the end."

Haley has not only worked at CERN, which is the most famous physics lab in the world right now. He has also seen his work appear on the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

"One of the analyses I was working at Fermilab showed up on Sheldon's whiteboard. It's kind of nerdy, but it was pretty cool. That's when you know you've made it," he joked.

It was while he was in Switzerland that Haley received a job offer from Oklahoma State University's Department of Physics, where he has enjoyed working for the past six years, being awarded the Junior Faculty Award for Scholarly Excellence in 2018.

Dr. Joe Haley"I was looking for a faculty position, and I was lucky enough to land a job here," Haley said. "It was very exciting to get a post where half of the job is research and the other half is teaching, and I love to do both. I really love interacting with the students, and the research side is incredibly intellectually challenging as well."

But Haley is quick to point out that physics can be a tricky subject.

"Classical physicists may be doing the work and working the machines in the labs, and there are groups that are in theoretical physics, who don't do experiments per se, but conceptualize and figure out problems, either in writing or computer-generated simulations," he said.

And then there is Haley's own experimental high-energy physics, which is a unique combination of the two.

"The labs can't be built in your basement or in classrooms, so you go to the labs," said Haley. "I still do my research at CERN. In fact, I was just Skyping with a student who is over there now. And we have some of our senior grad students and post-doc researchers there full-time."

That is one of the great strengths of OSU's program, in Haley's opinion.

"Being at OSU, the campus, the weather, sports, community and atmosphere is nice, but the beneficial things for students is getting undergraduates involved in research," he said. "You can learn the book and understand the concepts, but if you want to get a job in physics, practical experience is the key."

Haley regularly urges his students to focus on understanding why they got the right answer, rather than how.

"From a few fundamental concepts, we can basically figure out the building blocks of the universe, as physics just builds upon itself," he said. "Math is the language of the universe. That's how the world works, and its inner workings can be broken down and expressed in math. You have to have a passion for math and finding out how everything works. If you spend your early years just memorizing equations, then you're going to get burned out fairly quickly."

What is the most valuable piece of advice he can give to incoming students?

"Do what you love," Haley answered simply. "If you're not passionate about what you're doing, and you're just doing it for a paycheck, you won't be fulfilled. Figure out what you're passionate about and then follow it."


Faculty Position Openings

Updated 17-Dec-2018


The Department of Physics at Oklahoma State University invites applications for the following faculty positions:



Physics Department 2018 Newsletter

The Physics Department 2018 Newsletter in available PDF format.


Department News Feed ...


Employment Opportunities



APS Physics Jobs Center

AIP Physics Career Center