Physics & Engineering Student and Faculty News

Summer 2024

May 2024 commencement

Congratulations to all our physics and physics engineering majors who graduated in the May 2024 Commencement: Jason Arnett, Chris Barns, Matthew Braun, Logan Suchanec, Dylan Galloway, Josh Kotten, Abd-aljaleel Laraki, Hunter Ludeman, Ciaran McKay, Tanisha Rutledge, and Damniel Wassel.

Spring 2024

Award Ceremony 1
Award Ceremony 2
Award Ceremony 3
Award Ceremony 4
Award Ceremony 5

27th Annual Awards ceremony. Congratulations to all our award recipients, and thank you to all other students who attended to support their fellow majors. Soren Basol, Seth Copelman, Luke Currie, Chance Macariola, and Murphy Pyankov joined the ranks of Sigma Pi Sigma, the Physics Honor Society. Matthew Braun was honored with the prestigious Robert M. Brown scholarship. Luke Currie, Murphy Pyankov, and Connor Strine were recognized for their achievement in physics with the Dr. Michael F. Martens award. Nick Gray was presented with the Dr. Russell Rickert Award for his outstanding undergraduate research. Finally, the Faculty Recognition Award, given to a sophomore for outstanding achievement in physics, went to Max Hutchinson. Our guest speaker was Dr. Ivan Biaggio from Lehigh University, who gave a presentation on “Photons, Matter, and Excitions.” A huge thanks to everyone for contributing to a memorable ceremony!

Farrell Biophysics 2024

Physics major David Farrell presented a poster on "N-Methyl Mesoporphyrin IX forms a dimer in aqueous solution" at the 68th annual meeting of the American Biophysical Society.  David had also previously presented his research at  the American Physical Society Mid-Atlantic Section meeting. David has been working with Dr. Pfeil on this research.  

Milkshake Mechanics

Dr. Kevin Aptowicz hosted an episode about milkshake mechanics on the YouTube channel Chemists in the Kitchen. Chemists in the Kitchen is a production of LabX, the educational arm of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Aptowicz teaches a course (PHY 123) at West Chester University on the science of cooking.

PHY 310 AJP paper

A paper written by physics majors Nicolas Gray (pictured on right), Christopher Barns (pictured on left), Tanisha Rutledge, and Leigh Parrott was accepted for publication.  The article (the e/m experiment: student exploration into systematic uncertainty) will be published in the American Journal of Physics (AJP), a highly regarded educational journal.  The paper is an extension of their research projects from intermediate laboratory (PHY 310) and was guided by the PHY 310 instructor, Dr. Aptowicz.  

Aptowicz LLNL grant

Dr. Kevin Aptowicz received a subcontract from Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) titled: Light Scattering from Non-Spherical Particles: Consultation and Undergraduate Research.  The project is in collaboration with the high-pressure physics group at LLNL which studies a broad range of topics to understand materials’ response at high pressure and high temperature conditions. Students researchers will conduct research at West Chester University during the academic year and then travel to LLNL for summer internships.

Fall 2023

SPS Distinguished Chapter

Congratulations to our Society of Physics Students (including recent alumni) for receiving an  Outstanding Chapter Award!  Some of the criteria for the award include: the chapter's involvement in local and national SPS and other professional meetings, outreach efforts to grades K-12 or the general public, and participation in community service.  The physics curriculum is a demanding one, and we are proud of our students who still find the time for these noble endeavors.

Buckner defense

Haley Buckner (second from the right) earned a BS in physics from West Chester University in 2018. She just successfully defended her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research was on exploring novel routes to high performance mixed ionic/electronic conducting oxide thin films for efficient renewable energy production and storage. Congrats Haley!

Physics emeritus faculty member Dr. Nicastro published a paper entitled "Spin-leap performance by cetaceans is influenced by moment of inertia" in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The work was a collaboration with others, including Dr. Frank Fish from the Department of Biology as well as former WCU student Kaitlyn Cardenas. The paper presents a general model for aquatic animals generating aerial maneuvers and the mathematical/physical criteria for an animal to be able to generate an aerial spinning maneuver.

Fiorenza Tea Talk 2023

WCU Physics alumnus Dr. Shane Fiorenza visited the department to give a talk on his research, which involves studying motor proteins in the human body on longer-length scales than traditionally explored. Dr. Fiorenza obtained his B.S. in Physics from West Chester in 2016 before continuing on to a PhD program at the University of Colorado. He is now beginning a postdoctoral position at the University of Zagren in Croatia. On the right Shane is shown socializing with current physics majors in the SECC Physics forum after his talk.

Dr. Brandon Mitchell is the PI of a new grant "Development of Er-doped Semiconductor Nanophotonics to realize Optoelectronic Capabilities for Quantum Information Applications at Telecom Wavelengths." The award is for $798,000 and in the burgeoning, multidisciplinary field of Quantum Information Science and Engineering. Dr. Mitchell will be working with co-I Dr. Matthew Doty at the University of Delaware on this research, which will also help advance a new 3+2 dual degree program between WCU and UD.

2023 SPS Oct fundraiser

A Society of Physics Students (SPS) fall fundraiser was held at the West Chester branch of The Couch Tomato restaurant. SPS is a professional association designed specifically for students and helps them, outside of their coursework, develop into contributing members of the professional community. At WCU, SPS funds have gone toward student trips to conferences (e.g., the American Physical Society), purchasing accessories for the student forum, providing refreshments for student/speaker events, and other functions. Whether it was WCU students hanging out at the restaurant or faculty picking up dinner on their way home, the fundraiser was a good time for all and helped raise a few funds to provide for a more fulfilling college experience for our physics majors.

Summer 2023 research

A number of physics majors and high school students did some exciting research with department faculty or received NSF REUs to work with faculty at other institutions. The high school students were funded by the Community Project Funding grant led by Dr. Mitchell (see below).

David Farrell and Jelani Starks (high school student) worked with Dr. Pfeil performing spectroscopic studies on the dimerization of N-Methyl Mesoporphyrin IX, an important reporter on novel DNA conformations.

Jacob Dieterle did research with Dr. Kandalam on the electronic and magnetic properties of Eu-doped Gold nano clusters.

Logan Suchanec was awarded an REU at the University of Delaware, where his research involved characterizing photovoltaic cells for energy harvesting in microsystems.

Chance Macarioloa worked on the effects of depletion zones on the final stages of planet assembly in the Solar System with Dr. Sudol.

Logan Pennella worked with Dr. Thornton on measuring temperature variations on the Simons Observatory Large Aperture Telescope (LAT) and designing an rotator mechanism for assembling the LAT cameral optics.


Spring 2023

Dr. Kevin Aptowicz hosted an episode about chocolate on the YouTube channel: Chemists in the Kitchen. Watch video here ! Chemists in the Kitchen is produced by LabX, the educational arm of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Aptowicz teaches a course (PHY 123) at West Chester University on the science of cooking.

Dr. Aptowicz and colleagues published a paper entitled “Depletion-driven antiferromagnetic, paramagnetic, and ferromagnetic behavior in quasi-two-dimensional buckled colloidal solids” in the Journal of Chemical Physics. Paper selected as "Editor's Pick" by the journal.

Dr. Pfeil and collaborators published a paper entitled 'Homopurine guanine-rich sequences in complex with N-methyl mesoporphyrin IX form parallel G-quadruplex dimers and display a unique symmetry tetrad" in the journal Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry.

Dr. Aptowicz and colleagues published a paper entitled "Rheological and Optical Behavior of Suspensions of Shape-Changing Liquid Crystal Drops" in the Bulletin of the American Physical Society.

A new $716,000 grant will help WCU increase students of color pursuing STEM fields. U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) successfully secured this Community Project Funding (CPF) grant to support the new I Want to STEM! Initiative at WCU. Led by Dr. Brandon J. Mitchell and designed by the WCU Center for STEM Inclusion and Center for Nanomaterials, the I Want to STEM! initiative is a comprehensive outreach, research, and mentorship program that will guide students successfully from elementary school to a bachelor’s degree in STEM. The program will establish a chain of mentorship between grade 3-12 students, undergraduates, and faculty/industry partners and is designed to expand K-12 STEM engagement for students in grades 3-12 who are of color and low income.

Previous News

Fall 2022

Dr. Kevin Aptowicz and collaborators published a paper entitled "Classification of Aggregates Using Multispectral Two-Dimensional Angular Light Scattering Simulations" in the journal Molecules

Dr. Anthony Nicastro and his collaborators published a paper on Biomechanical energetics of terrestrial locomotion in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Read the article here.

Dr. Anthony Nicastro and his collaborators presented their work on Spin-leap performance by cetaceans is influenced by moment of inertia at the Biennial Meeting of the Society of Marine Mammalogy, Palm Beach, FL, August 1-5.

Spring 2022

Dr. Kevin Aptowicz and his collaborators recently published a paper titled Review of Elastic Light Scattering from Single Aerosol Particles and Application in Bioaerosol Detection in the Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer.

Fall 2021

Dr. Morrison and his research student, Michael Farhy, gave a poster presentation titled “Speed cubing and secret sharing: A Rubik’s cube analogy for topological quantum computing” at the APS Mid-Atlantic Section Meeting in December.

Dr. Anil Kandalam and his collaborators recently published three papers on aluminum and aluminum hydride nanoclusters:

    • Trapping of H2 in aluminum hydride, Al4H14 in the Journal of Chemical Physics (JCP) as a Communication. Read the article here.
    • Ligated Aluminum Cluster Anions, LAln- (n = 1-14, L = N[Si(Me)3]2) in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (PCCP). Read the article here.
    • A Combined Theoretical and Photoelectron Spectroscopy Study of Al3Hn- (n = 1 – 9) clusters, in Zeitschrift fur anorganische und allgemeine Chemie (Z. anorg. allg. Chem.). Read the article here.

Dr. Jesse Placone and his collaborators recently published two papers:

    • High shear stress enhances endothelial permeability in the presence of the risk haplotype in APL Bioengineering. Read the article here.
    • EGFRvIII uses intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms to reduce glioma adhesion and increase migration in Journal of Cell Science. Read the article here.


  • Dr. Brandon Mitchell was recently awarded ~$450,000 from the NSF (Award #2129183) for a project entitled, “RUI: Next Generation Rare Earth Based Light-Emitters for Solid-State Display & Quantum Information Technology Applications.” In this collaborative grant, Dr. Mitchell will lead a team of graduate and undergraduate students along with Dr. Lee Bassett (University of Pennsylvania) and Dr. Volkmar Dierolf (Lehigh University). Overall, this project will serve as the basis for a new generation of Rare Earth-doped semiconductor devices that harness quantum mechanical effects to achieve new functionalities such as the control of spins and the manipulation of light emission for quantum information processing and solid-state displays. More information on this project can be found here.


  • Dr. Robert Thornton and collaborators published an article entitled "The Simons Observatory Large Aperture Telescope Receiver (LATR)" in the Astrophysical Journal. The LATR camera is designed to observe small-scale (1 arcminute) variations in the Cosmic Microwave Background to put constraints on the conditions in the early Universe. It is scheduled to be deployed in 2022 to the Atacama Desert in Chile where it will be installed on the 6-meter Simons Observatory telescope at an altitude of 17,000 feet. At 11 cubic meters and 3 tons, the LATR is currently the world's largest astronomical sub-Kelvin camera.

Simons Observatory LATR

Summer 2021

Dr. Brandon Mitchell wins the 2021 Distinguished Research Award. The fund in this award will help support his research program at WCU.

Dr. Jeffrey Sudol and collaborator Dr. N. Haghighipour presented the results of a study On the prospect of detecting habitable trojan planets in the Kepler circumbinary planetary systems at the American Astronomical Society Division of Dynamical Astronomy meeting.

Spring 2021

  • Dr. Anthony Nicastro and collaborators recently submitted a paper Spin-leap Performance by Cetaceans is Influenced by Moment of Inertia that is to be presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society of Marine Mammalogy, Palm Beach, FL, December 13-17, SSM202180.

  • Dr. Jeffrey Sudol and his collaborator recently published a paper On the Detection of Habitable Trojan Planets in the Kepler Circumbinary Systems in the Astronomical Journal. Read the article here.

  • Dr. Brandon Mitchell and collaborators recently posted a professional research video for the APS March Meeting, which highlights the research done at WCU and by WCU physics faculty. Watch the video here.

  • Dr. Brandon Mitchell and a team of investigators, including Dr. Anil Kandalam from Physics & Engineering, were recently awarded an NSF S-STEM grant (Grant ##2028230) through the WCU Center of Nanomaterials. The title of the project is "S-STEM: Increasing the Persistence of STEM Majors through Nanoscience-Themed Activities that Support Academic, Professional, and Personal Engagement and Development." This ~$1 million award will provide scholarships, research stipends, and internship opportunities to 18 students who have demonstrated financial need as indicated by having Pell Grant Eligibility. The purpose of this project grant is to develop and implement a program to increase the recruitment and retention of STEM majors at WCU, with a focus on Nanoscience in Health and Technology. More details about the S-STEM and how to apply can be found on the program website.


Fall 2020

  • WCU Center for Nano Materials. The WCU Center for Nanomaterials (CNM) was created to be a catalyst for fostering research and teaching initiatives in the area of nanomaterials. It provides an avenue for faculty in various sciences such as Physics and Engineering to carry out multidisciplinary research projects and shape future research directions. Moreover, the CNM is a platform for faculty to seek external funding opportunities, especially those that increase the accessibility of state-of-the-art research equipment and innovative research opportunities for undergraduate students.

  Learn more about the WCU Center for Nanomaterials HERE.


Fall 2019

  • The Biomedical Engineering program receives $200,000 scholarship endowment. The Lei and Song Li Scholarship for Biomedical Engineering at WCU, from Dr. Li and his family, will support the development and help establish the WCU Biomedical Engineering program. Dr. Li is the founder and Chairman of Frontage Holdings, the parent company of Frontage Laboratories, a contract research organization specializing in R&D product development services with operations in both the U.S. and China. Frontage Labs is headquartered in Exton, PA.

 BME scholarship

  • Dr. Shawn Pfeil was awarded a Provost’s Research Grant for his proposal, “Looping and Pulling a DNA G-quadruplex.” Dr. Pfeil’s research focuses on the physics of biomolecules, and developing new tools to study them. In this project he will be investigating the response of a novel DNA structure, the Tell22 G-quadruplex, to tension forces. This work has the possibility to shed light on possible roles for G-quadruplexes in genomic instability and cancer.


  • Physics Major Sequoyah Walters wins Outstanding Student Award. This award recognizes one outstanding senior student from the College of Sciences and Mathematics who has shown exceptional intellectual or creative achievement and who has demonstrated involvement in extracurricular and service activities. Sequoyah presented his research at the The Seventeenth Conference on Electromagnetic & Light Scattering.


  • Dr. Thornton received a subaward to work on the Simons Observatory. West Chester is part of a collaboration of over 45 institutions that have been granted over $100 million by the Simons Foundation to build a series of telescopes that will be located at 17,000 ft. (5180 meters) in the Atacama Desert. The observatory will make unprecedented measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

SO logo

  • Prof. Brandon Mitchell, Prof. Anil Kandalam, and Prof. Shawn Pfeil were recently awarded a WCU-COURSE grant, which will fund the revitalization of a research-based senior level course offering, PHY 450 (Advanced Physics Lab I). As part of this project, the PIs will develop a series of advanced undergraduate laboratory modules that utilize modern experimental and computational research techniques. The modules will focus on the physical and chemical properties of technologically significant materials such as silicon and gallium nitride, as well as nanomaterials and biological systems such as novel DNA structures. The unifying theme of the modules will be the use of a real-world interdisciplinary approach to study the properties of materials, and they will tie into the methodologies and practices used by the PIs in their own research.


  • Eric Lechner, who graduated from WCU with a B.S. in Physics in 2013, recently obtained his Ph.D. at Temple University. The title of his dissertation is, "Electron Tunneling Studies of Materials for Superconducting Radio Frequency Applications."

  • Dr. Kevin Aptowicz was recognized by the American Chemical Society for his superior contributions to the grant review program of the ACS Petroleum Research Fund.

  • Dr. Brandon Mitchell's research has been selected to be recognized at West Chester University's third annual Spotlight on Research Event. This event serves to "celebrate with local community leaders the outstanding contributions of several of our faculty, who […] are contributing nationally and internally to advancing scholarship and research in their fields of study."

  • Dr. Kevin Aptowicz and collaborators recently published a paper Correlations between short- and long-time relaxation in colloidal supercooled liquids and glasses in Physical Review E as a Rapid Communication. Read the article here. 

  • Dr. Shawn Pfeil and collaborators recently published a paper Nanoaperture fabrication via colloidal lithography for single molecule fluorescence analysis in PLOS One. Read the article here.


Summer 2019

  • Dr. Brandon Mitchell recently gave a talk at The International Conference on Defects in Semiconductors in Seattle, WA.

  • Dr. Brandon Mitchell's recent research has been written about in several news outlets, including Gizmodo and Display Daily. Congrats!

  • Dr. Brandon Mitchell and collaborators recently published a paper Color-Tunablility in GaN LEDs Based on Atomic Emission Manipulation under Current Injection in ACS Photonics. Read the article here.

  • Dr. Brandon Mitchell recently gave a talk at Compound Semiconductor Week in Nara, Japan. He is spending three weeks conducing research at Osaka University, where he is a Visiting Scholar.

Spring 2019

Dr. Kevin Aptowicz and his collaborators (including WCU undergraduates) recently published two papers:

    • "Characterizing the size and absorption of single nonspherical aerosol particles from angularly-resolved elastic light scattering", by S. Walters, J. Zallie, G. Seymour, Y.L. Pan, G. Videen, and K.B. Aptowicz in the Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy & Radiative Transfer (S. Walters, J. Zallie, G. Seymour are WCU undergraduate researchers)
    • "Correlations Between Short-and Long-time Relaxation in Colloidal Supercooled Liquids and Glasses." APS March Meeting Abstracts. Vol. 2019. 2019.

Dr. Brandon Mitchell and collaborators recently published a paper Picosecond time-resolved dynamics of energy transfer between GaN and the various excited states of Eu3+ ions in Physical Review B. Read the article here.

Dr. Anthony Nicastro was a co-author of a study presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL. Dr. Frank Fish (Biology) gave their presentation, titled “Spin-leap performance by cetaceans is influenced by moment of inertia”.

Dr. Anthony Nicastro (Physics), Dr. Frank Fish (Biology), and collaborators recently published a paper: Terrestrial locomotion of the northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris): limitation of large aquatically adapted seals on land? in Journal of Experimental Biology.