UR Physics Student Is Finalist for Rhodes Scholarship

UR senior Haonan Liu has achieved the outstanding honor of being one of 16 finalists for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship from China.  Liu, a physics and math major, has had a stellar career at UR since arriving in 2012, some highlights of which include:

  • He carried out research with physics professor Ted Bunn which resulted in a first author publication in the Astrophysical Journal, the leading scientific journal in the field
  • He presented research results to the American Astronomical Society
  • He spent his junior year studying abroad at Oxford University in England
  • He is one of two recipients in 2016 of the David Evans award which recognizes outstanding scholarship at UR

To add to these highlights, Liu was selected as one of the 16 finalists for the inaugural year of the Rhodes scholarship being available to Chinese citizens.  The Rhodes scholarship is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious academic honors in the world and attracts more than 12,000 applicants.  In his Rhodes application proposal, Liu described his plan to return to Oxford to study quantum information and quantum teleportation.

Liu will be beginning his PhD in physics at the University of Colorado in the fall.  That institution is ideally suited to his research interest in quantum information, being affiliated with both the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the JILA laboratory.

AAS 227
Haonan Liu (left) along with Prof. Ted Bunn and fellow UR students Joseph George and Evan Jones at the American Astronomical society where they presented their research.

Summer Research Students visit Jefferson Lab

A group of five Richmond physics students went on a tour of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab or JLab) in Newport News, VA in July. The tour was led by one of the Richmond Physics faculty, Jerry Gilfoyle, whose research is focused on the program in Hall B at JLab. Three of the Richmond students (Keegan Sherman, Liam Murray, and Spencer Bialt) are doing nuclear physics this summer with Dr. Gilfoyle. Jocelyn Xue and Rob Lee also went along. They are doing cosmology research this summer with Ted Bunn.

JLab is built around a mile-long electron accelerator (CEBAF) that can accelerate electrons up to energies of 6 GeV. The beam is then directed into one of four end stations. The group started in Hall B which holds one of the large particle detectors called CLAS. CLAS is a large, spherical, magnetic spectrometer about 10 m in diameter. It surrounds the target so nearly all of the debris from a collision with the electron beam is detected. The goal of the science at JLab is to uncover the secrets of the strong force that binds quarks together to form protons, neutrons, and, in turn, atomic nuclei. That force is described by a theory, quantum chromodynamics (QCD), that has been highly successful at higher energies and should work at JLab energies, but until now the theory has not been solved. With JLab we hope to challenge theory with new data on nucleon and nuclear structure.

The group started in Hall B. The first picture below shows them standing on the forward carriage that holds some of the CLAS components. The main part of the CLAS can be seen to the right.

Liam, Keegan, Rob, Jocelyn, and Spencer on the forward carriage in Hall B.

The second picture below shows the group now at the point where the beam enters the detector. Normally a vacuum pipe carrying the beam would go through the middle of the picture and enter the round opening behind them. In a real experiment, that opening would be filled by a target.

The group stands near the point where the electron beam enters CLAS and strikes the target.

The last shot below shows them later in the accelerator tunnel. The JLab electron beam is accelerated by superconducting cavities that have a rapidly changing electric field and form a racetrack shape about a mile around. Individual electrons injected into the machine can make up to five laps before being extracted and sent into one of the end stations. The shot below shows one of the large cryomodules at lower left that hold the cavities. A string of  cryomodules form a long chain that extends down the tunnel behind the group.

The group in the accelerator tunnel. One of the cryomodules that contain the accelerating cavities operating at less than 3 K can be seen at lower left.

Chris Musalo presents his research in nuclear physics at national meeting.

Chris Musalo, a senior physics major, recently traveled to East Lansing, Michigan for the 2011 meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics. He was part of the Conference Experience for Undergraduates and presented his poster entitled ‘Simulation of the CLAS12 Dual Hydrogen‐Deuterium Target’ on October 27. His poster is here. Part of his travel costs were paid by the American Physical Society.

Grad School Plans

A horde of recent physics grads are headed to graduate school in physics and related fields. Calina Copos and Brent Follin (class of 2010) are headed to doctoral programs on the left coast and the University of California at Davis. Calina will be doing computational physics and Brent will study cosmology. Jeff Zheng will stay on the right coast and also study cosmology. He will be at MIT. Mark Moog has been admitted to the physics program at the University of North Carolina and will be working on nuclear physics at TUNL, a nearby accelerator facility. Finally, Bernard Wittmaack will be staying a bit closer to Richmond. He will be pursuing his PhD in materials science and engineering at the University of Virginia.

Class of 2009

Current senior physics majors:


Sara Atwater

East Aurora, NY

Research: Polymer Physics (since 2nd year)


Whitney Brooks

Chesapeake, VA

Research: Cosmology (since 2nd year)


Berta Darakchieva

Plovdiv, Bulagaria

Research: Nuclear Physics (since 1st year)


Mila Evtimova

Sofia, Bulgaria

Research: Nuclear Physics (since 1st year)


Brent Follin

Jefferson, MD

Research: Cosmology (since 1st year)


Brian Mahoney

East Aurora, NY

Research: synthetic chemistry (since 1st year)


Ben Rybolt

Hixson, TN

Research: Cosmology (since 2nd year)


Class of 2010

Current juniors


Alex Cooke

Newfane, VT

Research: Biological Physics (since  pre-3rd year)



Calina Copos

Voorhees, NJ

Research: Nuclear Physics (since pre-1st year)



Austin Bourdon

Lexington, VA

Research: Cosmology (since pre-2nd year)


Garrett Graham

Brevard, NC

Research: Biological Physics (since 3rd year)



Colin Lincoln

Hingham, MA



Nat Mason

Jacksonville, FL

Research: Biological Physics (since 1st year)


Cosmin Pancratov

Galiti, Romania

Research: Polymer Physics (since 1st year)

(actually a C.S. major, but we still like him)




Class of 2011

(This is our best guess about the sophomore class.  Some of these pictured haven’t declared yet; others not here may still declare later.)


Cain Bonniwell

Belle Haven, VA



Adam Hake

York, PA

Research: Biological Physics (since pre-2nd year)


Matt Jordan

Columbus, MS

Research: Nuclear Physics (since pre-2nd year)


Mark Moog

Downingtown, PA

Research: Nuclear Physics (since pre-2nd year)


Nicol Traynor

Basking Ridge, NJ



Jordan Wolfinger

Cary, NC



Haoxuan “Jeff” Zheng

Nanjing, China

Research: Cosmology (since 1st year)