Physics News

Physics Newsletter

Archived Physics Department Newsletters are no longer available online.  For past issues, please contact the Physics Department directly at .

Department of Physics Newsletter, Volume 11 2018

Department of Physics Newsletter, Volume 10 2016-2017


City College Physics in the News


Winner of APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research Selected

"Physicist Myriam P. Sarachik has been selected to receive the 2020 APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research for her "fundamental contributions to the physics of electronic transport in solids and molecular magnetism.”  An APS Fellow, Sarachik is Distinguished Professor of Physics at City College of New York. She was President of APS in 2003 and received the APS Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize in 2005."  More...


Robert Alfano team identifies new “Majorana Photons”

Hailed as a pioneer by Photonics Media for his previous discoveries of supercontinuum and Cr tunable lasers, City College of New York Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering Robert R. Alfano and his research team are claiming another breakthrough with a new super class of photons dubbed “Majorana photons.” They could lead to enhanced information on quantum-level transition and imaging of the brain and its working.  More...


CCNY physicists use mathematics to trace neuro transitions

The City College of New York’s Benjamin Levich Institute for Physico-Chemical Hydrodynamics has conducted a study that is unique in its application of a mathematical model to understand how the brain transitions from consciousness to unconscious behavior.

City College PhD student Francesca Arese Lucini and a team of physicists analyzed functional MRI imaging of different subjects in order to obtain the corresponding brain activation. From the brain activation they obtained functional networks for the conscious state and compared this network to the subliminal state for each fMRI stream.  Ms. Arese Lucini explains, "...This study will probably interest those entrepreneurs or researchers that will focus on artificial intelligence and human computer interaction devices.”  Ms. Arese Lucini's mentor is Professor Hernan Makse.


Robert Alfano Honored as Laser Pioneer

Photonics Media has named Distinguished Professor Robert Alfano a Laser Pioneer, along with others who have made outstanding contributions to the field.  A brief chronological history of laser research, starting in 1960, includes Prof. Alfano's advances: "Discovered supercontinuum from self-phase modulation, which led to advancements in ultrafast laser science and nonlinear optical imaging, 1970.  Stabilized mode-locked Nd glass laser, 1981. Emerald laser, 1984. Five tunable NIR Cr3+ and Cr4+ lasers, 1990, 1991, 1996, 2005, and 2008."  Photonics Media explains, "Listed here are many breakthroughs that followed the first ruby laser demonstration. Nearly all of the devices mentioned have played major roles in science or everyday life, and continue to today. This brief list of pioneers — not exhaustive by any means — places a human face on scientific progress and helps, like the technology itself, to inspire the international imagination."


2019 Pedagogical and Curricular Innovation Award

Dr. James Hedberg, Lecturer and Physics Department Deputy Chair, has received the 2019 Provost's Award for Pedagogical and Curricular Innovation. Dr. Hedberg was nominated for his innovations in the introductory physics teaching laboratories.  "The Provost's Prize for Pedagogical and Curricular Innovation has been established to recognize individual faculty or faculty teams who have demonstrated significant positive impact on student learning and retention through pedagogical and curricular innovations.  Projects should demonstrate originality and have potential for widespread replication.  ... Awardees will be asked to share their innovations with the broader College community." The award provides a stipend of $2000.

NSF Focused Research Group in the Mathematical Sciences

Associate Professor Sebastian Franco, was just awarded an NSF Focused Research Group in the Mathematical Sciences for 2019-2022. This new grant adds to the standard NSF grant that he has with V. Parameswaran Nair for the 2018-2021 period.
The new grant is devoted to the study “Dimers in Combinatorics and Physics”. It’s truly interdisciplinary: the collaboration consists of Prof. Franco and 4 leading mathematicians, Lauren Williams (Harvard), Richard Kenyon (Yale), Gregg Musiker (Minnesota) and David Speyer (Michigan).


City College of New York Society of Physics Students/Sigma Pi Sigma chapter receives the 2018 Blake Lily Prize.

The Blake Lilly Prize, named after the late Blake Lilly and given in his honor, recognizes SPS chapters and individuals who make a genuine effort to positively influence the attitudes of school children and the general public about physics. The prize is awarded to chapters or individuals that engage in physics outreach activities and submit a report about the activity.

Reviewers, members of the SPS National Council, noted the quality of the CCNY Physics chapter’s science outreach activities and were impressed with the reach and scope of its efforts.  Communicating science to the public helps to sustain the memory of Blake Lilly and things that he and his family consider important. Included in the awards package are information about Blake and his family, a certificate recognizing CCNY's SPS chapter’s outreach pursuits, and two Feynman books.  Some of the chapter events will be included on the SPS National website and SPS publications throughout the year.

The Physics Club president is Ms. Lisa Chan; the faculty sponsor/advisor is Associate Professor Sebastian Franco.


2018 Inventor of the Year Award to Distinguished Professor Robert Alfano

The Eastern New York Intellectual Property Law Association has elected Distinguished Professor Robert Alfano to receive The Inventor of the Year Award 2018.  The award  is based on US Patent No. 9,414,887 entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PRODUCING SUPERCONTINUUM LIGHT FOR MEDICAL AND BIOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS” and the Divisional US Patent No. 9,561,077 entitled “METHOD OF USING SUPERCONTINUUMLIGHT FOR MEDICAL AND BIOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS.  Furthermore, Professor Alfano has been a prolific inventor over many years as evidenced by his many patents which document his collaboration with others and his advances in the state of the art.  The Association will present the award which includes a plaque and a New York State Senate Proclamation (if available) at a dinner this autumn .  For more information....


2019 SPIE Gold Medal to Distinguished Professor Robert Alfano

The SPIE Gold Medal is the highest honor the Society bestows. Since 1977, it has been awarded in recognition of outstanding engineering or scientific accomplishments in optics, photonics, electrooptics, or imaging technologies or applications. The recipient(s) shall have made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of relevant technology. Service to the Society may also be considered for this award. Honorarium $10,000.   The SPIE Awards Committee has made this recommendation in recognition of Professor Alfano's outstanding seminal achievements and contributions to advancement of knowledge on fundamental properties of materials and their interaction with light in areas of biology, condensed matter, semiconductors, tunable lasers, and biomedical optics.  SPIE is the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers.  For more information...

Physics Awards, Spring 2018

Undergraduate Physics Majors received awards and presented Research Honors projects.  Nicolas Yehya, Bachelor of Science in Physics '18, is the Division of Science valedictorian.

Vinod Menon is IEEE Photonics Society Distinguished Lecturer

City College of New York physicist Vinod Menon, whose research in light-matter interaction at the nanoscale has advanced the field of photonics, is among six scientists globally bestowed with IEEE Photonics Society Distinguished Lectureships. The accolade honors excellent speakers who have made technical contributions of high quality and enhanced the technical programs of Photonics Society chapters.


City College Physics Named to The 5+ Club

City College of New York graduated 5 well-prepared physics teachers in the 2016-17 academic year. To recognize this achievement, City College of New York will receive “The 5+ Club” award from the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC), a joint project of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).  The City College of New York is one of nine universities nationwide to join 2016-2017's 5+ Club.  Professor Richard Steinberg directs the Physics Education program.

Concepts in Particle Physics: A Concise Introduction to the Standard Model
By (author): V Parameswaran Nair (City College of the City University of New York, USA)

At The City College of New York, Prof. Nair taught a special topics course on Particle Physics for undergraduates and received requests for a textbook at that level.  The result, his Concepts in Particle Physics, published January 2018, is directed at advanced undergraduates.

"The 2013 discovery of the Higgs boson posed a challenge to both physics undergraduates and their instructors. Since particle physics is seldom taught at the undergraduate level, the question "what is the Higgs and why does its discovery matter?" is a common question among undergraduates. Equally, answering this question is a problem for physics instructors.

"This book is an attempt to put the key concepts of particle physics together in an appealing way, and yet give enough extra tidbits for students seriously considering graduate studies in particle physics. It starts with some recapitulation of relativity and quantum mechanics, and then builds on it to give both conceptual ideas regarding the Standard Model of particle physics as well as technical details. It is presented in an informal lecture style, and includes "remarks" sections where extra material, history, or technical details are presented for the interested student. The last lecture presents an assessment of the open questions, and where the future might take us." (World Scientific website)


CCNY IUSL scientists study optical biopsy tool that detects disease in seconds.

Robert Alfano states “Resonant Raman using the laser pointer 532 nm has become an efficient tool for investigating molecular components in tissues and cells, providing more detailed information and a way to detect diseases like skin cancer, brain cancer, or atherosclerosis – in mere seconds.”
"Resonance Raman scattering of β-carotene solution excited by visible laser beams into second singlet state," by Luyao Lua, Lingyan Shib, Jeff Secor, Robert Alfano, published in The Journal of Photochemistry & Photobiology, B: Biology 179 (2018) 18–22.  Visiting Scholar Dr. Luyao Lu, Assistant Professor at the School of Biomedical Engineering, Wenzhou Medical University, Zhejiang, China, published  her research while working at IUSL using different lasers to show clearly the enhancement of Raman effect in biomedical media.



December 12, 2017  The City College of New York chapter has earned the designation of a Society of Physics Students Notable Chapter! Mentor and Students' combined efforts supported the department, helped further student development, and strengthened the community.

Why the tax bill is bad for science innovation and America
by Burton Richter and Michael S. Lubell, opinion contributors - 11/16/17, The Hill

Congress hasn’t completed work on new tax legislation, but the blueprint, so far, is bad news for science, the workforce and the economy of the future. Before we survey the bill’s likely damage, let’s start with four facts that point to a bleak economic future if we sit back on our science laurels.

Trump, remove your blinders on climate change
By Burton Richter and Michael S. Lubell, opinion contributors - 09/11/17, The HIll

You would have to be a fool to deny that the climate is changing.

Hurricane Harvey was the biggest rain event ever to hit the continental United States and wreaked havoc in Texas at a cost likely to exceed all previous storms on record. Hurricane Irma, was the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever observed. Additionally, two weeks of flooding have devastated communities across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.


Washington needs high-level science and technology expertise
By Michael S. Lubell and Burton Richter, Opinion Contributors - 05/26/17 12:05 PM EDT

"Except for Richard Nixon, every post-World-War-II president has recognized the importance of having a scientist as a member of his White House team. The need for technical advice has never been greater....
The speaker and the president should take steps immediately to address the deficits in science and technology expertise in the House and the White House. The nation needs it, and voters should demand it."

Physics Awards
The Physics Department proudly presented awards and scholarships to outstanding physics students at the Awards Presentation on May 4.  Please click here to see the program and slide show

Science under the Populist Gun
Earth Day marchers need to remember that the benefits of research might not be apparent to people who have trouble putting food on the table
By Michael S. Lubell on April 20, 2017, Scientific American

Scientists and science supporters who are planning to march in Washington and other cities around the country on April 22  need to pay close attention to the plight of the voters who propelled Donald J. Trump to the White House.


2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Ellianna Schwab, a graduating senior in the Macaulay Honors College at The City College of New York, is the recipient of a 2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Elliana Schwab, a B.S. candidate in physics and mathematics, intends to use her NSF grant to study gravitational waves in close binary stars. She has yet to decide on a graduate school. 


Feliks Gross Award Winners

Dorthe Eisele (Chemistry & Biochemistry) and Pouyan Ghaemi (Physics) are winners of the 2017 Feliks Gross Award.  The Feliks Gross Awards are presented each year to assistant professors in recognition of outstanding research, or potential for such, in the humanities or sciences, including social and life sciences.  The Feliks Gross Award is considered CUNY’s highest award for Assistant Professors.  The award is presented by the CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences.

President Trump’s futile plan to restore coal-mining jobs
By Burton Richter and Michael S. Lubell
April 3, 2017, San Francisco Chronicle

Last week President Trump signed an executive order that unwinds President Barack Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, but it won’t accomplish anything he said it would.  It won’t bring back coal mining jobs because the Clean Power Plan has nothing to do with their elimination.

Retraining coal miners for new jobs would cost a fraction of what it would cost to provide care for those suffering from the ill effects of coal pollution — including asthma, lung disease and lung cancer — and the adverse effects on lung development in children.

Cottrell Scholar FRED Award Winner Carlos Meriles
CCNY Professor of Physics Carlos Meriles and several associates, including Professor Vinod Menon and Dean Tony Liss, discuss his ground-breaking research efforts to circumvent data storage limits by exploiting the charge state and spin properties of the Nitrogen-Vacancy (NV) center in diamond.

Research Corporation for Science Advancement's Frontiers in Research Excellence and Discovery Award supports early stage transformative research; Prof. Meriles is the first person to receive this reward.


Cutting science research won’t help President Trump achieve his goals
By MICHAEL S. LUBELL, opinion contributor, The Hill - 03/23/17 04:40 PM EDT

“America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” That was the label President Trump slapped on his fiscal year 2018 spending plan. At least, where science is concerned, the president’s request falls far short on both accounts.

It would guarantee that America wouldn’t be first, and far from making America great, it would turn the clock back to the time when American scientists had to travel abroad to carry out any serious research.


By investing in Science, Trump can strengthen the Economy


President Trump entered the White House with his commitment to science suspect, but if he makes the right choices, he could leave with an enduring legacy.


If Diamonds Are Forever, Your Data Could Be, Too
OCT. 26, 2016

A paper published Wednesday in Science Advances shows how diamonds can be harnessed to store data for the long term. Right now, a tiny diamond — about half as long as a grain of rice and thinner than a sheet of paper — can hold a hundred times more information than a DVD....The researchers, a team of physicists [, Carlos Meriles' group,] from City College of New York, used lasers to encode and read data on these tiny spaces, which they treated like magnets that could repel or absorb an electron.


Science and technology bear the brunt of budget dysfunction
By Michael S. Lubell 09/07/16 05:28 PM EDT

Once again, the House and Senate are on the verge of recessing at the end of September without passing any appropriations bills for the next fiscal year. And this year, as was the case in 2008 and 2012 — the last two presidential election years — it is likely that Congress won’t take up an omnibus spending package during the lame-duck session. That means the government would run on autopilot under a continuing resolution until March, jeopardizing science as a consequence.


The open access wrecking ball
By Michael S. Lubell

If taxpayers pay for something, they have a right to see what they bought without paying a nickel more for the privilege.  That’s the argument proponents of “open access” make when it comes to scientific research supported by the federal government.

And it’s one of the primary drivers of S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act, which would make all federally funded research articles freely available to anyone who wants to read them.

Sounds appealingly simple. But it isn’t. Here’s why.

Also on NPR Science Friday, Friday July 22, 2016


New magnetic microchip technology

Innovative technology co-inspired by physicist Elisa Riedo of The City College of New York for developing new magnetic microchips is raising hopes for the manufacture of nanosized sensors, memories and microprocessors.

Chleck family creates scholarship for science students

The Division of Science at the City College of New York is pleased to announce a generous six-figure gift from the Chleck Family Foundation for the creation of the Chleck Family Scholarship & Graduate Research Fellowship in Science.  The fund will support undergraduate and graduate students with demonstrated financial need who are majoring in one of the following disciplines: Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Atmospheric Science, Mathematics, and Physics.


Congratulations to CCNY Physics Doctoral Graduates ◊ AY 2015- 2016   

September 2015 Degree

Kelly N. Greenland
Prof. Ronald L. Koder, City College of New York
Biophysical Characterization of a De Novo Elastin  

Aline Hubard
Prof. Mark D. Shattuck, City College of New York
Friction, Avalanches and Phase Transitions in Granular Media

Zhusong Li
Prof. Mark D.  Shattuck, City College of New York
Order and Asymmetry in Jammed Systems

Isroel M.  Mandel
Prof. David T. Crouse, City College of New York
Metasurfaces for Photon Sorting and Selective Absorption

February 2016 Degree

Joel De Jesus
Prof. Maria C. Tamargo, City College of New York
ZnCdMgSe as a Materials Platform for Advanced Photonic Devices: Broadband Quantum Cascade Detectors and Green Semiconductor Disk Lasers

Jeff A. Secor
Dist. Prof. Robert R. Alfano, City College of New York
Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Energy Transfer in an Organic/Inorganic Composite of Zinc Oxide and Graphite Oxide

June 2016 Degree  

Giovanni Milione
Dist. Prof. Robert R. Alfano, City College of New York
Vector Beams for Fundamental Physics and Applications

Why energy R&D matters more than ever
By Michael S. Lubell - 05/11/16 05:38 PM EDT

Substituting solar, wind and safe nuclear energy for fossil fuels is a big plus for safeguarding the global environment. But it is also a vital step in fighting terrorism and reducing the corrosive whipsaw impacts of price volatility on economies that have come to rely overwhelmingly on oil and natural gas production.


Graduate Physics Club

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) at CCNY, which represents all graduate students at CCNY, has selected the Graduate Physics Club as one of the 2015 - 2016 Graduate Clubs of the Year because of their performance and involvement on campus. Since they are relatively new club, their work was impressive.  The GSC appreciates and supports their work and encourages other clubs to be active members of the campus life. The Award is a plaque. James Malaguit and Veeshan Narinesingh will receive this award at the annual Award Dinner on Friday, May 13th, 2016, at 6pm in the NAC Faculty Dining Room. Some of the club's activities are described below.  Prof. Sebastian Franco, Prof. James Hedberg and Robert Suhoke (CCLT) are faculty/staff sponsors of the club.


CCNY Scientist, Students: Ghostly Illusion

On April 14, 2016, Dr. Jared Day, a postdoctoral scholar from the Laboratory for Nano and Micro Photonics at The City College of New York, and an expert in the field of optics, guided our students in a demonstration of Pepper’s Ghost, in which an image is projected onto an angled, transparent surface to create the illusion of a hologram.  The Bridge Golf Foundation’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum helps young men of color prepare for college majors and careers in one the fastest growing segments of the U.S. economy.  The event was organized by Veeshan Narinesingh, CCNY '15, MS student and Bridge Golf Foundation STEM program leader.


Ellianna Schwab receives 2016 Goldwater Scholarship

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation awards up to $7500/year to undergraduate science and mathematics students for their last one to two years of undergraduate study.  There are awards in two categories: two-year scholarships to those who will be juniors, and one-year scholarships to those who will be seniors.   Applicants must be planning a career in science or mathematics, have at least a B average, and be a US citizen, resident alien, or US national.   To be considered, a student must be nominated by his or her university representative.  Ms. Ellianna Schwab was nominated by Professor Michael Lubell of the Physics Department.  Ms. Schwab expects to receive the degree of B.S. Physics, Mathematics Minor, in 2017.  She is a student in the Macaulay Honors College, The City College of New York and is a 2016 Goldwater Scholar  and  Astrocom NYC Scholar.

Physics Club Outreach to Harlem Students
City College graduate and undergraduate physics clubs hosted 20 youths from America Scores NY and P.S. 325. High schoolers from another local youth organization, New York Math Academy, also helped to present the demonstrations. These high schoolers are working with our undergraduate and graduate Physics students to build and present new demonstrations for future events.

Gravitational Waves: Charlie Rose Interview
Walter Isaacson, president and C.E.O. of the Aspen Institute; Brian Greene, theoretical physicist at Columbia University; Janna Levin, astrophysicist at Barnard College; and Dennis Overby of the New York Times. Air Date 2/11/2016.


March, 2016
Feld Biophotonics Award to Robert Alfano
The Optical Society (OSA) has awarded Distinguished Professor Robert Alfano the 2016 Michael S. Feld Biophotonics Award "for leadership and pioneering contributions in the field of biophotonics, comprising the diverse use of label-free native fluorescence, Raman spectroscopy, and optical imaging for cancer detection in tissues and cells."  Prof. Alfano will accept the award during the October 2016 meeting.


February, 2016
Photonics Spectra:  Spectroscopy Heading Toward "Fantastic Voyage"

January 28, 2016
Ellianna Schwab is a winner of the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award poster competition

January 28, 2016
Scientist leads team that wins $2 million NSF grant

November 25, 2015
CCNY researchers introduce new route to thermal measurements with nanometer resolution

November 11, 2015
CCNY researchers open “Golden Window” in deep brain imaging

October 28, 2015
Physicists mimic quantum entanglement with laser pointer to double data speeds

October 23, 2015
City College is a top producer of physics graduates in the US

October 16, 2015
CCNY research boosts optical fiber data speeds

October 14, 2015
CCNY leads breakthrough study in 2D materials elasticity