Department News

Detection of helium in the escaping atmosphere of an exoplanet
December 7, 2018
Artist's impression of the exoplanet HAT-P-11b and its host star. [Harvard Center for Astrophysics/D. Aguilar]
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University of Chicago astronomers Megan Mansfield and Jacob Bean present observations of the escaping atmosphere of a Neptune-size exoplanet.

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Related:
Department members: Jacob L. Bean

Response to Claims On Gender and Physics
October 13, 2018
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We reject the recent claims on gender and physics by Alessandro Strumia. Our Departments and Institute believe that diversity is essential to the health of our fields and to advancing our science. We reaffirm our commitment to making our communities more diverse and to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment. All the members of a community share the responsibility for its climate, and so we welcome suggestions on how to improve ours.

John E. Carlstrom, Chair, Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
Young-Kee Kim, Chair, Department of Physics
Michael S. Turner, Director, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics

UChicago now offers major in astrophysics
October 2, 2018
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Scientists at the University of Chicago have been unraveling the secrets of the far-flung universe for more than a century, but starting in 2018-19, undergraduates will be able to formally declare a major in astrophysics.

"I am thrilled to see the astrophysics major come to fruition and the interest that it has already generated," said Angela Olinto, the Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences. "We know our students are proud of the department's incredible legacy in the field, and we are delighted to deepen that connection with a formal major."

Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professorships Announced in Astronomy & Astrophysics
October 1, 2018
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The Physical Sciences Division at the University of Chicago, in partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation and the Office of the Provost, has named the first Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professors: Chihway Chang and Irina Zhuravleva of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics.

"We are delighted to name Chihway Chang and Irina Zhuravleva as Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professors," said John Carlstrom, chair of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. "They are science communicators and researchers of the highest caliber and will contribute their unique and complementary strengths to the department."

Related:
Department members: Chihway Chang, Irina Zhuravleva

Josh Frieman became President Elect of the Aspen Center for Physics
August 27, 2018
Prof. Josh Frieman
Prof. Josh Frieman recently became President Elect of the Aspen Center for Physics. In a year's time, Josh will become President of the Center for a three-year term. The Aspen Center for Physics is well known for hosting cutting-edge, multi-week workshops in the summer and intensive one-week conferences in winter. Typically, 500-600 physicists visit every summer, for workshops, for smaller working groups, and to carry out individual research in a unique setting.

Related:
Department members: Joshua A. Frieman

Cosmic rays help supernovae shape galaxies
August 6, 2018
A&A grad student Rebecca Diesing and her advisor, Prof. Damiano Caprioli, have published a paper about how cosmic rays help supernovae shape galaxies. A summary is below and the paper can be found here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1804.09731

"Supernova explosions play a significant role in the formation and evolution of galaxies by injecting energy and momentum into the interstellar medium. However, the momentum yields predicted for single explosions are not enough to produce simulated galaxies that are consistent with observations. The cosmic rays accelerated by supernova remnants may solve this problem. We find that pressure from cosmic rays helps supernova remnants survive longer, allowing them to deposit two to five times more momentum in the interstellar medium."

Congratulations to Brad Benson
July 26, 2018
Bradford A. Benson
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Please join me in congratulating Brad Benson on his promotion from Associate Scientist to Scientist at Fermilab. The Scientist appointment is parallel to that of an Associate Professor with tenure at a university.

Congratulations Brad!

- John E. Carlstrom
Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: Bradford A. Benson, John E. Carlstrom

Congratulations to Mike Gladders
July 25, 2018
Prof. Michael D. Gladders
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Please join me in congratulating Mike Gladders on his promotion to the rank of Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Congratulations Mike!

- John E. Carlstrom
Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: John E. Carlstrom, Michael D. Gladders

Congratulations to Dr. Ross Cawthon
July 18, 2018
Dr. Ross Cawthon
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Congratulations to Ross Cawthon for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "Effects of Redshift Uncertainty on Cross-Correlations of CMB Lensing and Galaxy Surveys".

Ross has received a position of Research Associate at the Department of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Related:
Department members: Joshua A. Frieman
Department students: Ross Cawthon
Scientific projects: Dark Energy Survey, South Pole Telescope

Congratulations to Irina Zhuravleva
June 28, 2018
Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to report that Irina Zhuravleva will join the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics as an Assistant Professor starting October 1, 2018.

- John E. Carlstrom
Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: John E. Carlstrom, Irina Zhuravleva

Honoring Rocky Kolb for his service as Dean of the Physical Sciences
June 27, 2018
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President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier hosted a reception honoring Rocky Kolb for his service as Dean of the Physical Sciences Division. Friends, colleagues, and family all celebrated his many successes and wished him well as he returns to being a full-time faculty member at the Department.

Related:
Department members: Edward ''Rocky'' W. Kolb

Congratulations to Dr. Ian Remming
June 20, 2018
Dr.Ian Remming
Congratulations to Dr. Ian Remming for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "The Propagation of Flame Fronts Through Inhomogeneously Magnetized Plasma".

Related:
Department members: Fausto Cattaneo, Alexei M. Khokhlov
Department students: Ian Remming

Congratulations to Daniel Holz
June 18, 2018
Prof. Dan Holz
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Please join me in congratulating Dan Holz on his promotion to Full Professor.

Congratulations Dan!

John E. Carlstrom
Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: John E. Carlstrom, Daniel E. Holz

Congratulations to Dr. Cameron Liang
June 15, 2018
Dr. Cameron Liang
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Congratulations to Dr. Cameron Liang for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "Multiphase Gaseous Halos around Galaxies".

Related:
Department members: Andrey V. Kravtsov
Department students: Cameron Jia Liang

NASA has selected the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission as the fifth mission in the Solar Terrestrial Probes program
June 11, 2018
NASA has selected the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission as the fifth mission in the Solar Terrestrial Probes program. IMAP will investigate the interactions between the heliosphere and surrounding interstellar cloud. The heliosphere, a protective plasma bubble around the solar system, is altered by the solar journey through interstellar clouds. Interstellar neutral atoms grab energy from the expanding solar wind plasma and create new and different particles that reveal our galactic neighborhood and will be measured by IMAP. Among them are energetic neutral atoms that trace the IBEX ribbon, which arises from the draping of the interstellar magnetic field over the heliosphere. Other IMAP instruments sample interstellar atoms directly, including high energy particles seeded by neutral atoms from the interstellar medium, and low energy interstellar atoms that describe the velocity of the heliosphere through the interstellar cloud. IMAP data will probe our immediate galactic neighborhood. IMAP is scheduled for launch in 2024 and is led by Professor David McComas at Princeton University. Research Professor Priscilla Frisch in the Astronomy Department is a member of the IMAP team.

Angela V. Olinto has been appointed Dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences
June 7, 2018
Angela V. Olinto, Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the College
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We are pleased to announce that Angela V. Olinto, Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the College, has been appointed Dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences, effective July 1, 2018.

Angela brings depth of University experience and scholarly expertise to this leadership role, making her an excellent choice as dean. She joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1996, and served as chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics from 2003 to 2006, and from 2012 to 2017. Her research interests are in astroparticle physics and cosmology. Recently, she has focused on understanding the origin of high-energy cosmic rays, gamma rays, and neutrinos.

Angela's leadership has extended to large and complex projects. She is the leader of the POEMMA and EUSO space missions and a member of the Pierre Auger Observatory. These international projects aim to discover the origin of high-energy cosmic rays. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and was chair of the APS Division of Astrophysics in 2013. She was a trustee of the Aspen Center for Physics, and serves on many advisory committees for the National Academy of Sciences, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and NASA. Among numerous other awards and honors, Angela received the Chaire d'Excellence Award of the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche in 2006, the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2011, and the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring in 2015.

Angela's appointment was informed by the recommendations of an elected committee of faculty in the Division of the Physical Sciences, chaired by Stuart A. Kurtz, Professor in the Department of Computer Science. We want to express our appreciation to the committee for their thoughtful work and their commitment to the Division of the Physical Sciences.

We would also like to thank Rocky Kolb for his leadership of the Division of the Physical Sciences over the past five years. Under Rocky's leadership, the Division of the Physical Sciences built important initiatives, enhancing its historic strengths as a leading center of scientific discovery and education, and expanded and renovated the Physics Research Center. Rocky will be returning to his full-time work on the faculty at the end of his term as Dean.

Please join us in congratulating Angela on this appointment and thanking Rocky for his service.

Robert J. Zimmer, President, and Daniel Diermeier, Provost

Related:
Department members: Edward ''Rocky'' W. Kolb, Angela V. Olinto
Scientific projects: Extreme Universe Space Observatory at the Japanese Module, Extreme Universe Space Observatory on a Super Pressure Balloon, Pierre Auger Observatory

Congratulations to Chihway Chang
May 29, 2018
Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to report that Chihway Chang will be an Assistant Professor with the Astronomy & Astrophysics Department and a senior member of the KICP, starting October 1, 2018.

- John E. Carlstrom
Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: John E. Carlstrom, Chihway Chang

Fakhri Zahedy wins a Harper Dissertation Fellowship
May 21, 2018
Congratulations to Fakhri Zahedy for winning a Harper Dissertation Fellowship. The intent of the award is two-fold: to recognize significant achievement and to facilitate completion of the doctoral degree. This award, one of the University of Chicago's highest honors, recognizes significant achievement during graduate studies and professional promise.

Related:
Department members: Hsiao-Wen Chen
Department students: Fakhri Zahedy

Adler Planetarium's "Fabric of the Universe" display
May 14, 2018
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Former garduate student (and current Harvard postdoc) Benedikt Diemer has collaborated with Isaac Facio from the Art Institute to create the Adler Planetarium's new "Fabric of the Universe" display.

Related:
Department students: Benedikt Diemer

Congratulations to Al Harper
April 12, 2018
Prof. Doyal "Al" Harper, Director of Yerkes Observatory
Al Harper will receive the Norman Maclean Faculty Award.

The award honors "extraordinary contributions of senior faculty to teaching and to the student experience of life within the University community."

Al will receive the award during Alumni Weekend in June, and he will be recognized at the June Convocation.

Please join me in congratulating Al.

- John E. Carlstrom
Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: John E. Carlstrom, Doyal ''Al'' Harper

Paolo Privitera has been awarded an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council
April 9, 2018
Prof. Paolo Privitera
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Paolo Privitera has been awarded a 4 M$ Advanced Grant by the European Research Council to search for light dark matter particles with DAMIC. DArk Matter In CCDs experiment (DAMIC) is designed to detect the tiny signals produced by the interaction of dark matter with the bulk silicon of ~mm-thick charge-coupled devices. The kg-size DAMIC detector to be installed at the Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane in France will search for low-mass dark matter particles with unprecedented sensitivity. The European Research Council "selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality to run projects based in Europe", with Principal Investigators of Advanced Grants identified as "exceptional leaders in terms of originality and significance of their research contributions."

Related:
Department members: Paolo Privitera
Scientific projects: Dark Matter In CCDs

Congratulations to Nora Shipp
April 5, 2018
Nora Shipp, graduate student
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Nora won the DOE SCGSR Fellowship and a URA Visiting Scholars Program award to work with Fermilab scientists on using stellar streams to learn about dark matter in the Milky Way.

"Nora Shipp has carried out an analysis of the wide-field distribution of stars in the Dark Energy Survey (DES) footprint on the sky and identified several known stellar streams and discovered new streams. Stellar streams are an "archeological" record of the accretion history of the Milky Way and can be used as probes of properties of dark matter and of the Milky Way gravitational potential.

This project resulted in a paper that presented one of the most spectacular scientific results of the first year DES data and the results were a subject of a number of press releases and were widely covered in the media. In collaboration with DES scientists at Fermilab, Nora is continuing to characterize the streams analyzed in the DES and is planning to search for gaps in the streams and to model them using techniques developed by a former KICP student, Denis Erkal, as part of his postdoc work with Vasily Belokurov at Cambridge. Nora also plans to carry out N-body simulations for more detailed modeling of the streams. This program can potentially provide a new and unique probe of existence of dark matter clumps of mass $approx 10^6-10^7$ solar masses in the Milky Way, thereby constraining properties of dark matter itself, and to constrain properties of the Milky Way potential itself. DoE and URA fellowships that Nora received will help to carry out the first stages of this longer term PhD thesis program."

- Andrey Kravtsov, scientific advisor

Related:
Department members: Andrey V. Kravtsov
Department students: Nora Shipp

UChicago activities at Yerkes Observatory to end in 2018
March 7, 2018
Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis.
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The University of Chicago has announced plans to wind down its activities at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis., over the next six months and to formally cease on-site operations by Oct. 1, 2018.

"Science at Yerkes in the 20th century led to key discoveries and advances in the field of astronomy, when the observatory helped build the foundation for modern astrophysics," said Edward (Rocky) Kolb, dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences and a professor in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. "It is an important part of the history of the University, and we hope it will become, in some form, a valuable resource to the surrounding community and visitors to the Lake Geneva area."

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Related:
Department members: Edward ''Rocky'' W. Kolb

Congratulations to Dan Hooper
March 5, 2018
Prof. Dan Hooper
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Please join me in congratulating Dan Hooper on his promotion to Professor [part-time] in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Congratulations Dan!

John E. Carlstrom
Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor and Chair Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Related:
Department members: John E. Carlstrom, Dan Hooper

Henry Luce Foundation Grant to Support Science Professorships for Women
February 27, 2018
Clare Boothe Luce
Photo courtesy of the National Archives
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A grant from the Henry Luce Foundation will support an initiative to significantly increase the gender diversity of faculty members across the Physical Sciences Division by 2023.

The five-year, $500,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation will fund three Clare Boothe Luce Professorships for women in the Departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics. Additional financial and programmatic support from the Physical Sciences Division and the Office of the Provost will ensure the success of the three new faculty members at the University.

"We are proud to partner with the Henry Luce Foundation and the Office of the Provost to support women in fields where they are underrepresented," said Dean Rocky Kolb. "Supporting faculty from a range of backgrounds will increase the rigor of our science, foster new approaches and ideas and enable more discoveries."

"The Clare Boothe Luce grant from the Henry Luce Foundation will enable the University to build on its commitment to provide a supportive environment for women in STEM," said Young-Kee Kim, Chairperson and the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor of Physics.

Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, ambassador to Italy, and the first woman elected to the US Congress from the state of Connecticut. The Clare Boothe Luce program, established at the Luce Foundation in 1987, offers research awards and tuition support to prepare young women to study and teach in the STEM disciplines, as well as five-year professorships for women early in their academic careers.

The Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Department of Physics will immediately begin searches for Clare Boothe Luce Assistant or Associate Professors. More information about the positions can be found at the University of Chicago academic careers website:
  • Assistant Professor in Physics
  • Associate Professor in Physics
  • Assistant Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Associate Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics

The University of Chicago is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Disabled/Veterans Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law. For additional information please see the University's Notice of Nondiscrimination. Job seekers in need of a reasonable accommodation to complete the application process should call 773-702-0287 or email ACOppAdministratoruchicago.edu with their request.

Related:
Department members: Edward ''Rocky'' W. Kolb

Joshua Frieman will become the Head of Particle Physics Division at Fermilab
February 19, 2018
Prof. Joshua Frieman
Joshua A. Frieman, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, will become the Head of Particle Physics Division (PPD) at Fermilab on April 1, 2018. "Josh's scientific stature and deep understanding of the interconnected nature of particle physics will make him a strong advocate for the broad program of exciting research tied to the lab," said Joe Lykken, Fermilab's Deputy Director. As Head of PPD, Frieman will oversee the Lab's involvement in the CMS experiment at CERN's LHC, all its astrophysics activities, the muon program and the Lab's theory groups, and new technology development, engineering and technical support for particle physics research. UChicago partners in many of Fermilab's astrophysics programs, including the Dark Energy Survey, which is led by Frieman, several dark-matter experiments, and the SPT-3G and CMB-S4 cosmic microwave background experiments. "All of us wish Josh well in this important leadership position at Fermilab, and we look forward to working with him to further strengthen ties between UChicago and Fermilab," said Michael Turner, Bruce V. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor. Frieman, whose UChicago appointment dates back to 1989, added, "while my primary focus will be shaping and ensuring Fermilab's bright future, I will also maintain my UChicago connections, albeit a reduced level for the next few years."

Related:
Department members: Joshua A. Frieman, Michael S. Turner
Scientific projects: Dark Energy Survey, South Pole Telescope

Congratulations to Dr. Zubair Abdulla
February 8, 2018
Dr. Zubair Abdulla
Congratulations to Dr. Zubair Abdulla for successfully defending his Ph.D. dissertation on "Sunyaev Zel'dovich Effect Observations of X-ray Cavities in Galaxy Clusters".

"Zubair has done it all, from building 10 ultra-sensitive receivers, commissioning them on CARMA, developing the data reduction pipeline, to imaging and analyzing the first Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect imaging of x-ray cavities in galaxy clusters. His thesis places tight constraints on the nature of plasma within the cavities and mechanisms for heating of the inter cluster medium."
- John Carlstrom, Ph.D. advisor

Related:
Department members: John E. Carlstrom
Department students: Zubair Abdulla

2018 APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research Awarded to Eugene Parker
February 2, 2018
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On February 1, 2018 in Washington, DC, the American Physical Society awarded the 2018 Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research to Eugene Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. Parker, 90, is recognized for his "many fundamental contributions to space physics, plasma physics, solar physics and astrophysics for over 60 years."

Related:
Department members: Eugene N. Parker

The 2017 Science Magazine Breakthrough of the Year
January 4, 2018
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The Prof. Daniel Holz and his research group and the Dark Energy Survey, led by the Prof. Joshua Frieman played key roles in the discovery of a pair of coalescing neutron stars, the 2017 Science Magazine Breakthrough of the Year.

Learn More

Related:
Department members: Joshua A. Frieman, Daniel E. Holz
Scientific projects: Dark Energy Survey, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory

Open faculty positions
January 1, 2018
The Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Department of Physics at The University of Chicago are conducting open searches at the rank of Assistant and Associate Professor. We welcome applications from candidates across all areas. A goal of these searches is to increase the diversity of the faculty. We particularly welcome applicants who come from groups that are historically underrepresented in our disciplines, such as women, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, or Alaskan Native. Women will be considered for a Clare Booth Luce Professorship supported by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Applicants must apply online through the University of Chicago academic careers websites upload a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, a list of publications, a statement of research, a statement of teaching philosophy, and contact information for at least three references. Review of applications will begin on January 15, 2018. Full consideration will be given to applications completed by February 15, 2018.

The University of Chicago is an Affirmative Action / Equal Opportunity / Disabled / Veterans Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law. For additional information please see the University's Notice of Nondiscrimination.

Congratulations to Stephan Meyer!
December 19, 2017
Prof. Stephan S. Meyer
Congratulations to the WMAP experimental team, including Prof. Stephan Meyer, who were awarded the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. The prize recognizes major insights into the deepest questions of the universe and was awarded "For detailed maps of the early universe that greatly improved our knowledge of the evolution of the cosmos and the fluctuations that seeded the formation of galaxies."

The prize with be shared among the entire 27-member team, including the following five team leaders: Charles L Bennett; Gary Henshaw; Norman Jarosik; Lyman Page, Jr.; and David N. Spergel.

Learn more

Related:
Department members: Stephan S. Meyer