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News by Year
- Simmons wins Women of Distinction Award
- Pogosian's Research in SFU Scholarly Impact
- PhD Graduate Awarded Convocation Medal
- Convocation Speaker Aidan Wright
- Nancy Forde Elected BSC President
- Bechhoefer named Royal Society of Canada Fellow
- Jeff Sonier Named American Physical Society Fellow
- SFU undergrads receive quantum grant award
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- Congratulations to our Class of 2021
The Department of Physics is fortunate to have the support of our wonderful donors, who recognize and support our students through awards, scholarships, bursaries, and through unique educational spaces on campus. Without our generous donors, SFU Physics would not be the strong department it is today and we are forever grateful.
Become an SFU Physics Donor
There are numerous ways to support the SFU Department of Physics through items like student awards, or public outreach programs like Starry Nights. In whichever way you choose to support SFU Physics, your contribution will make an enduring difference in our community.
For more information, visit https://give.sfu.ca/ways-to-give.
SFU Physics is grateful for the contributions from our donors who wish to remain anonymous. The kindness of our anonymous donors allows to offer the Ralph Kerr Memorial Bursary, the Scott Wilson Memorial Bursay, as well as the Curzon-Digman Bursary. On behalf of our students, we truly appreciate the support provided and are thankful for these unnamed generous individuals.
Isao Asano is a native of Japan who completed a BSc in Physics at SFU in 1975. After completing his studies in the sciences, Mr. Asano moved into the financial sector in 1978. He subsequently embarked on a successful career as a financial advisor.
SFU is grateful to Mr. Asano for supporting his alma mater by establishing two generous student awards in 2015, the Isao Asano Undergraduate Scholarship in Physics and the Isao Asano Undergraduate Bursary in Science.
Physics Charter Faculty
The Physics Charter Faculty Endowment Fund was established in recognition of the nine original faculty members who helped establish SFU’s Department of Physics when Simon Fraser University opened its doors in 1965:
- John F. Cochran
- Konrad Colbow
- Richard H. Enns
- Robert F. Frindt
- Rudi R. Haering
- David J. Huntley
- J.C. (Chuck) Irwin
- Klaus E. Rieckhoff
- K.S. (Vish) Viswanathan
We deeply thank our Charter Faculty Members and their families for their continued support and involvement within the SFU Physics community.
The Cochran Family & David Huntley
(In memory of John F. Cochran)
John Cochran was a charter faculty member in the Department of Physics at Simon Fraser University, who was highly influential in charting the course of the department over its first several decades. He served as Department Chair from 1968 through 1974, and as Dean of Science from 1981 through 1985.
As a researcher, Professor Cochran was pivotal in developing an internationally recognized research program in magnetism and magnetic materials at SFU. He served as a mentor and collaborator to later hires in this area, including Professors Tony Arrott, Brett Heinrich and Erol Girt, among others.
In addtion to his service, Professor Cochran was an excellent teacher. His electromagnetism textbook “Applications of Maxwell’s Equations” was widely used at SFU and elsewhere.
The John F. Cochran Physics Endowment Fund was established at SFU in 2010 by fellow charter faculty member David Huntley to support the John F. Cochran Physics Award.
SFU Physics is grateful to David Huntley and the Cochran family for their support of, and dedication to the growth of SFU Physics Students.
Friends and Family of John D’Auria
(In memory of JOHN D’AURIA)
Dr. John M. D'Auria, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, was born March 28, 1939 in New York. After completing an undergraduate degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a PhD in Nuclear Science at Yale University, and postdoctoral research at Columbia University, he was appointed in 1967 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science at newly established Simon Fraser University (SFU). John participated in the early planning of TRIUMF (Canada’s particle accelerator centre), which was founded in 1968, and was pivotal in the creation of SFU’s affiliated nuclear-science program.
During his sabbatical at CERN’s (European Organization for Nuclear Research) Isotope Mass Separator On-Line facility (ISOLDE) in 1975–1976, he was the first author of the paper reporting the discovery of 74Rb, and he became very interested in the facility's isotope-separation technology. This led John to lead a group with modest funding and much resourcefulness to build the TISOL (Test Isotope Separator On-Line) facility at TRIUMF. ISOLDE and TISOL researchers collaborated fruitfully, including an episode where TRIUMF imported, diagnosed and repaired a failed ISOLDE front-end. Notable TISOL successes included estimates of the production of oxygen-16 in the helium burning of dying Red Giant stars (of prime importance in astrophysics), as well as launching the TRINAT (TRIUMF Neutral Ion Trap) experimental facility, which is still active today.
TISOL’s success and John’s persistent advocacy for a rare isotope beam program set the stage for TRIUMF’s decision to pursue construction of its ISAC (Isotope Separator and Accelerator) facility. His expertise was critical in ISAC’s early days when a new generation of rare-isotopebeam scientists were being trained and he was the project leader for ISAC’s flagship experimental facility, the DRAGON (Detector of Recoils And Gammas of Nuclear reactions) mass separator. Under John’s leadership, DRAGON became the world’s premier facility for the study of radioactive capture using radioactive beams. In the years that followed, John remained active in the planning for a new TRIUMF facility to mass produce 225Ac for targeted alpha cancer therapy. John D’Auria, a rebel with a rare isotope beam, was one of a kind, and his talents, drive and booming laugh are sorely missed.
SFU Physics is grateful for the generous support from the friends and family of John D'Auria. We are honoured to have The John D'Auria Memorial Graduate Scholarship in Chemistry and Physics to encourage our students following in John's determined footsteps.
(In memory of Robert F. Frindt)
Dr. Robert F. Frindt began his academic career in 1956 as a top high school graduate in Alberta. He completed his undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics (with distinction) at the University of Alberta in 1960, receiving many awards including the prestigious Athlone Fellowship to study at the Cavendish Lab at the University of Cambridge, England. In 1963 he received his PhD in Physics from St. John’s College, and shared the Henry Humphreys Prize for the best Natural Sciences Research student. He was also awarded a Senior Research Studentship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, an honour that later resulted in invitations to Buckingham Palace. In 1964, he returned to Canada to work at the National Research Council in Ottawa. Also in 1964, both UBC and SFU tried to recruit him. In a giant leap of faith, he chose SFU - which opened in 1965 – and as a charter faculty member began a 39-year career of teaching and scientific research. A condensed matter experimentalist, he studied materials which are layered at atomic length scales. In 1977, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, Bob was among those honoured in Ottawa at a tribute to young Canadians in Arts and Science.
As Department Chair, Bob wisely guided the Physics Department from 1993 to 1998. A professional engineer, he was an active associate member of SFU’s School of Engineering Science for two decades.
Despite having Type I Diabetes for 63 years, Bob taught, researched and published prolifically, always generous in time and spirit. He had a special gift for learning and imparting his knowledge to others and is remembered as a gifted teacher, researcher, inventor and mentor.
Bob was very proud of Simon Fraser University.
The Robert F. Frindt Undergraduate Scholarship in Physics was established in Bob's memory, and we as a department are sincerely grateful for the gracious support from his wife, Jane Frindt.
Swiss-born physicist, Dr. Rudi Haering was the founding head of the Department of Physics at SFU (1964-68) and was SFU’s first Vice-President, Academic (1968-72).
Dr. Haering arrived in Canada in 1947 and completed degrees at UBC and McGill before undertaking post-doctoral work at Birmingham. By 1964, at the age of thirty-one, he was a professor at the University of Waterloo and a member of the research staff at the IBM Research Laboratory in Yorkton Heights, New York.
With his appointment to founding head of the new Physics department at SFU in 1964, Haering aimed to make an impact by creating a research department that focused on one branch of Physics – condensed matter, or solid state physics. He wanted to achieve the “critical mass” that would allow the young department to earn international recognition. Over the follow decades, this research group grew into one of the largest and strongest of its kind in Canada.
SFU Physics is grateful for the The Rudi Haering Award in Physics, which has graciously supported our students since 2000.
The Trottier Family
The Trottier Studio for Innovative Science Education and the Trottier Observatory and Science Courtyard have been bringing science education and astronomy to students, and the lower mainland community since 2014, thanks to the generosity of the Trottier Family.
Lorne Trottier’s passion for science and technology began when he was 11 years old when he built his first crystal radio. Wanting to understand how this radio worked quickly morphed into an insatiable curiosity to learn about the functioning of the solar system, the universe, and modern science. This passion helped to propel him into becoming an electronics engineer and to co-found Matrox, a company making specialized computer graphics and video products. Unsurprisingly, Lorne Trottier passed on his passion for science and astronomy to his younger brother Dr. Howard Trottier, who is now an SFU Physics Emeritus Professor, amateur astronomer, and award-winning astrophotographer.
This passion for learning was ingrained by the Trottier parents, who were determined that their four sons would be given a university education, something neither parent had the luxury to pursue. While it wasn’t easy putting four children through university, it was a priority that never flagged and fostered spirited dinnertime conversations about the natural and the political world. Besides Howard and Lorne, brother Elliot is an actuary while brother Marc is a retired child-care worker.
The Trottier Family aims to bring science outreach to young people through The Trottier Family Foundation partnership with SFU. Howard Trottier’s deep involved and passion for science outreach inspired him to create SFU’s Starry Nights program in 2007. “When people come to campus and look through our telescopes, I want them to feel the mystery and the excitement of the universe. If I can have that impact on a young person and give them a sense of passion about the natural world, then I think it’s good for them and for society and as an educator, that’s a wonderful experience” says Howard Trottier.
Through the Trottier Foundation the brothers hope to grow their science outreach, among young people in particular, and to help others develop and pursue a passion for the field. We at SFU Physics thank the Trottier's for their dedication to helping others explore their passion for learning.
Ray Kapahi and Denise L. Wesleder
"I am honored to support the University that provided me with a solid foundation on which to build my career. That humble physics degree led me to forming my own company in California where I have been residing since 1983. So, it’s only fair the Kapahi Family does its part to support SFU.” - Ray Kapahi, BSc 1972
From a young age, Ray learned the value of helping others from his father Tilak (Raj) Kapahi. Raj taught his children that if there is anything you want in this world, go out and give it to others. Through helping others, you enrich the world around you and also your own life.
Ray’s family also valued education, which brought him, his brother Naveen and his sister Neera to Simon Fraser University. Looking back at his time in Physics, SFU Professors Dr. Palmer, Dr. Rieckhoff and Dr. Curzon went above and beyond for Ray serving as educators and mentors. Thanks to SFU, Ray’s physics and math education became the foundational building blocks with which he would build a career and vocation centered on the environment.
After graduating in 1972, Ray went on to obtain a Masters in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto (1975). From there he worked at several environmental consulting firms focusing on air quality impact analysis. In 1995 Ray made the bold move to start his own firm, which he sold in 2017. He has since founded another firm focusing on air quality and use of advanced models to analyze movement and control of odors.
With career success came the opportunity and privilege to help others. Carrying on in his father’s footsteps Ray wanted to give back to the educational institution that opened doors and allowed him to be so accomplished. This led to the creation of the Ray Kapahi and Denise L. Wesleder Bursary in Physics. It is his wish that this bursary will help remove financial barriers and allow the next generation of bright young people to obtain the education they need to change the world.
Ray’s love for the sciences is second only to his love for wife and partner Denise L. Wesleder. Denise, too, has devoted much of her life to selfless giving. Her work within the non-profit world ushers a faith community of 5,000 families along a continuum of hope, service and stewardship. Her expertise and experience over 20 years translates to frontline organizational development, managing all business functions and administering programs which represent the lifeline of the parish and, therefore, its members. Denise knows firsthand the difference financial gifts make. Through her tireless efforts in countless fundraising events, seasonal appeals and capital campaigns, she has witnessed an outpouring of generosity—a generosity that produces results in hearts, spirit, and the growth of the physical campus, including a church, parish center and a school. A steadfast advocate of promise and potential, Denise’s professional work and personal commitment represent the best in changing lives and building futures.
Ray and Denise hope their giving will have a ripple effect, and that those he helps will be inspired to pay it forward and help others. To the recipients of the Ray Kapahi and Denise L. Wesleder Bursary in Physics, Ray shares: “I feel honoured to support you. I believe in you and I am rooting for you. Go after your goals and dreams and don’t give up. I wish you the best of success.”
After completing his MSc in Physics from the University of Alberta and working for Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL), Dr. Malm arrived at SFU in 1968 to undertake PhD research in Physics. Upon completion of his PhD in 1971, he returned to AECL to continue his work in nuclear spectroscopy. Shortly afterwards, he moved to the private sector where he developed measurement, control, and diagnostic systems for the nuclear power industry, and later for natural gas production.
Among many accomplishments of his successful career, Dr. Malm has contributed to significant improvements in nuclear spectroscopy and holds patents to technologies that assist in the reduction of over 500,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
Dr. Malm has deep ties to SFU. Not only did he meet his wife, Caroline, during his PhD studies at the university, but both of their sons are also SFU alumni. Additionally, he cites his PhD supervisor, Dr. Rudi Haering, as an inspirational mentor who encouraged him to question current ideas, and proceed systematically towards a project goal. These skills have contributed to Dr. Malm’s ability to discover and take advantage of new opportunities throughout his successful career.
SFU Physics is truly humbled by Howard and Caroline Malm's dedication and generous support of our graduate students through the Dr. Howard Malm Graduate Award in Physics.
Kirk H. Michaelian
"Work hard; and be patient. To be a successful spectroscopist, one must have patience. And don’t forget to have fun – science should be fun!”
- Kirk H. Michaelian
Kirk H. Michaelian, PhD, is an emeritus scientist with Natural Resources Canada. He previously worked as a research associate at the University of Alberta and as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto. The author of over 175 papers, and two books, on spectroscopy and related topics, Dr. Michaelian received his PhD from the Faculty of Science at Simon Fraser University.
His research focuses on instrumentation and signal recovery in photoacoustic and Raman spectroscopy with special emphasis on hydrocarbon characterization. He is an Honourary Fellow at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, an adjunct professor at the Universities of Toronto and Calgary and a Board member for the Alberta/Canada Fusion Technology Alliance (an organization working on fusion as an energy source).
SFU Physics is thankful for Kirk H. Michaelian's generous support of graduate students at his alma mater through the Kirk H. Michaelian Graduate Scholarship in Physics.
Evelyn and Leigh Palmer
SFU Physics Emeritus Professor Leigh Palmer, and his wife Evelyn Palmer, former SFU Chemistry Lecturer and Lab Instructor, were active members of the Simon Fraser University academic community from 1966 until their retirements in 2001.
Both Palmers were actively engaged university affairs and in scientific and cultural groups during their careers at SFU. They even sponsored a number of seminars and lectures at SFU including the Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture Series, which they initiated on the one hundredth anniversary of Albert Einstein's birth.
SFU Physics is very appreciative of the Palmer's continued enagement and dedication to the university through The Evelyn and Leigh Palmer Scholarship.
(In memory of Grant Sheffer)
Grant Sheffer was born in Regina, Saskatchewan but moved to British Columbia in 1968. He was an SFU Physics Alumnus (BSc, 1976) who worked at SFU and later at TRIUMF.
Grant was passionate about science; physics in particular. From an early age he was extremely inquisitive, always asking why, who and how. He loved taking things apart, and his mother recalls that even at three years old, armed with his trusty "screwdriver," he accomplished many deeds, good and bad.
During his time as a student at SFU, Grant and his classmates, Mark Downing, Jean Henry and Mariella Johanssen helped bring Physics Nobel Prize winner, Richard Feynman to SFU as a guest. The group became good friends with Dr. Feynman, who autographed several lecture papers and books to Grant, signed “Dick Feynman.” These items became Grant’s most prized possessions.
The Department of Physics is very grateful to Marilyn Sheffer for her generosity. Through the establishment of the Grant Sheffer Undergraduate Student Research Award in Physics and the Grant Sheffer Memorial Graduate Scholarship in Physics many students with Grant's passion for physics will have the opportunity to develop research during their undergraduate studies, and be supported in their graduate education.
Mike and Jenifer Thewalt
Jenifer Tribe began her undergraduate degree in Honours Biophysics at SFU in 1974, and finished her PhD in Chemistry in 1986. Mike Thewalt came to SFU as an assistant professor in the Physics Department in the Fall of 1980, with the support of an NSERC University Research Fellowship. They met during this period, and were married in 1982. After 7 years of postdoctoral research at UBC, Jenifer returned to SFU as an Assistant Professor cross-appointed between Physics and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in 1995. Their son Eric completed a BSc degree in Honours Physics at SFU in 2011, followed by an MSc at the Perimeter Institute and a PhD in Physics from UC Berkeley.
In appreciation of the unflagging support provided by SFU for their professional and research careers, and having always found their interactions with graduate students to be one of the most rewarding aspects of academic research, Mike and Jenifer are paying it forward by supporting SFU Physics Graduate Students through the Mike and Jenifer Thewalt Graduate Award in Physics.
SFU Physics is deeply humbled by the generous support of our graduate students from Mike and Jenifer Thewalt.