Winter 1999-00 Physics Newsletter

A Note from the Chair

By Dr. J. Bruce Rafert

Professor and Chair

Faculty, Students, and Alumni:

I’ve some exceptional news to share with you in this issue of the Physics News. First of all, join me in congratulating Dr. Raymond Shaw (our newest hire) on obtaining a NSF CAREER Award. These prestigious research awards are offered to our nation’s most exceptional university researchers, who demonstrate excellence in both research and teaching. Physics now has both of the faculty who have received NSF CAREER awards in the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech.

Next, its noteworthy that research activity in Physics has now grown to the point where our extremely competitive externally funded activities lead the College, and have surpassed many of the engineering departments as well. All sorts of opportunities have emerged for students in our graduate program as a result.

Finally, our undergraduate program continues to grow, with each entering class of first year students bringing a set of credentials that challenges those of the previous year’s students. We can all be proud of Michigan Tech, our Department, and our efforts to help MTU ‘Change the World’. Come visit our website to find out more.

Current Research: Dr. Alex Kostinski

By Alex Kostinski


My recent research has been in the general area of atmospheric physics. With a collaborator, Dr. Arthur Jameson of RJH Sci., Arlington, Virginia, during the last 4 years we have completed a series of six articles in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences (Part VI has just appeared in the February, 2000 issue) devoted to the role of number density fluctuations in various precipitation phenomena. For example, the soothing sound of raindrops striking the roof of a house has long been considered a classic example of a Poisson process (“pure randomness”) - yet we claim that this is often not the case because closer attention reveals “hints of rhythm” or correlations in the rain.

The physics is in the conjecture that in both, time and space, the uneven and intermittent mixing by atmospheric turbulence, among other factors, causes “patchiness” of clouds and rain on the scales of most experiments. This patchiness, in turn, is associated with correlations between drop counts corresponding to non-overlapping time (or space) intervals. Such correlations represent departures from the statistical independence assumption and, therefore, lead to deviations from the Poisson distribution.

We have also applied the above ideas and techniques borrowed from statistical physics (e.g., fluctuation-correlation relations) to analyze spatial distribution of cloud droplets. The results are described of Cloud Particles”, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 2000, in press. Another application of this approach to the icing process is described in Jameson and Kostinski “The Effect of Stochastic Cloud Structure on the Icing Process”, J. Atmos. Sc. 2000, in press.

Together with a former Ph.D. student Dr. Alan Koivunen (currently on faculty in MTU’s Electrical Engineering Department) we considered an important problem in radar meteorology: optimal signal processing of correlated (in time) weather radar echoes. This work is described in: Koivunen and Kostinski, “A Feasibility of Data Whitening to Improve Performance of Weather Radar”, Journal of Applied Meteorology, 1999, pp.741-749 and Kostinski and Koivunen, “On the Condition Number of Gaussian Sample Covariance Matrices”, to appear in Jan. 2000 issue of the IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing.

I spent the 98-99 academic year on sabbatical leave as a Visiting Fellow of the Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt Maryland. There I had a chance to visit with another former Ph.D. student of mine, Dr. John Kwiatkowski who has become one of the key people behind NASA’s spaceborne radar TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) success. I also collaborated with several Goddard and MTU scientists on a problem of radiative transfer in satellite monitoring of volcanic ash clouds e.g. see Krotkov, Krueger, Kostinski, Riley, Rose; “Effect of Particle Non-Sphericity on Satellite Monitoring of Drifting Volcanic Ash Clouds”, J. Quant. Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer, Nov. 1999 and Krotkov, Torres, Krueger, Kostinski, Rose, Bluth, Schneider, Schaefer, Comparison of TOMS and AVHRR volcanic ash retrievals from the August 1992 Eruption of Mt. Spurr, Geophysical Research Letters, Feb.15, 1999.

Recent Degree Recipients - Fall 1999

  • Alan Koivunen, Ph.D.
  • Frank Underdown, Ph.D.
  • Daniel Moor, BS
  • George Zimmer, BS

Department Update

Robert H. Mount, Assistant Professor, retired from the department on December 22, 1999. Professor Mount has been a Professor in the Physics Department for 45 years. We send our best wishes to Professor Mount for a happy retirement.

Donald A. Daavettila, Associate Professor, will be retiring from the department on February 29, 2000. Professor Daavettila has been a Professor in the Physics Department for 36 years. We send our best wishes to Professor Daavetilla for a happy retirement.

Cindee Molnar, Secretary, has recently received the Department of the Air Force Commendation Medal. Master Sergeant Cindee Molnar was awarded this medal for meritorious service as Electronic Intelligence Operations Support Superintendent and Assistant Unit Deployment Manager, Information Operations Control Division, National Air Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, from May 17, 1999 to August 13, 1999.

The Blue Key National Honor Fraternity of MTU presents Winter Carnival - 2000 "Icy Predictions of Future Conditions" February 2-6, 2000. Check out the Winter Carnival 2000 website for pictures of the statutes, updates, and carnival event results.


We offer our deepest thanks to friends and alumni who have made a recent contribution to the University. We appreciate your continued interest in the Department of Physics at Michigan Technological University

  • Raymond J. Dombroski, Jr.
  • Louis and Diane Hein
  • Howard & Marji Wilson
  • Raymond E. Schramm
  • C. John & Kathryn Umbarger
  • Joseph & Susan Rowe
  • Gordon & Carla Lyon
  • Alfred & Deborah Trapanese
  • Harold W. Paul
  • Andrew & Janice Callahan
  • Randall J. Fisk
  • Thomas & Renee Kugler
  • Bradford & Roseann Smith
  • Donald & Ann Parry
  • Richard & Cheryl Detwiler
  • Denise & Curtis Puisto
  • James & Karen Cromie
  • Thomas & Karen Freeman
  • Jon H. MacLeod, P.E.
  • William & Kathleen Wilson
  • Floyd & Pamela Croy
  • Alan & Kathy Boutilier
  • Niccolas L. Franz
  • John P. Thyren
  • Warren & Barbara Jivery
  • William G. Hart, Jr.
  • Peter N. Jansen, Jr.
  • B. Thomas Woodroffe
  • John L. Baxandall
  • Kenneth J. Javor
  • Guy & Susan Richards
  • David & Laura Rock
  • Mark A. Turkal
  • John & Elaine Johnson
  • Robert & Judi McEachen
  • David & Sandra Lazarus
  • Anthony & Sharon Suppelsa
  • Jerry & Olive Cupal
  • Dale & Lauren Mukavetz
  • Roger & Susan Urbaniak
  • Mark & Mary Terry
  • Gary & Lynn Zulauf
  • Ronald & Diane Case
  • Michael & Mary Ellen Teneyck
  • Charles G. Garrow
  • Larry & Patricia Wittenbach
  • Paul & Mabel Shandley
  • William & Dorothy Roth
  • Gerald & Katherine McKindles
  • Theodore & Michelle Krieger
  • Richard & Mary Ann Spigarelli
  • Norman & Beth Prange
  • Susan E. Hill
  • John & Elaine Johnson
  • Robert & JoAnn Matheson
  • John L. Baxandall
  • Gary & Linda Chew
  • Paul & Peggy Kaptur
  • Bruce & Judith Crawford
  • Thomas & Margaret Mohr
  • Charles & Mary Zeigler
  • Bruce & Linda Webb
  • Gerald & Patricia Shroeder
  • John & Helen Decaire
  • Edward & Judy Simonen
  • Robert & Doris Pohanka
  • Rodney & Teresa Mattson
  • William & Lisa Johnson
  • Thomas & Judith Essig
  • John & Pauletta Houston
  • Norman & Kathleen Burk
  • Fred & Jill Slocum
  • Thomas & Dona Gould
  • Bruce & Peggy Knivila
  • David & Crystal Byrd
  • Dwight & Adelaide Bishop
  • Donald & Carolyn Szenina
  • David & Lucille Grewe
  • Joseph & Stephanie Roti
  • William E. Wuerthele
  • James & Brenda Cross
  • James & Donna Rafert
  • John & Sherry Jaszczak
  • Gary P. Agin
  • Ulrich Hansmann
  • Jerry D. Hester
  • Edward & Nina Nadgorny

Last year Michigan Tech attracted more than $19.7 million in gifts with a significant portion of these funds coming from MTU alumni. These alumni chose their area of support at the University which included the Cornerstone Fund (unrestricted gifts used where the need is greatest), an academic department, a favorite scholarship fund, or a special program. During the 1997-98 Annual Giving year, 125 physics alumni chose to support their alma mater with financial contributions totaling $ 24,620. Of these gifts, $ 6,665 was designated for the physics department assisting in the achievement of several departmental objectives last year. In addition to the ongoing support provided by the Annual Giving Program, the Michigan Tech Fund has embarked upon its most ambitious fund-raising effort to date – a five-year capital campaign that will transform the image of the University from one of excellence to one of eminence. The campaign has an initial goal of $100 million, aimed at helping the University continue to attract outstanding students and faculty, and to provide superior academic programs. According to the campaign plan, alumni giving will account for 70 percent of the goal, through cash, pledges, and planned giving. The remainder will come from the support of corporations and foundations. Your gift to Michigan Tech will help the University achieve this campaign goal, and will build an even greater academic institution for today’s and tomorrow’s students.

Faculty Spotlight

Gary P. Agin

Associate Professor, Ph.D.

Kansas State University, 1968

Low Energy Nuclear Physics

A degree in physics is an excellent foundation for whatever career a student eventually follows. There are many “hidden physicists” in our society, whose job titles don’t mention physics. Physicists don’t just do physics research or teach. Some are engineers. Some are attorneys. Some are accountants. Some are corporate executives. The analytical, problem solving that is a major part of physics has application in most careers.