Graduate Home

The physics department is committed to providing a positive and encouraging environment for women in physics, at all stages of their careers. We have four women on the tenured & tenure-track faculty: Hai Ping Cheng, Aneta Petkova, Katia Matcheva and Heather Ray. We usually have about twenty female graduate students in the department. We have an active Female Physics Forum (FPF), which sponsors regular seminars and discussions on topics related to women in science. FPF also connects female undergraduate students with female graduate student mentors. In the profiles on this page, some of the women in our department tell you about their activities, backgrounds, and career paths, in their own words. We encourage you to contact students and faculty at our department to learn more about the university environment and the many research opportunities that are available on campus.

SUZETTE A. PABIT
University of Florida PhD 2004
(Dr. Hagen's group)
Currently a postdoctoral research associate at School of Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University

When I first came to UF, I was very enthusiastic but had very little experience. Although I worked on high-Tc superconductivity for my undergraduate thesis and was very interested in Condensed Matter experiments, I wasn’t completely sure which field of physics to specialize in. I knew, however, that I want to do cutting-edge research, to be part of science as it unfolds before my very eyes. What helped most during my first year was the “Meet the Faculty” informal seminars where we interacted with faculty members and had a taste of the variety of research possibilities at UF. There, I first heard about the “protein folding problem” from my would-be thesis adviser, Prof. Steve Hagen, and got excited about the myriad possibilities in working on biological physics problems. In UF, I had a chance to build microfluidic devices and put together optical systems for studying fast kinetics of biopolymer reorganization. I was proud to be part of the experimental team that in 2002 measured the folding time of the fastest folding miniprotein. Since graduating from UF, I have continued to work on molecular biophysics research. Currently, I am investigating the role of electrostatics and molecular topology in biomolecular recognition.




MARIA NIKOLOU
University of Florida PhD 2005
(Dr. Tanner's group)
Currently a scientist at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., NJ

In 2000 and after obtaining a B.S. in Physics from the University of Crete, Greece, I joined the graduate school of the University of Florida in Physics. Upon completing a year of core courses and after exploring potential projects and research groups, I decided to join Professor Tanner's group. Two projects immediately drew my attention; one on electrochemically prepared conjugated polymers in collaboration with Professor Reynolds' group in Chemistry; and the second with Professor Rinzler on transparent, single walled carbon nanotube films. Both projects were fascinating from the very beginning and gave me the opportunity to collaborate with other groups. The interdisciplinary character of these projects was very rewarding both personally and professionally. During my research endeavors everyone in the department was very supportive and in a way I always felt as part of a big research family. Looking back, I cherish these years that gave me a lot of good memories. Many hours of hard work were shared with classmates and colleagues together with many fun and memorable moments. Gainesville is a great place to be and there are always things to enjoy. I left in 2005 after finishing my PhD having many good friends and collaborators with whom I still keep in touch. I continued my journey by accepting a Post Doctoral appointment in Materials Science and Engineering Department at Cornell University. There I worked on the development and testing of biological sensors based on organic thin film transistors. Currently I’m employed in Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. applying the learnings I have acquired through my studies in Physics.


SAITI DATTA
University of Florida PhD 2009
(Dr. Hill's group)

I entered the UF physics PhD program in Fall 2004 after finishing my Masters from University of Pune, India. Even before I joined the program I knew I would be working in condensed matter physics, though I was not sure whether to work in theory or experiment. I'd had training in theoretical physics earlier, but I decided to move to experiment to see how it feels to do “hands on” work. I joined Dr. Stephen Hill’s group in the summer of 2005. It’s been a learning experience since then, from building resonators to understanding magnetic properties of single molecule magnets with microwave spectroscopy. Single molecule magnets are basically molecules containing transition metal ions that behave as magnets, showing interesting quantum phenomena at low temperatures. The field itself is interdisciplinary and I have had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with both physics and chemistry groups from different parts of the world. At present I’m trying to finish up my experiments and moving towards writing my thesis for the PhD degree. I surely would like to continue my journey and I hope that all the experiences I’ve gained in these years will help me in the process.




KATIA MATCHEVA
Assistant Professor
UF Physics

I am an assistant professor in Physics at UF. What this really means is, that I love figuring out how nature works. I started as a math enthusiast in high school but soon realized that physics can add real flesh and blood to the mathematical formulas. After I graduated with a degree in physics from Plovdiv University, Bulgaria, I continued to work on my education at the Johns Hopkins University, USA and became fascinated by the surrealistic world of exotic planets. I received a PhD in planetary atmospheres and I am currently working on interpreting data from NASA space missions to other planets. Since 2005 I have been part of the Department of Physics at the University of Florida teaching and advising students and thinking about my favorite planets. What gases make up their atmospheres? How strong are the winds "out there"? Do they have clouds and what are they made of? How different are those planets from our own? These are some of the questions that have kept me busy for the last few years. The Department of Physics has close relations with the Astronomy Department at UF, which leads an effort to detect planets far beyond our solar system. Figuring out, what these exotic worlds look like, is the next challenge for the curious mind!


KATHERINE DOOLEY
Graduate Student (Arrived Fall 2006)
(Dr. Reitze's group)

I started at UF in the fall of 2006 right after graduating from Vassar College. It was quite a shock. I was amusingly terrified of the thought of having to be a teaching assistant, and I couldn't get over the fact that although I lived literally at the edge of campus, it was still 2 miles to the physics building! I quickly learned I didn't have to design labs for my students, and the bike ride to and from school became rather addictive.

I only spent that first year on campus though. After I passed the preliminary exam, my advisor (Dave Reitze) and I promptly moved to Baton Rouge where I would begin my research career at the LIGO Livingston Observatory. And that has been the best thing yet. I get to tinker with the interferometer late into the night with friends, and during the day I work on developing an advanced sensing and control scheme to deal with high power instabilities. Dave Reitze is headed back to UF, but I'm staying. :-)


HEATHER RAY
Assistant Professor
UF Physics

My specialization is in experimental high-energy particle physics. I earned my Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2004, performing a top quark cross-section measurement on the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) experiment. Post-graduate I switched from accelerator-based particle physics to accelerator-based neutrino physics. In September 2007, I joined the faculty at UF. I am the only experimental neutrino physicist at UF. I am involved with the MiniBooNE neutrino oscillation experiment (Fermilab). MiniBooNE is searching for evidence of neutrino oscillations claimed by the LSND experiment. LSND was looking for muon anti-neutrinos to turn into electron anti-neutrinos. LSND observed a significant excess of events best fit by a neutrino oscillation model. However, the Standard Model of Physics cannot accommodate oscillations from the sun, atmosphere, and LSND, the three areas with claimed observations of oscillations. Confirmation of the LSND signal would require extensions to the Standard Model we would need to determine what new physics model could cause all oscillation results. I am also working on a proposal for a neutrino experiment to be located at Oak Ridge Lab, TN. This experiment, Osc-SNS, is designed to perform several high-precision measurements using an accelerator based neutrino beam with lower energy (~30 MeV). My group currently consists of 1 undergraduate, 2 graduate students, and 1 post-doc.


Sahar Mirshamsi
Graduate Student (arrived fall 2008)

I came to the University of Florida from Iran, where I got my Bachelor's degree in physics from K.N.T. University and my Master's in physics from Sharif University at Tehran. My Bachelor's thesis was a theoretical study, "Transport in Mesoscopic Systems", while my Master's thesis was experimental: "Synthesizing and Characterizing High Tc Superconductors". This summer I will start working with Prof Hai Ping Cheng. This means a switch back to theoretical and computational physics. As a first year graduate student, I have had a challenging but still amazing experience. I had to work very hard on my core courses and as a teaching assistant, and especially learn to teach in English. Although it was difficult, I have learned a lot of physics and mathematics. I have also learned valuable lessons about teaching and improved my English. I am looking forward for the coming years and new experiences.