Home » Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Student Awards 2023

Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Student Awards 2023

Congratulations to the following UF Physics faculty, staff, and student award recipients for 2023!


Tom Scott Memorial Award. This award is made annually to a senior graduate student in experimental physics who has shown distinction in research. The award honors the memory of Professor Tom Scott who made significant contributions to the Department both as a Chair and as a noted researcher.

Liu Tao “Liu’s thesis work has centered around the development of higher-order spatial laser mode technology for gravitational wave detectors. In the years since joining my research group, he has been the driving force on this research topic. He has been incredibly productive in publishing: he has a total of three short-author list papers already published as first author (two in Physical Review D, and one in Optics Letters), one under review in Physical Review Letters, and one recently accepted to the IOP Journal of Optics.  Liu also helped to mentor two undergraduate researchers, helping them to earn author status on two of the publications. He has a clear passion for research, and performs his work with diligence, care, and great enthusiasm.” – Professor Paul Fulda

Liu Tao
Liu Tao with Physics chair, Steve Hagen.

Yanbo Guo (not pictured) “In the four and half years since he joined my group, Yanbo has studied several quantum magnets. Among them, his most significant work, reported in a paper recently submitted to Phys. Rev. Lett., is on Sr21Bi8Cu2(CO3)2O41, a Bi5+, a new quasi-one-dimensional spin-1/2 alternating-bond antiferromagnet. In this material, Yanbo has found that a random-singlet phase, in which spins do not order, is realized. And it has all been made possible by Yanbo’s excellent experimental skills, including careful calibration of the calorimeter used for the specific-heat and magnetocaloric-effect measurements, and painstakingly rigorous data analysis.” – Professor Yasumasa Takano

Charles F. Hooper Jr. Memorial Award.
 This award is made annually to senior graduate students in physics who have shown distinction in research and/or teaching. The Award honors the memory of Professor Charles (“Chuck”) Hooper who made seminal contributions to the Department as a Chair, as a distinguished researcher, and as a beloved mentor/teacher. 

Shubhagata Bhaumik (not pictured) “Shubhagata has grown into a leading expert in gravitational wave sources that feature orbital eccentricity. This is a frontier that is only now becoming accessible due to several technical breakthroughs. She led the analysis of the LIGO, Virgo, and KAGRA collaborations that searched for eccentric sources, which came to fruition and was recently published as a collaboration paper, an unusual feat for a graduate student. Beyond this work, Shubhagata is co-author of 4 publications.” – Professor Imre Bartos

Chao Zhang “Although I have worked with Chao Zhang for less than one year (from March to now), Chao is the best graduate student among those whom I have worked with during my two-term NASA Hubble Fellowship at top institutions, Princeton, Institute for Advanced Study. During this short time, Chao started a completely new research direction on cosmic ray diffusion in magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence. He has led a paper submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters, which has passed the first round of review with a very positive review report and is expected to be accepted soon.  He already has deep understanding on the difficult subject of MHD turbulence at a level much higher than many researchers in the field. He has already developed independently new codes on particle acceleration and magnetic reconnection. Because of his exceptional strength in both physical understanding and numerical skills, he has rapidly developed a network of collaboration with several research groups at top institutions.” – Professor Siyao Xu

Chao Zhang
Chao Zhang with Physics chair, Steve Hagen.

Rebika Makaju “On the research front, Rebika has been working on the fabrication and measurements of quantum wires coupled at the nanoscale since the Spring of 2020. Owing to her enthusiasm and her hard work, Rebika quickly became the driving force behind the lateral one-dimensional Coulomb drag project. In the last year, Rebika spearheaded the data analysis of the experiment and completed her first manuscript, as a first author, on the subject. The manuscript is now under review in PRB. Throughout this time, Rebika has also deftly mentored 2 undergraduate students in data acquisition and analysis. In parallel to her work on laterally coupled quantum wires, Rebika’s role was instrumental to the successful fabrication of vertically-coupled quantum wires, a project 3 years in the making at UF.  In teaching PHY2053 discussion sections, in addition to her teaching duties for the discussion sections, Rebika has also managed the makeup quizzes for the entire semester. Students find her approachable and compliment her about her teaching style. She has taken a leadership role among the group of TAs for PHY2053 even though this is her first semester teaching discussion sections. Previously, she has also excelled as a TA for the introductory labs and as a grader for upper level undergraduate physics courses.” – Professors Dominique Laroche and Amlan Biswas and Lecturer Kathryn McGill

Rebika Makaju
Rebika Makaju with Physics chair, Steve Hagen.


The E. Raymond Andrew Memorial Award. This award is given to a senior graduate student in physics for distinction in research. This award honors Professor Raymond Andrew who was world-renowned physicist particularly noted for his seminal contributions to the field of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Professor Andrew was a Graduate Research Professor in the Department from 1983 until 1998. 

Alex Hipp “Alex joined the Florida Axion Dark Matter eXperiment in the spring of 2020 and in the past three years has made several important contributions to the experiment.  He has made key measurements of tunable microwave cavities for the experiment.  He also is a key person in the “high resolution” analysis for the recently completed ADMX data-taking run. He has also extended the analysis to a set of spectral resolutions between 20 mHz and 100 Hz, demonstrating the improved signal-to-noise ratio. Finally, he has rebuilt our prototype called ADMX SLIC (Superconducting Lc circuit Investigating Cold axions).  The sensitivity will be above the QCD axion limits, but there is always discovery potential for very light axion-like particles.  Alex a is talented student who is well deserving of this award.” – Professors David Tanner, Neil Sullivan, and Pierre Sikivie

Alex Hipp
Alex Hipp with Physics chair, Steve Hagen.


The Wayne R. Bomstad II Memorial Awards. These are awarded annually to two Teaching Assistants who have displayed excellence in teaching in either the laboratory or the discussion sections. The awards honor the memory of Wayne Bomstad, who was for some years an important member of the graduate student teaching team. It was made possible by contributions from his family and friends. 

Discussion – Matt Reinhard (not pictured) “Matt has been highly responsible and active this semester. He fed back to us ideas on how to improve the course and what students were feeling about the course/quizzes etc. This feedback helped us improve the course. Matt worked with all the TAs to improve their quiz by looking over their drafts, which often did not come in a timely fashion. We appreciate this important job and the increased last-minute communication Matt had to undertake in this role.  Typical student feedback for his is represented by this quote:  “He is very organized and explains the material very clearly.” – Professors Tarek Saab and Sujata Krishna

Laboratory – Sam Dillon “Sam does great board work and explanations at the beginning of the lab session. He is seldom sitting at the front of the room and spends most of his time with students in the lab to make sure they are making the most of their time learning physics from experimental explorations, which is what we do in the introductory labs. He makes everyone in his sections feel at home and has a good understanding of what his students need to succeed.  He is friendly and communicates well, both in class and through Canvas. He returns graded material in a timely fashion and works well with the staff. He is also helpful when needed to substitute for his fellow TAs when they are out sick or traveling.” – Bob DeSerio and Charles Parks

Sam Dillon
Sam Dillon with Physics chair, Steve Hagen


Physics Department Teacher of the Year

The department received many nominations for Physics Teacher of the Year 2023.  The ad hoc faculty teaching award committee, led by Prof. Greg Stewart, reviewed the very supportive and enthusiastic nominations that were received, along with faculty peer teaching evaluations and student evaluation data going back three years. Based on that careful review the committee recommended we give two awards this year, to Prof. Katia Matcheva and Prof. Amlan Biswas. Congratulations to Katia (not pictured) and Amlan!

Amlan Biswas
Amlan Biswas with Physics chair, Steve Hagen.


Physics Department Employee Excellence Award

Charles Parks Charles Parks is here every morning to run our teaching laboratories, which teach over 2000 students every week, from 7 am to 6 pm every day, fall and spring.  Chuck is responsible for setting up and taking down all the equipment, every week, and managing a team of more than 40 teaching assistants. He also manages to give over 1000 makeup labs every semester. He works it all out and keeps it running smoothly.  He plays a key role in our graduate program, because he knows and works with virtually all the graduate students. And he is famous for providing tremendous personal support to them. For years he has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, at his home, for students who don’t have another place to go for the holiday – especially the international students. This year he hosted 27 students. Chuck embodies commitment to our department, to graduate and undergraduate teaching and training, and to the success of our students. For that we are pleased to give him our staff excellence award.  Congratulations to Chuck! Nominated by Bob DeSerio.

Charles Parks
Charles Parks with Physics chair, Steve Hagen.

Jake Bourdage Jake works with all of our students, staff, faculty, and visitors, every day to keep them safe and comfortable. Jake keeps an eye on everything that goes on in the building, every strange noise, every motor that rattles in the ceiling, every crack that opens up in the concrete. Basically, if anything in this building is either solid, liquid or gas, Jake knows about it.  He sends out information about what’s going on and when it’s going to get fixed. He fixes problems so quickly and efficiently that most people don’t even notice them. Jake had a particularly challenging year in 2023.  This was not a plague year, like 2020. This was a flood year.  A flood and a bike path.  The impact of the bike path project was bad enough.  But when it caused the basement to flood with 18 inches of muddy water in June, we had all kinds of worries – moldy walls, damaged furniture, wet equipment. Jake worked with faculty, contractors, students, and university administration to keep the huge cleanup and restoration job on track. When people were under a lot of stress, Jake had the skills to smooth ruffled feathers, and keep the communication lines open and the job moving forward.  Jake did an exceptional job, and that’s why we are pleased to give him our staff excellence award. Congratulations to Jake! Nominated by Professor Mark Meisel

Jake Bourdage
Jake Bourdage with Physics chair, Steve Hagen.

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