Physics Advisory Board

Richard Ahrenkiel

Dr. Richard Ahrenkiel received a B.S. in engineering physics and an M.S. and a Ph. D. in physics, all from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Ahrenkiel is a Research Fellow Emeritus and a consultant at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. He specializes in the measurement of carrier lifetime in materials and holds a number of patents for new measurement techniques. He is also a Research Professor of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Dr. Ahrenkiel consults for a number of private companies. In September 2013, he founded Lakewood Semiconductors LLC.

Dr. Ahrenkiel has also done extensive work in the area of electro-optical characterization of photovoltaic cells and materials. He is the coauthor of a recent textbook titled "Theory and Methods of Photovoltaic Material Characterization" (World Scientific Singapore, 2019). He was a staff member at the Research Laboratories of the Eastman Kodak Company and worked in its original Electronic Photography Group. He led the Device Physics Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory before joining SERI/NREL in 1981. He is a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Vacuum Society, and the Optical Society of America.

Meigan Aronson

Dr. Meigan Aronson is the Dean of the Faculty of Science at The University of British Columnbia, a position she has held since Fall 2018. Dr. Aronson received her Ph.D. in physics in 1988 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Following her graduate work, Dr. Aronson held a postdoctoral position with the Condensed Matter and Thermal Physics Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory and was a visiting scientist at Natuurkundig Laboratorium at the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

At the center of Dr. Aronson's research are heavy-ferromagnetic compounds, which she studies with the help of measurements of transport and thermodynamic properties and neutron scattering, sometimes under high hydrostatic pressure. Further research topics are charge density waves and magnetic nanoparticles.

David Awschalom

Dr. David Awschalom is the Liew Family Professor and Deputy Dean of the Pritzker School for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and a Senior Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. He is also the Director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange. Before arriving in Chicago, he served as the Director of the California NanoSystems Institute and as a Professor of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. Awschalom works in the emerging fields of spintronics and quantum information engineering, where his students develop new methods to explore and control the quantum states of individual electrons, nuclei, and photons in the solid state. His research includes implementations of quantum information processing with potential applications in computing, imaging, and encryption.

Dr. Awschalom has received the American Physical Society Oliver E. Buckley Prize and Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize, the European Physical Society Europhysics Prize, the Materials Research Society David Turnbull Award and Outstanding Investigator Prize, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the International Magnetism Prize and the Néel Medal from the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, and an IBM Outstanding Innovation Award. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the European Academy of Sciences.

James Bray

Dr. James Bray, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, received a B.S. in physics from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1970. He received an M.S. in physics in 1971 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1974, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While at Illinois, he worked under Professor John Bardeen on unusual mechanisms for superconductivity.

Dr. Bray joined General Electric Global Research after graduation in September 1974. Until June 1979, he worked as a theoretical condensed matter physicist in support of several programs. After June 1979, he held several technical management positions supervising R&D on various physical science topics, biotechnology, electronic materials processing (e.g., molecular beam epitaxy, chemical vapor deposition), electronic devices, electronic packaging, and high-temperature superconductivity. In 1996, he began work in the new GE Six-Sigma quality thrust and eventually acted as manager of the Measurements Systems Program, containing the bulk of the NDE projects. In 1998, he became manager of the new Optical Measurements and Processing Lab, focused on applied optics projects of many types. In 2001, he became Program Manager of the Superconducting Generator Program. With the implementation of TCP (Technical Career Path) in 2006, he became a Chief Scientist within Electrical Technologies. He now works in and consults for several projects, with the largest at present being the wind superconducting generator project. Additionally, he teaches several courses (e.g., A course, Integrity, PI Training) and is a Tagger for export compliance.

In 2008, Dr. Bray was awarded the Coolidge Fellowship, which is GE's highest award for achievement in R&D. He was selected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) in 2019 and is the 2020 APS George E. Pake Prize winner.

Lonnie Edelheit

Dr. Lewis S. ("Lonnie") Edelheit received a B.S. in engineering physics in 1964, an M.S. in physics in 1966, and a Ph. D. in physics in 1969, all from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Edelheit retired from General Electric Company in December 2001 as Senior Vice President, R&D, and member of GE’s Corporate Executive Council. Under his leadership, GE introduced numerous products, including digital X-ray systems, new turbines for power generation, the GE 90 Jet engine, etc.

Dr. Edelheit joined GE’s corporate Research Laboratory in 1969. In 1974, he became project manager for GE’s first CT scanner. He transferred to GE Medical Systems in Milwaukee and became General Manager of Engineering for all GE Medical Systems products and General Manager of the CT business, with profit-and-loss responsibility for GE's worldwide CT business.

In 1986, he left GE to become CEO of Quantum Medical Systems, a venture capital-backed ultrasound company startup which was sold to Siemens. He returned to GE in 1992 and assumed leadership of Corporate R&D.

Dr. Edelheit is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). He was selected for the 2001 APS George E. Pake Prize. He is on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Mason Health System and is Chairman of the Advisory Board to the Energy and Environment Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In 2014, he was elected to the University of Illinois Engineering Hall of Fame.

A native of Chicago, he currently lives with his wife on Mercer Island, WA.

Donald Gubser

Dr. Donald Gubser was Superintendent of the Materials Science Division of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) from 1987 to 2011. He received the Naval Meritorious Service Award for scientific leadership in 1983 and the Senior Executive Service Meritorious Service Award for excellence in science management in 1992. He was the distinguished lecturer for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Council of Superconductivity in 2004 and received the Leadership Award of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society and the George Kimball Burgess Memorial Award of the American Society for Materials (ASM) International, Washington, D.C. Chapter, in 2010.

Dr. Gubser is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and of the ASM International, and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). In retirement, Dr. Gubser continues to serve on society and university boards, to review journal articles, and to participate in reviews for government funded programs. He founded and is currently president of the NRL Alumni Association.

Since retiring, Dr. Gubser now plays trombone in three local area bands, rekindling his musical career which was last enjoyed in the U of I Marching Band, 1959 and 1960.

George E. Laramore

Dr. George Laramore received a B.S. in physics from Purdue University in 1965 and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for graduate studies in physics, where he received an M.S. and a Ph. D. in 1966 and 1969, respectively.  His thesis advisor was Leo Kadanoff, and the title of his thesis was “Transport Phenomena Near Second Order Phase Transitions”.  He received a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship which allowed him to stay at the University of Illinois to study surface physics under the direction of Charles Duke.

Dr. Laramore became a junior faculty member for a short time and then joined the theoretical physics group at Sandia Laboratories (Albuquerque), where he became interested in problems in biology through some work in surface catalysis. He took a leave of absence from Sandia to go to medical school, attending the Ph.D. – M.D. program at the University of Miami, where he received an M.D. in 1976.  Dr. Laramore then went to the University of Washington for residency training in Radiation Oncology, largely because of a fast neutron radiotherapy program at the Nuclear Physics Laboratory. He completed residency training in 1980 and is board certified in therapeutic radiology and radiation oncology.  He became full professor in 1985, acting Department Chair of Radiation Oncology in 1997, and permanent Department Chair of Radiation Oncology in 1999, remaining in this position until 2013. He was the founding Medical Director for the Fast Neutron Radiotherapy program and the founding Medical Director for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Radiotherapy Center.

Dr. Laramore's primary research interests lie in the interface between physics and medicine. He has chaired several clinical trials conducted by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group and National Research Group with special emphasis on the treatment of head and neck cancer. He currently serves as the institutional Principal Investigator for these groups. In 2019, Dr. Laramore received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Association for Proton Therapy. Outside of medicine, his interests include swimming, running, hiking, scuba diving, and foreign travel with his wife, Shelley.

Laurie McNeil

Dr. Laurie McNeil is the Bernard Gray Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned an A.B. in chemistry and physics from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, and in 1982 received her Ph.D. in experimental condensed matter physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working with David Lazarus (who retired in 1987 and died in 2011). After two years as an IBM Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT working with the late Millie Dresselhaus, she joined the faculty at UNC-CH in 1984. She has been there ever since, apart from sabbatical sojourns at Argonne National Laboratory, DuPont Central Research & Development, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She served as chair of her department from 2004 to 2009 and led the comprehensive transformation of its introductory physics instruction to incorporate research-validated active-engagement pedagogy.

Professor McNeil is a materials physicist who uses optical spectroscopy to investigate the properties of semiconductors, insulators, and biomaterials. She is a Deputy Editor at the Journal of Applied Physics and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) in 2001. She has worked throughout her career to enhance the representation and success of women in physics and has won numerous awards for this work. In 2016, she was co-chair of a joint task force of APS and the American Association of Physics Teachers that produced the report Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st-Century Careers. She is the 2019 Chair of the APS Forum on Education.

David Mortara

Dr. David Mortara received his Ph.D in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1973. In 1982, Mortara founded Mortara Instrument, Inc., a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of non-invasive cardiology products and leader in ECG technology and innovation, which was acquired in February 2017 by Hill-Rom, Inc.

Since then, Dr. Mortara has continued to refine digital electrocardiography and to improve automated algorithms for ECG interpretation. He also has been involved in the establishment of numerous ECG standards and played a leadership role in various industry initiatives.


Sam Petuchowski

Dr. Sam Petuchowski is of counsel with the Boston law firm of Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers, focusing on patent prosecution and strategic patent counseling in quantitative areas such as analytical instruments, optical and high-energy technologies, medical devices, and business methods.

With an undergraduate degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Petuchowski completed a Ph.D. in atomic and molecular physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, under Tom DeTemple in the Electrophysics Lab of the late-‘70s. His dissertation addressed coherent Raman emission in optically pumped molecular gases.

During a period of nearly 20 years, Dr. Petuchowski developed instrumentation and published astrophysical research, primarily at infrared and longer wavelengths, at the University of Maryland, Naval Research Laboratory, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He transitioned adiabatically to the practice of law, and, with a law degree from Georgetown University, has practiced with the Sunstein firm since 1996, now spending substantial time on civic and personal activities.

Dr. Petuchowski is pleased to have been invited as an early participant in the Physics Department’s Career Seminar program, and to have served on the Physics Advisory Board since 2015.

Serge Rudaz

Born in Switzerland, Dr. Serge Rudaz received a Diplôme d'Ingénieur-Physicien from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), following a master’s thesis on semiconductor-to-metal transitions in II-VI dichalcogenides by Raman and IR spectroscopy and by low-temperature Hall-effect and transport properties, under Professor Emil Mooser.

He went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a Swiss National Foundation grant and received a Ph.D. in physics under Professor Charles Slichter for work on nuclear magnetic resonance of metal catalyst surfaces and associated experimental and theoretical studies of many-body electronic wavefunction systems. He is still happily married to another Ph.D. physicist he met in Urbana.

During post-doc years at Rice University, Dr. Rudaz used muon spin resonance at the Los Alamos and Villigen synchrotron rings to study defects in semiconductors, charge- and spin- density-waves in spin glasses, and order-disorder transitions in high-temperature superconductors.

He moved to Silicon Valley to work on III-V visible-to-near-infrared LEDs at Hewlett-Packard (HP) Opto-Electronics Division (OED) under George Craford. He was one of the key developers of IRDA AlGaAs emitter technology and wrote the first HP patent on an InGaN OMVPE LED epitaxial structure.

In 1999, Dr. Rudaz joined Lumileds, a joint venture morphed from HP OED and focused on high-power visible lighting using AlInGaP and AlInGaN LEDs. At Lumileds, he was absolutely thrilled to have contributed so heavily in the lighting revolution. Dr. Rudaz served on several International Standards bodies.

After retirement from Lumileds in 2017, he is still living happily in Northern California.

Terry Smith

Dr. Terry L. Smith received a B.A. in physics from Cornell University in 1974, then entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue a Ph.D. in solid state physics. Enabled by receiving a University Fellowship, Dr. Smith was able to immediately begin research under Professor A.C. Anderson, concentrating on experimental investigations of low-temperature thermal and acoustic properties of amorphous materials.

On completion of his Ph.D. thesis on low-energy localized excitations in neutron-compacted silica in 1979, Dr. Smith joined the 3M Company Corporate Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over his 40-year career at 3M, Dr. Smith conceived, planned, and executed corporate- and government-funded R&D programs in various areas of optoelectronics, including electrophotography, laser diodes and LEDs, fiber optic interconnect, and integrated optical devices. Key achievements at 3M include development of record-high-efficiency green LEDs based on MBE-grown II-VI compounds (ZnCdMgSe/InP), demonstration of monolithic 3-color pixelated LEDs for projection displays, demonstration of a yellow VCSEL, ultra-high-sensitivity biosensors based on integrated optical ring resonators, and new multi-fiber optical connector systems for data center applications. These innovations have resulted in Dr. Smith’s inventorship of over 80 U.S. patents.

Throughout his career, Dr. Smith has participated in a variety of technology planning and road-mapping organizations. Recent activities include participation in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Microphotonics Consortium, the American Institute of Manufacturing Photonics initiative (AIM Photonics), the International Electronic Manufacturers Initiative (iNEMI), and the Photon Delta organization in Europe. For these organizations, Dr. Smith has authored roadmaps related to board-level optical interconnect technology, as well as proposed and implemented technology demonstration programs.

Gay Stewart

Dr. Gay Stewart received a Ph. D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1994.

As a faculty member of the University of Arkansas from 1994 to2014, Dr. Stewart focused on three interrelated issues: improving introductory courses, improving physics majors' preparation for many careers options, and preparing future faculty, both high school and professoriate. NSF has supported her work since 1995. The University of Arkansas saw a 10-fold increase in physics graduates and was one of six initial Physics Teacher Education Coalition institutions. Her graduate teaching assistant program grew into one of four NSF/AAPT "Shaping the Preparation of Future Science Faculty" sites. She was co-PI of an NSF GK-12 project placing fellows in middle school mathematics and science classrooms. Helping math and science teachers work together was central to her $7.3M NSF-Math Science Partnership, College Ready in Mathematics and Physics. She was PI of Noyce grants to support pre-service and master physics teachers. She chaired the College Board’s Science Academic Advisory Committee, co-chaired the AP Physics Redesign commission, and Development Committee.

In 2014, Dr. Stewart transitioned to West Virginia University (WVU), where she founded and directs the WVU Center for Excellence in STEM Education, is a PI of one of the first NSF INCLUDES Alliances, and directs many STEM education initiatives in partnership with other organizations in the state.

Basil Tripsas

Dr. Basil Tripsas has been a member of the PAB since 2002. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in physics in 1980. He continued at Illinois for graduate studies, receiving an M.S. in 1981 and a Ph.D. in 1988. His graduate work in particle physics was under Gary Gladding as a member of the Mark III Collaboration at SLAC.

After graduation, Dr. Tripsas began his career at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) in 1988 where he is currently a Senior Research Scientist. CNA is the Navy’s Federally Funded Research and Development Center and supports the Navy with operational analyses of current operations and future systems. During his career, Dr. Tripsas has worked on studies in diverse warfare areas including anti-submarine warfare, air defense, and fire support. He also worked on several projects assessing the operational utility of advanced programs sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.

CNA analysts spend part of their career working directly with the fleet. In the early 1990s Dr. Tripsas worked with Destroyer Squadron 31, the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics development destroyer squadron. He designed, reconstructed, and analyzed many of their experiments and exercises. During this assignment, Dr. Tripsas crossed the equator on board USS Fletcher, becoming one of the few civilians to become a “Trusty Shellback” onboard a Navy ship. He also worked with the Kitty Hawk and Carl Vinson carrier strike groups during this period. In 2013, Dr. Tripsas was the CNA representative to Carrier Strike Group 10 aboard the USS Truman during its deployment to the Middle East.

Currently, Dr. Tripsas is a member of CNA’s Gaming and Integration team. This group develops, runs, and analyzes the results of wargames for high-level groups in the Departments of the Navy and Defense.

Mark Zediker

Dr. Mark Zediker received his B.S. in physics in 1978 and his M.S. and Ph.D. in nuclear and plasma engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1983. Since graduating, he has held several high-level business positions including, President/CEO of Nuvonyx, Vice President of Coherent Direct Diode Systems, and currently CEO of NUBURU Inc.