Gustavus Physics What's New in Olin

Tornado Recovery: The physics area receiving the most damage from the March 29,1998 tornado was the Olin Observatory. The Observa-Dome was ripped off and never recovered, leaving the Compustar 14 exposed to the elements and flying debris. The room and other telescopes and equipment were exposed but spared damage from flying rocks. The C14 was covered, but sustained serious damage. Approximately $1,600 worth of eyepieces, filters, cameras, etc were lost to the wind and was replaced by the insurance company. The C14 was declared a total loss and, after almost two months of negotiations, the insurance company agreed to replace it with a Meade LX-200 16" telescope system. Like the C14, it is a computer controlled system, but with a more modern interface to external computers and CCD cameras. It should keep the Olin Observatory state-of-the-art for a few more years.

Telescope The only other physics areas to sustain major damage were a few offices and all of the research labs on the second floor, but these were quickly cleaned up for use last spring. Most of the second floor of Olin was painted and recarpeted last summer, including the library and student offices, and some of the ceiling tiles were replaced, so we got back that "new building" feel. By this time, faculty have received new chairs, but the student offices will be relying on folding chairs for a little while longer.


Dr. Fuller To Retire:

As most of you know Dick Fuller will be retiring at the end of this semester. The physics department is planning a party for him and Judy for graduation weekend. There will be a reception in the Melva Lind Interpretive Center in the Linnaeus Arboretum on Saturday, May 29 from 4-6 pm. All alumni and friends are invited to attend. Contact us for additional information.

We are also exploring the possibility of creating an alumni fund or endowment to which friends could contribute to continue Dick’s legacy of helping Gustavus students, the physics department, and physics majors. We hope to be able to make an announcement about this at Dick’s retirement party.

Dick Fuller


Physics Alum Wins First Decade Award: At Reunion and Commencement Weekend, the Alumni Association presented Annette Boman (‘88) with the First Decade Award for early career achievement. Annette’s work at Johns Hopkins, National Cancer Institute, and Emory University on GTP-binding proteins in cell membranes won her the award. See the summer 1998 Quarterly for more information.

Olin Hall Physics Department Review:

Periodically all academic departments at Gustavus undergo a review. Our review occured last fall, including the visit of Drs. Kathy Whatley (North Carolina-Ashville) & Peter Collings (Swarthmore).

They had great things to say about the department (no surprise here), but also had a number of suggestions for improvement which we will begin to implement in the coming year and as funds permit.

Gustavus Adolphus  College Physics Department
  • Mr. Warren Bidwell Electronic Technician
  • Mr. A. Jennings Ellis Laboratory Instructor
  • Dr. Richard Fuller    Professor of Physics
  • Dr. Dennis Henry      Professor of Physics
  • Ms. Linda Hewitt   Department Secretary
  • Dr. Thomas Huber    Associate Professor
  • Dr. Steven Mellema Associate Professor
  • Dr. Charles Niederriter Associate Professor & Chair
  • Dr. Paul Saulnier      Associate Professor
Faculty Activities:
Facing one year before retirement, Dick Fuller finally decided that he In addition to teaching in CurriculumI and II, Dick holds down a second office
must fight ENTROPY and begin throwing away 40 years of physics momentos.   It is NOT true that he found a student from his first year at GAC (1968) among his notes, books and lab 'junk'.  He has seen his desk

"Dick Fuller finally decided that he must fight ENTROPY and begin throwing away 40 years of physics momentos"

in the Dean's area of Carlson Administration Building as Director of General Education and Interdisciplinary Studies. He is also coordinator for the College's Rydell Lecture Program, which will see Freeman Dyson and Margaret Geller in

top and other surfaces for the first time in years!   And come this summer, he and Judy will return to China to teach.

residence during the spring semester.

He sends best wishes to all and invites past students to visit anytime.

Editors Note: This Newsletter is published periodically to maintain contact between the physics department and its alumni and friends. We had hoped to combine its production with that of the fall Newsletter for returning students and faculty, but the tornado recovery effort and department review this last fall mitigated against that happening this year. We do plan to try again next fall, and, hopefully, we will be able to make it an annual arrangement.


Three Crowns


Chuck Niederriter, Associate Professor and Chair, Physics Department,

Gustavus Adolphus College, 800 West College Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota, 56082.

Electronic Version available at

Dennis Henry will be taking back the reigns of the department as acting Chair for the fall semester. He is currently teaching Modern Physics, Electronics II and its lab, and helping out with General (Life Science) Physics lab. He continues to serve as the coordinator of our program of outside speakers program and on the College’s Academic Probations Committee.


Along with teaching Advanced Math Methods and Electronics, Tom Huber continues as coordinator of off-campus research and internship information, and as the department's liaison with the Library. He also supervises the department's World Wide Web presence. In addition, he is the Chair of the College’s Information Technology Advisory Committee.


Optics Lab

Chuck Niederriter will be on leave next fall, working on research projects with students in Olin Hall. He is currently co-teaching Astronomy (with Steve) and teaching one section of Classical II Lab and Astrophysics. He is also Department Chair and on the Faculty Senate.

Steve Mellema will become our next Department Chair next spring, after a busy fall semester, teaching Mechanics for the first time. Steve is currently co-teaching Astronomy (with Chuck) and teaching Classical II and 2 sections of its labs. He has been kept very busy as a member of the Faculty Senate and the chair of the Compensation Subcommittee on top of maintaining the physics department’s network of computers.

Along with teaching Optics and Electricity and Magentism, Paul Saulnier continues to do optics research, focussing on time-resolved photon-correlation spectroscopy. He is the SPS advisor and co-Director of the Shop Talks Program and serves on the College’s Academic Operations & Faculty Development Committees.


A. Jennings Ellis continues to teach General (Life Science) Physics laboratories for us. He also teaches introductory chemistry labs, including those for the General Chemistry and Organic courses. Next fall, he will be responsible for all of the General Physics labs, with the leave replacement person helping out with one section.

MRI Grant Update:

Tom Huber, Steve Mellema, Chuck Niederriter, and Paul Saulnier continue to purchase equipment for Acoustical, Optical, and Computational Scattering Studies with funds from the National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation program. In fact, Paul may already have spent most of the optics part of the budget. Of course, some of the funds helped Steve get the second optics research lab set up in the basement (OH36). Tom and Chuck are struggling to decide which expensive toys to buy with the acoustics and computational funds. The acoustics research will be set up in the basement (OH37), while the computers will be housed in the Computational Physics Lab (OH 223)

Rydell Seminars for Spring 1999:

Ethical Issues in Science: Freeman Dyson, Institute for

Advanced Studies at Princeton

Astrophysics and Cosmology: Margaret Geller,

Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University

Alumni News: All of the following news was gleaned from recent correspondance with alumi. Please direct mail or email to the editor for inclusion in the next newsletter.

Justin Goeres is a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

Jennifer Hightower has just finished the first semester at Colorado State University with a 4.0. She's doing research this summer with Robert Leisure -- resonant ultrasound spectroscopy, which will become her thesis work. She says that she loves it in Colorado! It's so much warmer (than Minnesota) and the mountains are an endless source of fun.

Peter Johnson is attending Iowa State studying for his Masters in Mechanical Engineering in the thermo-fluids area. He should finish up next Spring (2000) and right now he is leaving it until then to decide if he will continue for the PhD. He has a research assistantship with Dr. K. M. Bryden who is working on the long term goal of developing a Virtual Pilot Plant. Pete's part of the eventual Pilot Plant is using a Computational Fluid Dynamics software package to model the combustion, heat transfer, fluid flow, etc. of a furnace and to bring this model into the virtual world.

Jason Smerdon is finishing up a year of Quantum Mechanics, E&M, Statistical Mechanics, and Theoretical Mechanics in applied physics at the University of Michigan. Next year, he is planning on getting into much more Biochemistry and other bottle washing courses, which is the direction that his research is taking him.



Benjamin Ellerbusch is doing research in opto-electronics, optical amplifiers in particular, for his masters thesis. He is also beginning a job search, hoping to find something in the area of optics located around the Twin Cities metro area.

Lars Ericson is in graduate school at Rice University, studying Solid State, Quantum Mechanics, and Statistical Physics. He is also trying to decide what area to do research in, Nanotubes or Rydberg Atomic Physics.

Joshua Johnson reports that he is finished with finals and managed to pass all his classes at the University of Rochester (in optics). Now he just has to figure out what research to do with the NSF Fellowship that he won last year.

Shannon Siefken passed his qualifing exam this spring, but he does not plan to stay at Colorado State to complete the PhD. He has been doing research with Siu Au Lee, stabilizing the laser and working on the control electronics to lock a Fabry-Perot cavity. It is preliminary work for an experiment that will hopefully be carried out at Fermi Lab to measure an effect known as Magnetically Induced Vacuum Birefringence. It is predicted by QED, but has not been observed. It can be thought of as a light by light scattering of a photon with the magnetic field. The effect goes as B squared, so they are going to use some of the left over SSC magnets to give about 6Tesla. The effect will still be small, producing a frequency shift of only 90 nanohertz. Everybody thinks it is sort of insane, but the calculations show it can be done.


Peter Eckman is almost done with his second year of medical school at the University of Minnesota. He has also been working part-time in the Diabetes Institute for Immunology and Transplantation, part of the Department of Surgery at the U of M.

Karl Erickson finished his Masters of engineering at Iowa State last spring. He says that someday he might return to school and pursue a PhD, but now he needs to do something different and get a feel for what it is like in the "real" world. He is currently working at IBM in Rochester.

Kris Fredrick is studying intellectual property law and his main interest is in patent law. He works for Honeywell and his wife Kristina (Hultgren) is expecting in May! Check the baby out at: and get in on the pool. It shows what a little html knowledge and too much free time can do for you.

Brent Harrold graduated from the Univeristy of Minnesota and has decided to take a job at AP Engineering in Woodbury. They do consulting and outsourcing work for other companies.

Jason Hiltner is doing quite well at Colorado State University. He is currenty in his third year and has the M.S. and has passed the qualifying exam.  His research is in thin film polycrystalline solar cells (CdTe and Cu(In-Ga)Se2). They do characterization (current-voltage, capacitance-voltage, quantum efficiency, reflection/transmission mostly), no processing, but work closely with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and various companies and other universities.

1996 (cont.)

Andrew Miller is finishing classes and his co-op job for his mechanical engineering degree at the University of Minnesota. As of last fall, he only had 6 classes left, three in the fall and three in the spring.

Matt Muelerleile now works at Windchill, some sort of subdivision or division or whatever the corporate-speak is for it of Parametric Technologies Corp. or something like that. Everyone here calls it PTC, or "Parametric", so I'm not too sure on what the "T" and "C" stand for. He is now a Software Engineer (instead of an "Internet Systems Analyst") and apparently there was a significant salary increase to go with that title change.

Erik Rasmussen is now working for a company called Windchill Technologies, which

is actually just a daughter company of Parametric Technology Corporation (they created PRO-E). He is doing software engineering in Java for their new product data management software. Ras started at PTC at the very end of November 98 and things have been going great.

Kari Treichel recently defended her master's thesisat the University of Minnesota and is looking for a computer related job.

Dusan Turcan is in his second year of graduate school in physics at the University of Maryland. He has essentially finished a master's degree and has already passed one half of the qualifying examination, so he's on the way to his PhD degree. He is currently working on creating an internet database of active galactic nuclei, which should be published soon.




Wendy Garbers graduated from Harvard Law School last spring and has done a number of clerkships in California, Minnesota, and Illinois.

Debbie Lightly passed her oral PhD. qualifier at M.I.T. in February and is now getting serious about her research. She may be starting a new project, because during her oral exam her advisor realized that she knew something about transistors. So, she might be making field effect transistors with photoactive polymer as the semiconductor.

Phil Miesle is currently working for Oracle in Dublin. He says his job is fairly interesting; some number-crunching but not a lot of pure physics (no pure, though some applied physics could probably be justified). He is having a good time and making sure that the Guinness is fresh!

Mark Nechanicky received his MS from the University of Michigan last year and now works for Tokai Rika America, a Japanese automotive supplier of interior car switches in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He says that it has been going well for the most part but there sure are days which ring true of Dilbert though.

Markus Silpala works for Sprynet Computer company for the last couple of years.

Craig Steffen is currently working on the radiative phi experiment with the Indiana University Light Quark Physics group at the accelerator formerly known as CEBAF.

Karl Vigen is still working in the same lab in Medical Physics at UW-Madison. He received his M.S. about 1-1/2 years ago, and passed his prelim exams last summer. He is working in MRI, trying to develop faster and higher resolution blood vessel imaging (angiography) techniques.


Mitch Bissonette is now working for Gateway Country Stores, a division of Gateway Computers and still living in the Twin Cities.

Gracie Vargas finished her master's in mechanical engineering/biomedical engineering a couple of years ago and is currently working toward her PhD. Her research is in the general area of laser-tissue interaction and specifically, in altering optical properties of turbid media to enhance penetration depth of laser irradiation.

Dan Vnuk just started a new job with Lockheed Martin. He is working on a simulator project at the Kirtland Air Force Base, simulating complete air combat situations on high performance computers. He is still working on an MS degree in Computer Science


Bob Klindworth is finishing his doctorate this spring. His thesis title is "Color-Dielectric Formulation of Transverse Lattice QCD". Basically, it’s a study of the strong nuclear interaction using aggregate (smeared) variables to represent the gauge fields. In many ways, it is similar to the smearing of atomic/molecular E&M effects into a continuous dielectric tensor (with E&M effects, in his case, replaced by quantum chromodynamics). Anyway, the hard part isn't finishing the thesis of course, its finding a job afterward. Bob has some prospects for postdoctoral appointments at: Ohio State, Argonne, Jefferson Lab, Florida State, and TRIUMF. But he would really like to go right to teaching and has applied for a few academic jobs.





Nate Blair spent the 1997-1998 year in Europe and Africa working at a building energy engineering firm in Stuttgart Germany from July through October 1997. He then moved to the French Riveria where he worked with the French Building Administration, who he was familiar with from the front-end for the software package he developed at the University of Wisconsin. He was living in Antibes, right on the coast, from November through May. In June and July, he visited Lutheran missionary friends in Tanzania and did a little volunteer work as well as going on safari, etc. To see cool animal pictures, visit his website at and go to the picture gallery. Nate is now back in Madison and working at a 3 person energy engineering consulting firm, Thermal Energy System Specialists (

Jon Kavanaugh will be receiving his PhD. in Electrical Engineering at Iowa State University at the end of summer. He completed the M.S. program in '95 with research investigating the optical characteristics of Aluminum Gallium Antimonide (Al[x]Ga[1-x]Sb) Distributed Bragg Reflectors and Fabry-Perot Resonators fabricated using Molecular Beam Epitaxy. His PhD. research in Photonic Bandgaps is a joint venture between the Physics, Electrical Engineering, and Material Science and Engineering departments.

Jeffrey Nelson is working for the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at UW - Madison. His job entails a little bit of everything: teaching classes in Engines, Tractors, and Farm Machinery, supporting the computers in the department (including a web server), and helping with the odd research project. He is also a volunteer firefighter for the Middleton Fire Department (yes, he gets to drive the big red trucks - lights and sirens and all!). He and his wife, Lynda, are in the process of adpoting 4 year old Allie and recently found out that there is another on the way!

Kiran Shrestha is continuing work on his PhD thesis in quantum electrodynamics and hopes to finish the degree in August ('99). He will earn the MSEE In May from the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department at Purdue.

Erik Therien is now a 'Master of Architecture' and requires everyone to address him by that title. He presented his Master's Thesis project last spring and has been working at BWBR Architects in St. Paul since shortly after that. Currently he is working on a six-story clinic for the St. Paul Children's Hospital campus. He and Jill still live in Minneapolis and she is in the final year of her pediatrics residency.

Disa Wahlstrand is now working at Ayres Associates in Eau Claire, Wisconsin as a Civil Engineer. After Gustavus, she received her MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa. She recently switched divisions at Ayres to work in the more traditional water, wastewater, site development, and municipal engineering side of things.


Brad Delahunty is Brewmeister at a small brewery in the mountains of Washington. He is currently looking for a post-doc or similar position and is trying to figure out whether to try a career in academics or industry. It’s hard to believe that it could be better than working in the brewery.

Peter Hultgren began a new job October 19 at Twin City Signal located in Hudson, Wisconsin. Twin City Signal is a signal engineering firm that designs signal systems for railroad companies, primarily trackside signals and highway grade crossing warning signals. The work is interesting and challenging, and Pete really likes the people he works with.



Todd Peterson is hoping that someday he'll finish his degree (maybe even within the next year) at Indiana University and finding a job in academia.

Cory Sandgren is still located in Decatur, IL and still teaching tennis.

David Sukow just accepted a tenure-track appointment as Assistant Professor in the Physics and Engineering Department at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. He and Gretchen, his wife, are expecting their first child to make his appearance very soon.

Charles Witzke is currently an Architect with BWBR in St. Paul. He just got married last fall and bought a house.


Gregg Johnson is still at NRL, but he works in fiber optic sensors. They use the fiber itself as a sensing element and are involved in the design and testing of new sensors and instrumentation on bridges and ships mainly. One bridge is in Switzerland and the ships they test are in Norway, so he ends up flying across the Atlantic on a regular basis. Other exotic locations include New Mexico and New Hampshire - that's right, only the new states.

Dan Kadrmas is an Instructor of Radiology at the University of Utah doing medical imaging research. He is focusing on cancer imaging and cardiac imaging with single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and positron emission tomography (PET). He and his wife, Julie, are expecting their first little one in July and live in Centerville, Utah






Joel Keay was in a post-doc at Vanderbilt, doing some ion beam analysis and simulation, looking into the SiO2 - SiC interface using ion channeling. He was also looking at hydrogen defects in Si and SiC produced through ion implantation to a concentration of 0.01-0.1% and attempting to modify the defect composition using the FEL. He believes they had the first wavelength selective material modification of Silicon EVER! Could be first in any material, but there is this Japanese group ..... Rumor has it Joel followed some young lady south, though.

Glennys Mensing just defended her thesis at Vanderbilt University. She has been in a post-doc at Illinois for about a year, now, working on biological applications of the free-electron laser. She also does shock studies on the same systems at the University of Washington.

Eric Montei lives in San Jose, CA and works for Read-Rite in Fremont. Read-Rite is "The world’s largest independent supplier of magnetic recording heads for the disk drive industry." Eric is a Senior R&D Engineer in the Tribology and HD (Head/Disk) Mechanical Integration group.

Pamela Puhl-Quinn is a research scientist at the University of Iowa, in space physics, analyzing data from the Hydra instrument (plasma detectors) onboard the Polar spacecraft (which is in a polar orbit of the Earth). She and her husband Rick are living in Iowa City while he finishes his degree.


Roger McGowan is still doing research in the field of generation and detection of THz radiation. He uses femtosecond laser sources to drive micron scale optoelectronic switches which in turn generates and detects near single cycle radiation in the THz wavelength range. A few applications are semiconductor characterization, trace gas analysis, flame analysis, impulse scale radar ranging, time domain spectroscopy, and chip to chip communication. Last spring he was promoted to Visiting Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University. He and his wife, Kelley, just had their second child, daughter Kaitlyn Marie, who joins her big brother Ryan (2)

Brad Richards lives in Poughkeepsie, NY, where he is in his third year teaching computer science at Vassar College. He went to Vassar straight out of graduate school at UW-Madison in the summer of 1996. He is getting married this summer (July 10), and he and his fiance currently live with their two dogs in a house they had built last spring.


Jay Talbott left Cognex last summer to start a new life out in Phoenix, AZ working for Motorola.


Steve Johnson received his Ph.D. in 1996 under Marko V. Jaric with a dissertation entitled: "Computer Simulation Studies of Phason-Phonon Coupling in Two Dimensional Quasicrystals" He is employed as a Sr. Systems Analyst at Texas A&M University under 3 entities: 1) Department of Mathematics, 2) Institute for Scientific Computation, and 3) Academy for Advanced Telecommunications and Learning Technologies. His current research is in computer simulations of random anisotropy ferromagnets with Wayne Saslow.

Michael Miller is a post doctoral research associate in nuclear physics at the University of Illinois.


Greg Haugstad is senior research associate and adjunct professor in the Center for Interfacial Engineering at the University of Minnesota where he manages and develops research instrumentation in a multidisciplinary materials characterization facility. He teaches classes in the use of this instrumentation, primarily for PhD candidates and post-docs in their research, but also for occasional undergraduates and industrial scientists. His principle responsibility is the scanning probe microscopy (SPM) laboratory. Greg is currently involved in a number of research projects using SPM in various forms. His roles include co-advising several PhD theses, developing custom data analysis software, and conducting exploratory experimental work in such topics as nanoscale structure/properties of ultrathin polymer films; structure/properties of adhesion/release interfaces; dielectric properties of metal oxide films for microelectronics; and single-molecule force spectroscopy of biopolymers important to cellular adhesion. Greg and his wif Laurie and two sons, Alexander (6) and Nicholas (3), live in Woodbury.

Chad Olinger is currently the program manager for Domestic Safeguards and Security R&D at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He and his wife, Tammy and 2 Kids, Brandon (10) and Miranda (5), live in Santa Fe, NM.


Brad Bostrom is the MIS Director in the Office of the VP for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota.






Pete Langsjoen spent 4 years in the Air Force after graduating from GAC, including one year in South East Asia. Then it was on to the U of M for a Masters in Mechanical Engineering. His first real job

was with KVB, a combustion consulting firm. When they closed their regional office in the Cities he went to Deltak in Plymouth as a project engineer and made heat recovery boilers for industry. It was then on to Honeywell's defense business, which became Alliant Techsystems, to make bullets for tanks. That's where he is now. Along the way he married Cheryl Kirchoff and raised 2 boys. The oldest, Kent, is at Winona State and the youngest, Kirk, is at St Louis Park High. In his spare time he is producing weekly cablecasts of the worship services at Westwood Lutheran Church, singing in their choir, and training for his second marathon. Pete’s parents home in St Peter was destroyed by the March 1998 tornado. Fortunately his mom, who was in the kitchen closet, and dad, who was in the basement of the Arts and Heritage building which was also destroyed, were not hurt.


David Renneke is in his 30th year of teaching physics at Augustana College. He is on the committee for the new science building at Augustana, which will house the departments of physics, biology and chemistry when it is completed next summer. Throughout his career at Augustana David has placed a strong emphasis on astronomy and on computer applications in physics. He maintains a web server on a Sun workstation in the physics department ( for Physics, Astronomy, Sigma Pi Sigma, ISAAPT (Illinois section of the American Association of Physics Teachers), the Augustana cross country team, and his own web page. On it, you will find some wonderful astronomy pictures, especially on the "Comet Hale-Bopp" page which contains many pictures of Comet Hale-Bopp using both an electronic CCD camera and a 35 mm camera with different optical front-ends - a C-14 telescope in the on-campus observatory, an 8" portable telescope in the country, and a camera with a zoom lens mounted piggy back on a telescope.


After Gustavus, where she was a lab assistant in the Physics Department, Viola Hanson Russell worked for 9 years as a Civil Engineer (registered Highway Engineer) for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. After some years spent at home with 2 daughters, she became the Executive Director of Community Volunteer Service, a Volunteer  Center, a post she held for 20 years until retirement.


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