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Alumni Updates

Daniel Alanko ’15 (BS Physics)
M.D. Program, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine

(Femi) Hassan Aliyu ’15 (BS Physics)
Air Force Officer Training Program

Jessica Magarinos ’15 (BS Applied Physics, Biochemistry Concentration)
M.D. Program, College of Medicine-SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Erin Reagan ‘15 (BS Physics & Biochemistry)
University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D. program, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology

Erin Reagan appears to be the first student in the history of Hofstra University to double major in Physics and Biochemistry, two of the most demanding BS programs.

Bassir Caravan ’15 (BS Physics)
M.D. Program, NYU School of Medicine

As an undergraduate, Bassir pursued independent research projects such as a statistical analysis of the Hofstra Course Teacher Ratings using principle components analysis. By studying the correlation matrix of student responses to different questions, he concluded that the survey was chiefly two dimensional—measuring only aggregates associated with “instructor effectiveness” and “course difficulty.”  Bassir Caravan also developed collaborative projects with Dr. Gregory Levine such as Electoral Susceptibility, a quantitative ranking of the values of swing states in the Electoral College. Caravan and Levine worked together on several topics in Quantum Information resulting in a publication, “Scaling of Entanglement Entropy in a Point-Contact Free Fermion System,” Physical Review A89, 052305 (2014) and a manuscript, “Entanglement Temperature and Perturbed AdS3 Geometry.”

Amanda Lesar ’15 (BS Physics & Mathematics)
New York University, Ph.D. Program, Department of Physics

Amanda Lesar pursued experimental solid state physics in the laser spectroscopy lab of Dr. Rohana Garuthara. Amanda Lesar’s work, “Optical Properties of CdSe Nanocrystalline Photoanodes,” is based upon her research project with Dr. Rohana Garuthara on fabrication of photoelectrochemical solar cells using CdSe nanocrystalline photoanodes.  She is continuing her experimental physics studies in the Soft Condensed Matter Physics Group in the Department of Physics at NYU.

Emma Kast ‘14 (BS Physics and Chemistry)
Princeton University, Ph.D. Program, Department of Geosciences

Emma Kast presently works in a lab that focuses on the biogeochemistry of the oceans particularly with regards to nitrogen cycling. She writes: “I am about to start on a project analyzing the nitrogen isotopic composition of shark teeth - this information can possibly answer questions about trophic level, environment, and evolution in the modern and past oceans (the fossil record for sharks goes back 100s of millions of years!).”  “…having an overall background in physics has already been advantageous … the ability to simplify complex problems are important parts of starting to understand the atmosphere and oceans…[such as] radiation and Earth’s energy budget, physical processes like mixing and density stratification.   Also, with my research I get to use great instruments like high sensitivity mass specs - knowing what is actually going on inside from a physics perspective is definitely a plus when it comes to understanding the results.”

Emma Kast worked with Drs. Hastings (Physics) and Sobel (Chemistry) on the subject of excitable media. After beginning her graduate studies in 2014, she was one of 50 Finalists for the prestigious Hertz Foundation Fellowship. (Read about it here: Hertz Fellowship)

Endri Mani  ’14 (B.S. Physics & Mathematics)
Columbia University, PhD Program, Department of Applied Mathematics

Endri Mani prepared polycrystalline Cu2O films on ITO glass plates using the electrodeposition technique. The prepared films were used as photoanodes to fabricate liquid junction solar cells. He observed n- and p-type conductivity of Cu2O photoanodes depend on the electrodeposition bath conditions pH and deposition voltage. He used photoreflectance and absorption spectroscopy to measure optical properties of the fabricated photoanodes at 77K to room temperature. An Abstract was published on this work in the Bulletin of  the 2014 APS March meeting.

He writes: “I worked under the advisement of Dr. Rohana Garuthara for a full year on the Absorption Spectra of Photovoltaic cells. That experience helped me tremendously; I learned to work independently in a lab, started reading research papers and learned a lot. It has also helped me in trying to pick an advisor, because now I have a general idea of what research I am interested in doing. I have also found that knowing a few programming languages is very helpful. Almost all of the research currently being done in the Applied Physics / Applied Mathematics department here at Columbia involves some sort of programming. In the words of one of my professors: “it will just make you a better person.”

Andrew Berisha-Cornejo ’14 (BS Physics)
Frequency Electronics, Associate Engineer

In his current position, Andrew participates “…in development of atomic frequency standards and other precision synchronization equipment for satellite applications. My job responsibilities are, but not limited to, developing test plans to verify performance; participate in test efforts (programming automated test equipment, data handling and analysis); and analysis in support of new engineering designs (thermal, structural, circuit simulation, etc).”

Joseph Burg ‘13 (BS Physics & Mathematics)
Stanford University, PhD program, Department of Materials Sciences

As an undergraduate, Joseph Burg was a Rhodes Scholar finalist and starting pitcher on the Hofstra Baseball team.  He worked with Dr. Gregory Levine on noise and counting statistics in disordered 1-d conductors and coauthored an article in Physical Review.

About his ongoing graduate school experience, he writes:

I currently work in an experimental group that focuses on designing and integrating thin-film structures in nanoscience and energy technologies, high-performance laminates for civil structures and aerospace, and biomaterials and the biological response of living tissue during regeneration and wound healing.  We are particularly interested in the relationship between the chemistry and nanostructure of materials in bulk form or thin films and their thermomechanical behavior, adhesive and cohesive fracture properties, and behavior under complex loading and environmental conditions.  

Now, the interesting twist is that my research involves molecular modeling, simulations and theory of materials.  I am the only PhD in my group working in simulations, which gives me a great opportunity to use my theory background in a very applied sense: my role is to help explain experiments, build intuition about our material's molecular structures, mitigate risk by screening candidate materials/molecules/etc., and even predict new materials properties.  

Currently, my main focus is on the molecular origins of the mechanical properties (elastic modulus, fracture energy, etc.) in hybrid organic/inorganic materials.  I build potentials and run molecular dynamics (and sometimes DFT) simulations to determine the amorphous molecular structure of the hybrid materials.  From there, I run further simulations to provide insight into the mechanical properties and then pursue all sorts of avenues to analyze my simulations (custom algorithms to determine nanoscale clustering, convex hull sets, graph theory representations of my material, etc.).

[In doing theoretical physics research] I developed an immense appreciation and reverence for the depth and breadth of physics.  After working through papers for weeks on end, I would only partially understand an expression or section of the paper.  Theoretical physics is just difficult; so much background is required to really understand a concept.  However…I increasingly built up my confidence to do research.  Taking my physics experiences into an applied field allowed me to hit the ground running…”


“Full counting statistics in a disordered free fermion system,” G. C. Levine, M. J. Bantegui* and J. A. Burg*, Physical Review, B86, 174202 (2012).

Steven Ferdinand ’13 (BS Physics & Mathematics)
BAE Systems Incorporated, EMC/EMI Engineer

Through his own research, Steven Ferdinand became interested in a topic called sonoluminescence. A fluid under periodic strain can produce small vacuum bubbles. Upon collapse, these bubbles produce a very energetic flash of (mostly UV) light. He discovered that several international research groups had pioneered relatively “low-tech” approaches to the problem and decided to try one on his own. He enlisted the help and mentorship of Professor Steve Campolo and built the hardware and electronics for a sonoluminescence vessel, which became his honors project.

In addition to Steve’s studies, he also worked extensively at Hofstra’s radio station WRHU, which was recently voted the number one college radio station by Princeton Review and received the Marconi Award for best non-commercial radio station in the country.

Jackson Halpin ’13 (BS Applied Physics, Biochemistry Concentration)
Brandeis University, PhD Program, Department of Biophysics.

Jackson Halpin’s research project was to fabricate Cu2O based solar cells and optically characterizing them using photoluminescence, photoreflectance and absorption spectroscopy. Jackson prepared chlorine doped Cu2O films on ITO glass plates using the electrodeposition technique. The prepared films were used as photoanodes to fabricate liquid junction solar cells. He observed conductivity of Cu2O photoanodes depend on the electrodeposition bath conditions such as bath temperature, pH and deposition voltage. He presented his research findings at the American Physical Society (APS) March meeting.

He writes: “Hofstra did a great job in preparing me for grad school. I would say one of the biggest things is getting some kind of undergraduate research experience, and so I really value my research with Dr. Garuthara.  I learned how to solve problems, stick with a project until the end, and then communicate the results of my project to others. Without any undergrad research experience I would have had nothing to talk about in my interviews, essentially. The departmental honors presentation was also very valuable because I had to communicate my results to others. Presentation is something I have found to be surprisingly important in grad school so far and science in general. Lastly, I gained a lot out of going to the American Physical Society conference with Drs. Garuthara, Levine and Bassir Caravan. Seeing the physics community come together and share ideas was an awesome, eye opening experience. I learned a lot from talking and listening to people at the conference.

“My research [at Brandeis] is focused on protein folding and a particular molecular chaperone called hsp90. I do a lot of experimental biochemistry but I also use a bit of coding to develop models which interpret results and direct new experiments.”

Michael Bantegui ’12 (BS Physics & Computer Science)
NetFast Technology Solutions, Programmer Analyst

As a sophomore, Michael Bantegui developed an independent interest in gravitational many body physics and coded a simulation of the motion of stars in a star cluster. In his junior and senior years he worked with Dr. Gregory Levine on numerical simulations of quantum many-particle physics. In particular, he contributed to projects on the signatures of quantum entanglement in time-of-flight measurements in cold atom gases as well as noise and counting statistics in disordered 1-d conductors. As a student, Michael co-authored two publications in Physical Review:

“Full counting statistics in a disordered free fermion system,” G. C. Levine, M. J. Bantegui* and J. A. Burg*, Physical Review, B86, 174202 (2012).

“Detecting many-body entanglements in noninteracting ultracold atomic fermi gases,” G. C. Levine, B. A. Friedman and M. J. Bantegui*, Physical Review, A83, 013623 (2011).

Waqqas Khan ’12 (BS Physics & Engineering)
Stanford University, Ph.D. program, Department of Aeronautical Engineering

Waqqas Khan studied n-type and p-type conductivity of Cu2O films, prepared by electrodeposition technique. He used Cu2O films to fabricate liquid junction solar cells. Waqqas utilized photoluminescence spectroscopy and photocurrent responses to optically characterize the prepared thin film photoanodes. He presented his research findings at two APS meetings.

Dr. David Miller ’08 (BS Applied Physics & Engineering)
Princeton, PhD, 2014, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Brown University, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr. Miller attended graduate school at Princeton University as an NSF Fellow where he received his PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering, focusing on atmospheric ammonia measurements with novel open-path, mid-infrared laser-based sensors to constrain emission impacts on air quality.

He is presently a postdoctoral research associate in the Institute for the Study of Environment and Society at Brown University, where he is investigating the nitrogen isotopic signatures of atmospheric nitrogen oxide emission sources to constrain anthropogenic and natural source inputs to the nitrogen cycle. 

While at Hofstra, David participated in undergraduate research projects ranging from semiconductor physics and condensed matter theory to environmental physics. David worked with Dr. Rohana Garuthara and Engineering Professor Margaret Hunter on his thesis “Atmospheric Organic Nitrogen Deposition: Photoluminescence Spectroscopy Monitoring Techniques & Elucidating Sources.” David used photoluminescence spectroscopy to study electron-hole recombination processes in electrochemically deposited Cu2O thin films. Then he used photoluminescence spectroscopy as a monitoring technique to investigate atmospheric organic nitrogen deposition on various surfaces. With Dr. Gregory Levine, he worked on quantum information, coauthoring a paper in Physical Review on the subject of quantum entanglement entropy in a single quantum channel.


Zero-dimensional area law in a gapless fermionic system,” G. C. Levine and D. J. Miller, Phys. Rev. B77, 205119 (2008).

Laura McGuire ‘10 (BA Physics)
Half Hollow Hills High School, Physics Teacher

Laura McGuire teaches high school physics and is an adjunct instructor in the Hofstra University Physics Department.

Damon Pappas (BS Physics ’13; MS Medical Physics ‘15)
Engineer, PTW Bio-­‐Medical Instrumentation Calibration

Damon Pappas worked with Dr. Brett Bochner on a project in Big Bang Cosmology, designed to study the acceleration of the universe. Using sophisticated fits to archival data on Type Ia Supernovae obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope, Damon produced a scientific poster titled, “Is the Cosmological Constant Causing the Universe to Accelerate?”, which he presented at the Colonial Athletic Alliance Undergraduate Research Conference in April 2013. This project was highlighted in the Fall 2013 issue of “Hofstra Horizons of Undergraduate Research”, and the results obtained in this study have recently been published in Astrophysical Journal. While pursuing his MS degree, Damon worked in our department as an Instructor for the general physics laboratory course required for Hofstra University students of physical science.