Daniel Kim-Shapiro

Although we have a way to go, things are starting to seem more like they used to.  With pretty close to 100% vaccinated students, faculty and staff, academic life on campus is very active.  Classes are pretty much all face to face and labs are buzzing.  I was just remarking today how in the past month or more, I have only used my home office to zoom with my son at Reed College in Oregon.  

On the other hand, our plans for my research group to go to the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine meeting in Savannah Georgia next month were canceled when they decided to go 100% virtual.  We will still present work, but it will not be the same.  The lab is doing well with graduate students Ellie Alipour and Laxman Poudel and our star undergraduate student Emily Foley who worked over the summer with us.  Of course, Swati Basu is leading the lab still.  Fernando Rigal in in graduate school now at UIUC.  I am sure he will excel.  

My youngest son is now a senior in HS, my oldest has one more semester at NC State, and (as mentioned above) my middle son is at Reed College.  My wife is doing well saving lives as a Pathologist.

I do hope to see people at homecoming this year.  Please reach out and let us know how you are doing.

Paul Anderson

After a year of working mostly at home, it is really nice to be spending most of my work time on campus again and teaching a face-to-face class, even with all of the students wearing masks.  I found that I can teach in the online and blended formats, but I much prefer teaching face to face.

I was on sabbatical in the spring semester last year but in part because of the pandemic I chose to stay at Wake Forest.  My research group currently consists of Zach Scofield who is an undergraduate physics major and two graduate students, Shohreh Gholizadeh Siahmazgi and Ian Newsome.  Zach received a URECA fellowship that allowed him to work with me over the summer.  During the past year, I have published a paper with Shohreh which includes former undergraduate Ray Clark and an external collaborator as coauthors.  It relates to the computation of quantum effects due to the formation of a black hole.  I also published one with Ian which also includes former undergraduate and current graduate student Robert Link as well as two external collaborators as coauthors.  It relates to the validity of a certain type of approximation that is often used to describe what happens when particle production occurs due to the presence of a strong electric field.

Keith Bonin

Last year was the third year that Keith Bonin served as Associate Provost for Research and Scholarly Inquiry. He was reappointed for three more years, starting July 1, 2021. Responsibilities include supervising and enhancing research endeavors at all of the schools at Wake Forest, as well as the College. At the end of the last academic year (June 30, 2021) he submitted the final set of long-term recommendations for improving the research environment at Wake Forest from the Research & Discovery Task Force. The charge of this task force was to articulate strategies that will help Wake Forest to significantly increase externally funded research in the future. The report was submitted at a propitious time, as we embark on a new chapter in Wake’s history with a new president at the helm.

He continued to work on a 5-year NIH grant (as a co-PI) to study chromatin dynamics in human cells with the goal of understanding the mechanisms of therapy induced cancers. These are cancers that are induced by the cancer treatment, and are usually fatal in most cases. Last year we had 5 undergraduate students, two graduate students, and two postdocs engaged in research on this project. Prof. George Holzwarth also worked on this project as a collaborator throughout the year. Prof. Bonin also started collaborating with computer science researchers at UNC-Greensboro to apply machine learning methods to images generated by a novel microscope for this project. Finally, he again taught the Intermediate Physics lab course, which is a lab course tightly aligned with the Modern Physics course offered to sophomore Physics students.

Sam Cho

The past year has been very eventful, and we are all going through massive changes to adjust to our new lives. Although there are a lot of tough challenges, I want to focus on the positives. I am reminded of an interview of Fred Rogers (from “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”) where he quoted his mother who said, “Always look for the helpers.” 

Several of you reached out with very nice emails, and I can’t tell you how much they meant to me. As I was juggling research, teaching, service, and personal responsibilities, it was great to hear how you were doing. One of you even pointed out that I didn’t write up a faculty update for the alumni last year, and I was ashamed to admit that I just assumed that no one read it! For others, it was really cool to talk over Zoom just like old times, virtually attend a White Coat Ceremony, and even virtually attend a wedding. These are all events that probably would not have happened before the pandemic. A couple of you even visited in-person – so I got to see you in all three dimensions! I suppose four if you include time, and I appreciate very much the time all of you shared. Interacting with all of you has been an enormous source of positive energy during the solitude of the pandemic, and that energy has helped me keep positive for my current students that are here.

I am also particularly impressed with some of my former students who reached out to me in the aftermath of George Floyd and asked how they could help. Honestly, my answer to that is still, “I don’t know”, but there does seem to be a lot of opportunities. As a member of the Biophysical Society Committee for Inclusion and Diversity, a committee I joined after being inspired by one of you, I co-wrote an article about the work the Biophysical Society is doing to promote inclusion. One of my former computer science students asked me to help organize a career panel here at Wake of successful underrepresented alumni. Another set of students asked me to lead a student panel for the Wake Forest Pre-College “Exploration in STEM” program to inspire middle school students. I am continuously inspired by how socially conscious and responsible young people are these days. Our alumni and students are not just looking for the helpers, they are being the helpers too. 

Professionally speaking, it has been pretty busy here. I recently became the Computer Science Department Graduate Director and also Co-Director of the Data Science Certificate Program. Together with the HPC Team at WFU Information Systems, I am leading a team of undergraduate students in a high-performance computing competition at the world’s leading supercomputing conference for the fourth year in a row. Inspired by our own Rick Matthews and Jack Dostal who pioneered flipped classrooms in the Physics Department, I completely overhauled and “flipped” all of my classes when I went hybrid and virtual, and I am sure that I will continue well after the pandemic. A particularly excellent former biophysics research student, now a Ph.D. candidate, helped open up a fruitful collaboration with her current advisor.

On a personal note, my wife and I basically decided to relax as much as we could for the entire summer. That basically meant a lot of socially distanced traveling, running long distances, and making our dog, Chloe, feel like the pandemic is the best time of her life. Indeed, she sat on my lap and listened to introductory and upper/graduate level physics and computer science lectures for over a year. At this point, I feel like Chloe deserves some sort of honorary WFU degree.

For sure, I glossed over all the challenges in the past year, and they are many. However, I continue to be thankful that I don’t have far to look for the helpers, and they are many too.

(Note: I didn’t write any alumni names here and that is because I didn’t have time to ask for permission and wanted to respect everyone’s privacy. That said, Billy, tu as raison, et je suis content d’avoir écrit ça. Merci beaucoup et à bientôt.)

Martin Guthold

Wow, what a strange year it has been.  The only constant in the last year seems to have been continued change and uncertainty, requiring ongoing and exhausting adoption. COVID, which we thought would be under control in a few months, proves to be annoyingly persistent. 

Despite these challenges, there is quite a bit of positive and exciting news from the Guthold lab and its current and recently graduated members. 

Three students graduated with a PhD this last year; Ali Daraei (PhD, 2020), Hyunsu Lee (PhD, 2020), and Melissa Pashayan (PhD 2020, mentor, Dr. Macosko).  Ali is a post-doc at UCLA, Hyunsu is a post-doc at WFU, working in the Vidi, Bonin and Guthold labs, and Melissa Pashayan will likely be an instructor at a local university.  

It is amazing that despite the COVID-related slow-down, three students graduated with a PhD.  All the best wishes to our graduates.  You will have a bright future!  

We miss these students, and they left a gap in lab.  The lab needs to be rebuilt a bit.  Luckily, Hyunsu stay around for a post-doc, and we also have very strong continuing students.  Three undergraduate students – Rich Pope, Annie Brigham and Caleb Sawyer; one graduate students – Nouf Alharbi are continuing.  In addition, former graduate student, Dr. Stephen Baker (PhD, 2015), returned to Wake Forest (Guthold/Bonin lab) as a teacher/scholar post-doc a couple of years ago. He is working in the Bonin/Guthold lab.   Additionally, and excitingly, new students joined the lab; undergraduate students, Joe Cho, and graduate students Zezhong Zhang and Can Cai.  A strong team to move the lab forward. 

All the excellent work by the research team resulted in several high-impact publications. The Guthold lab published papers in Nanomaterials, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – General Subjects, Biomolecules and Acta Biomaterialia and abstracts in Biophysical Journal and European Biophysics Journal with Biophysics Letters

Dr. Guthold helped to organize of the International Fibrinogen Research Society Mini-symposium, June 15th & 16th, 2021. About 140 attendees discussed the latest advances in basic, clinical and bioengineering research relating to fibrinogen and factor XIII.  

We are settling into our new lab space in Olin 213 and Olin 216 (now shared with Drs. Macosko, Holzwarth and Kim-Shapiro).  We continue to do research in hemostasis & thrombosis (properties of fibrin clots); cancer and thrombosis; mechanical and structural properties of normal and cancerous mammary (breast) cells; electrospun nanofiber properties; and drug discovery.  This research is supported by grants from the NIH, the Wake Forest Center for Functional Materials and a Wake Forest Collaborative Grant.  

Teaching, and being taught, in a blended and online fashion, has been a big challenge over the last year.  It is more difficult to truly engage with students.   It is encouraging to see schools and universities moving to in-person teaching.  Vaccinations and masks help!  

The Guthold family is doing well and there are some big news items, too.  My son, Felix, got married in Aug. 2021! The wedding in Germany was beautiful and exciting.  Our daughter, Melissanthi, started college at Duke University, now we got two Blue Devils in the family, my wife and daughter.  But one better, stronger Demon Deacon. Our son, Alexander, is in 3rd grade, and we are all happy that it is in-person schooling; online schooling last year was very, very exhausting.  

We would love to hear from all alumni.  Let’s stay in touch.  

Caleb & Stephen
Annie & Nouf
Martin & Hyunsu

Natalie Holzwarth

It seems very likely that the years 2020-2022 will be debated by historians and psychologists for years to come. As an academic and a computational/theoretical physicist, one has to feel very lucky that it was possible to avoid much of the trauma of the pandemic. On February 29, 2020, Natalie Holzwarth, together with graduate students Yan Li, and Lindsey Grey and Gabe Marcus from Dave Carroll’s group enjoyed a nice dinner in Denver, Colorado in anticipation of the 2020 March meeting of the APS. Later that evening, we were notified that the meeting had been cancelled and, together with hundreds of other disappointed physicists, scrambled to get home. Since then, we have learned to use zoom and are slowly venturing back to some in-person activities.

The big event for 2021 is that Yan Li will complete her Ph. D. thesis on “First Principles Investigations of Electrolyte Materials in All-Solid-State Batteries” in time for the Dec. 2021 graduation date. She will have completed her graduate studies in 4.5 years with 4 publications and 3 additional projects close to completion. Congratulations Yan!

On a personal note, George and Natalie have been enjoying interacting with their two grand children (ages 10 and 0.6) and their parents, usually via zoom and other media and occasionally in person.

Timo Thonhauser

In the spring of last year I took a student group on a semester-long study-abroad program to the Flow House in Vienna/Austria, teaching the two introductory physics classes PHY 113 and PHY 114. While the program was off to a good start, it got cancelled half-way through due to COVID and it was quite stressful to bring all students home with the onset of heavy travel restrictions. The following transition to online teaching went fairly smooth and I even heard some students say that they prefer online classes over in-person ones. In the meantime I taught PHY 741 (Graduate Quantum Mechanics) and PHY 344 (Undergraduate Quantum Mechanics) online and I am now back in the classroom with PHY 741 again.

Scientifically, this past summer I finished a grant from the National Science Foundation, studying the description of weak forces that nonetheless play crucial roles in many materials. In addition, I also have an active DOE grant as PI, overseeing a three-university collaboration on the study of metal organic frameworks. This grant also brought on a new post-doc (Dr. Saif Ullah). This spring we also graduated Noah Meyer, who won the WFU Physics Speas award, a NSF GRFP, and a Goldwater Scholarship—he is now enrolled in the physics graduate program at Cambridge University.