Professor Alex Small and two physics alumni elected to Board of Directors of professional society

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Associate Professor Alex Small and Cal Poly alumni Rachel Ulanch (BS Physics, 2013) and Matthew Samson (BS Mechanical Engineering, Physics Minor, 2013)  have been elected to the Board of Directors of the Optical Society of Southern California (OSSC), a local affiliate of the Optical Society of America.  Prof. Small has been a member of the OSSC since 2009, and has been on the Board of the OSSC since 2011, serving as Programs Chair (2011-2013), Student Chapters Liasion (2011-present), Secretary (2013-2014) and now Vice President (2014-2015).  Mr. Samson and Ms. Ulanch have been active members since 2011, and are serving on the Board as Councilors for 2014-2015.  Mr. Samson was previously the Arrangements Chair, responsible for helping with meeting planning.  Ms. Ulanch is currently an optical scientist at Davidson Optronics/Trioptics USA in West Covina, and Mr. Samson is currently an opto-mechanical engineer at N2 Imaging Systems in Irvine.  Both of them were introduced to their employers by networking at OSSC meetings while they were students.  Prof. Small has been at Cal Poly Pomona since 2007, and works on applying the theory of high-resolution (nanometer-scale) fluorescence imaging to problems in biology.  He also teaches a number of classes related to this work, including Applied Optics, Computational Physics, and Biophysics.  Cal Poly students interested in joining the OSSC and networking with scientists in industry are welcome to talk to Prof. Small.

ulanch2 Rachel Ulanch '13 is now at Davidson Optronics, West Covina, CA. She has been elected Councilor for the Optical Society of Southern California.
 samson  Matthew Samson, who graduated Cal Poly Pomona as a Mechanical Engineering major and Physics minor has also been elected Councilor for Optical Society of Southern California. Mr. Samson is currently with N2 Imaging Systems, Irvine, CA.

Prof. Alex Rudolph receives 5-year $600,000 grant from NSF S-STEM program


The new program is named "Cal-Bridge," with the mission to increase the number of underrepresented minority (URM), especially Hispanic, and women students completing a bachelor’s degree and entering a PhD program in astronomy, physics, or closely related fields. Students selected for the program will be designated “Cal-Bridge Scholars”. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), creates a diverse network of higher education institutions, including 5 UC campuses, 8 CSU campuses, and 7 community colleges all in southern California, dedicated to this goal.

Given the woeful lack of minority students entering the STEM disciplines in general, and physics and astronomy in particular, the Cal-Bridge program leverages an ideal set of institutions to address this national problem. The Cal-Bridge program combines multiple Hispanic-serving CSUs and community colleges, from which URM and women students with “untapped potential” are recruited, with five UC campuses, all in close proximity in southern California, an epicenter of explosive growth in the US Hispanic population. By identifying and mentoring such students through the critical transition from undergraduate STEM major to top-level PhD programs, Cal-Bridge will have a significant national impact on the number of URM, especially Hispanic, students obtaining a PhD in physics and astronomy, and become a model for Hispanic and minority-serving institutions nationwide, which hope to make a similar positive impact on this problem.

Prof. Rudolph explains that the Cal-Bridge mission is accomplished by providing financial support for individual students and intensive, sustained, joint mentoring of students by CSU and UC faculty, aimed at increasing the persistence of Cal-Bridge Scholars in completing their undergraduate degree, and successfully entering and completing a PhD program in astronomy, physics, or a closely related field. The Cal-Bridge program will search for students with “untapped potential”, using research-based criteria developed by successful bridge programs such as the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge program. The primary recruiting pipeline will be the highly successful CAMPARE summer research program. This latter, NSF-funded program---also lead by Prof. Rudolph---has in the past 4 years successfully provided authentic summer research experiences at world-class research institutions to a large number of URM and female students from a network of 19 CSUs and community colleges, mostly Hispanic-serving institutions, all of which are part of the Cal-Bridge program. Once selected, the Cal-Bridge Scholars will benefit in five key ways:

1. Cal-Bridge Scholars will be given full financial support throughout their time in the program. 

2. Each Cal-Bridge Scholar will be assigned two faculty mentors, one from a UC campus and one from a CSU.

3. Cal-Bridge Scholars must maintain at least B grades in all physics and astronomy courses; the opportunity will be provided and they will be strongly encouraged to take at least one upper division course at a UC campus.

4. Cal-Bridge Scholars will participate in supervised research with UC faculty during summers and academic years and will be given the opportunity to present their results at regional and national scientific conferences such as the American Astronomical Society (AAS) January meeting.

5. Cal-Bridge Scholars will be strongly encouraged to participate in extensive professional development via monthly workshops.

This combination of activities has been shown by research and practice to lead to substantially improved persistence of URM students in being accepted to and completing PhD programs. For example, the Fisk-Vanderbilt program has an 80% persistence to PhD rate, compared to 50% nationally, and is on pace to produce 10 times the national average of PhDs in astronomy and 5 times the national average in physics.

For more information and to apply, please visit

Cover of American Journal of Physics Features Kerr Microscope by Prof. Hector Mireles


Read more: Cover of American Journal of Physics Features Kerr Microscope by Prof. Hector Mireles
AJP Cover Hector Mireles
The paper titled "Developing a Kerr microscope for upper-division solid-state physics laboratories," was published in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Physics. It is the Editor's pick for this issue. 
(1) The paper describes the construction and implementation of a Kerr Microscope which is used in Phy431L labs at Cal Poly.  It teaches people how to make their own, and shares our success and tips on how to implement it in courses.
(2)  It was built by Dr. Mireles, with help through the years from students.  The most significant contributions came from Adam Attig, Anitol Hoemke, and an Engineering student David Neff.   Adam Attig is in the room-climate business now, and Hoemke is the Physics stockroom/demo manager at Loyola University, in the LA area.
(3) The instrument is capable of viewing magnetic domains in real time, and permits students to explore ferromagnetism, magnetic anisotropy and the Kerr Effect.



Dr. Jorge Moreno joins Physics and Astronomy Faculty

Read more: Dr. Jorge Moreno joins Physics and Astronomy Faculty
jorge moreno photo 1

Dr. Jorge Moreno is a theoretical astrophysicist, who has worked on a broad range of topics in galaxy formation and cosmology, his fields of expertise. Working in close collaboration with observers, his current research program employs high-performance supercomputing to investigate the nature of interacting galaxies and mergers. 

At the moment, Dr. Moreno holds a CITA National Prize Fellowship at the University of Victoria (under the supervision of Prof. Sara Ellison). He was also a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at SISSA/ISAC (Trieste, Italy), and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College (with a semester teaching at Bryn Mawr College), where he gained ample experience in teaching across the  whole physics and astronomy curriculum. In 2010, he earned his Ph.D in Physics and Astronomy, with a dissertation entitled “Dark Matter Halo Mergers and Quasars”, under the supervision of Prof. Ravi K. Sheth.

His achievements in research and teaching have been widely recognized with numerous of awards, including the Prize for Best Cosmology Contribution (awarded by George B. Smoot, Nobel Laureate), the Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and the Penn Teaching Assistant Training Award. He was also recipient of the Sherman Fairchild Research Grant and the Young Research Scientist Grant. Dr. Moreno’s research contributions have been well-received by the scientific community, leading to over 45 invited seminars worldwide and over 20 conference talks. He is particularly proud of having organized and funded an international conference on Interacting Galaxies and Binary Quasars, the first in the history of astronomy to have more female than male invited speakers!

Born in Mexico City, Dr. Moreno moved to Los Angeles at the age of 13 with his family. Unfortunately, after graduating from Venice High School with the highest honors, he was denied the opportunity to pursue a college education in the United States. This did not stop him from continuing his studies in his home country, where he majored in theoretical physics at Cinvestav-IPN (Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute). This step in his career eventually helped him return to the US, as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. He is very thrilled by the opportunity to return to California, as an Assistant Professor in Physics and Astronomy, which he describes as “a dream come true”.

In addition to his passion for teaching and research, in his free time he enjoys travelling, running, cooking, and spending time with his wife and children. In sum, he is extremely excited about being in front of the classroom again, in supervising undergraduates in high-impact and exciting research projects -- and, above all, in becoming a member of the Cal Poly Pomona family!

Prof. Ertan Salik receives biotechnology grant to develop sensitive fiber optic biosensor

Read more: Prof. Ertan Salik receives biotechnology grant to develop sensitive fiber optic biosensor
Ertan Salik

Prof. Ertan Salik received the Faculty-Student Collaborative Research Grant for his project titled "Ultrasensitive and Robust Fiber Optic Biosensor for Rapid Immunoassays" from the California State University Program on Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB). Dr. Salik collaborates in fiber optic biosensor development projects with Dr. Shelton Murinda (Animal and Veterinary Science) and Dr. Wei-Jen Lin (Biological Sciences).

This grant provides $15,000 funding over the next year to develop the fiber optic biosensor. Dr. Salik gives the summary of the project as:

"Biosensors have great potential to address numerous needs in medical diagnosis, food safety, environmental monitoring, and biodefense. Widespread availability of sensitive, cost-effective, and portable biosensing platforms will lead to significantly faster and cheaper detection in the laboratory, at home, and in the field. This project aims to develop a cost-effective and robust fiber optic biosensor that can detect low concentrations of proteins, toxins, or bacteria in liquid samples in less than 1 hour. Such sensitive detection can enable early diagnosis of some diseases, and improve food safety through detection of infectious bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7, which is a public health threat, and one of the five big foodborne pathogens that cost ~$6.9 billion/year to our economy."