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Message from the Chair

Welcome to the Fall 2022 issue of Interactions, the Department of Physics newsletter!

Kimberly Strong

Dear Physics community,

Another academic year is well underway, with our courses back in classrooms and labs and an increasing number of meetings and events running in person or in a hybrid format. After two years of virtual events, we were pleased to resume in-person celebrations with our June and September Department parties, while also enabling people to join online. As always, lots has been happening in the Department, as you’ll see in this issue of the Newsletter.

In July, we were pleased to welcome the first new faculty member resulting from our 2022 searches when Brian Wilson joined us as Assistant Professor Teaching Stream. Brian is well known to many of us, as he has previously been a sessional lecturer and part-time faculty member in the Department, as well as TA Coordinator in recent years. In other announcements, Matt Russo took up a part-time term appointment as an Assistant Professor Teaching Stream, taking over the role of TA Coordinator. July 1st also marked the promotion of Nicolas Grisouard and Debra Wunch to Associate Professor, Qinya Liu to Professor and Jason Harlow to Professor Teaching Stream (the latter two announced in the Spring Newsletter), and Christopher Lee to a continuing part-time appointment as Assistant Professor. We will welcome several new faculty members next year, including Xiang Li as Assistant Professor Tenure Stream in the Physics and Chemistry of Quantum Materials and Sergio de la Barrera as Assistant Professor Tenure Stream in Experimental Quantum Condensed Matter; they will be profiled in a future Newsletter. Our announcements also celebrate Steve Butterworth, Manager of Physics Computing Services for his 20 years in the Department.

This issue of the Newsletter introduces Post-Doctoral Fellow in quantum condensed matter Finn Lasse-Buessen, quantum optics PhD Student Daniela Angulo Murcillo, and Biological Physics Specialist Belinda Kusuma. Our Emeriti Profile features Fraser Code, who retired in 2003 after many years of teaching and research at both UTM and UTSG. Our Alumni Profile features Sarah Torrie, who is a high school physics teacher at Victoria Park Collegiate Institute and the winner of the 2022 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM “for her uniquely creative approach to science education, and for her innovative strategies to help students develop their skills and interest in science”.

A recent paper on superconductivity and magnetic order in strontium ruthenate materials by Hae-Young Kee and graduate students Austin W. Lindquist and Jonathan Clepkens is featured in this issue’s Research Spotlight. More stories about research and other happenings can be found at Physics News.

Congratulations to our eight June 2022 PhD graduates, and a warm welcome to our incoming cohort of 60 new MSc and PhD students – a record intake due to a larger-than-usual number of offers being accepted this year.

Physics students, staff, and faculty continue to be recognized with a variety of awards. At our June end-of-year party, Samuel Li was awarded the Loudon-Hines Gold Medal, and the four recipients of the Van Kranendonk TA Awards were announced: Nicholas Anto-Sztrikas, Daniel Schultz, Sreekar Voleti, and Suzanne Wong. The 2022 Administrative Staff Awards went to Beata Kuszewska and Christopher McGugan, while the Technical Staff Award went to Larry Avramidis and a Special Staff Excellence Award was given to Peter Hurley. Also at the party, the Physics Student Union announced the second cohort of recipients of their Teaching Awards to recognize exceptional pedagogy in undergraduate courses: Paul Kushner for PHY151F and Michael Luke for PHY354S. U of T continued to do well in the Canadian Association of Physicists Lloyd G. Elliott University Prize Exam, with Samuel Li, Amirali Atrli, and Tony An taking three of the top ten spots for 2022.

We were delighted when the Dean announced the Faculty of Arts and Science awards in the spring, with April Seeley receiving the Distinguished Long Service Award and Jason Harlow receiving an Outstanding Teaching Award. Other recent awards to faculty include Juna Kollmeier being named the 2022 Jacques Solvay International Chair in Physics and Yong Baek Kim and Ue-Li Pen becoming Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada. Congratulations to all!

Our Physics Career Accelerator Program (physCAP) ran again this year, with almost 50 mentor/mentee pairs in the Physics Mentorship Program. A new group of grade 10 students joined Pursue STEM, while the grade 11 students were able to meet in person during a June field trip to the Old Mill, Crawford Lake and Borer’s Falls. It has also been a very busy year for Outreach in Action, including virtual school visits, Girls SySTEM, Science Rendezvous, Doors Open, and the Science Unlimited Summer Camp. I would like to thank 2021-22 Outreach Committee Chair David Bailey, Special Projects Coordinator Sheela Manek, and everyone who volunteered for physCAP and outreach activities – we couldn’t do these without you!

The start of the academic year is an appropriate time to emphasize the roles that we all have in creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive environment that welcomes and supports everyone in the Physics Department, including those who are traditionally underrepresented in physics. We are a community of scholars in which everyone has something to contribute. I would like to thank our Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Committee and Physibility, a student-run equity group, for their efforts in this area. One initiative over the past year was the development of the IDEA Statement “Physics as an Inclusive Community”. Following consultations that included a survey, town halls, and voting, this statement was endorsed by faculty, staff, and students, and copies are now posted on the Physics website and around the building.

In other news, our multi-year UTQAP self-study finally wrapped up in the spring, with the administrative response to the external reviewers’ report. Following this review, we are now starting to develop an Academic Plan that will guide the Department for the next five years.

To conclude, we are happy to hear from you and to receive your feedback on Interactions – please contact our Editor, Sheela Manek, at with your comments and news.

Kimberly Strong Signature

Professor & Chair