Physics at Virginia

Congratulations to 2023's Physics Department Award Recipients!

Friday, August 11 2023

Michael Bowler and Jason Boynewicz are co-recipients of the 2023 Outstanding Undergraduate Physics Major Award. The Outstanding Undergraduate Physics Major Award is presented each year to the graduating physics major or majors with the best overall academic record in physics throughout their study at the University. The winner will normally have completed a sequence of physics courses at, or beyond, that required for the Distinguished Majors Program. The prize consists of a book, chosen by the winner, and $400 to each student. Michael and Jason, each graduating with a distinguished BS in Physics with highest distinction and with perfect 4.0 GPA, are joint winners of this year’s Outstanding Undergraduate Physics Major Award. Jason will start graduate school at UT Austin in Texas and Michael is starting a job as a research assistant at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Philip Velie is the recipient of the Stephen Thornton Award in Physics Undergraduate Research. This annual award recognizes the most outstanding research project completed by an undergraduate physics major. Philip’s research field is theoretical high energy physics. In Summer 2019, Philip joined the research activity at the SURA Center for Nuclear Femtography (CNF) under Professor Liuti’s supervision. Since then, he has contributed in various theoretical calculations, and making predictions for their experimental measurement. Philip’s research has been very productive. Philip receives this award for his contribution in a publication on a parameterization of Quark and Gluon Generalized Parton Distributions (GPDs), a short paper on the imaging of the nucleon using GPDs and numerical methods, and a short paper in preparation for publication on double-photon emission in Deep Inelastic Scattering using Color Glass Condensate Effective Field Theory.

Yu Tao and Grace Cummings have been jointly awarded this year’s Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award, which includes a check for $1000, to each student.

Yu Tao completed his PhD thesis in the field of experimental condensed matter physics under the supervision of Professor Despina Louca. As a student, Yu had mastered many techniques both at the University of Virginia as well as at different National Laboratories. The list includes transport and bulk magnetic susceptibility characterization under high magnetic fields and low temperatures, solid-state, floating zone and flux grown sample synthesis, X-ray diffraction, and handling of unstable-in-air compounds. His works on comprehensive characterizations of phase transitions between orthorhombic Td phase and monoclinic 1T' phase on MoTe2, WTe2 and their solid solutions has enabled new pathways towards manipulating novel topological phases in quantum materials. His works on magnetic and phonon dynamics of the Mott insulator YVO3, where he studied the dynamics of the transitions using inelastic neutron scattering and first-principles calculations, is expected to be impactful in the field of metal-insulator transitions. So far, his research resulted in ten peer-reviewed journal publications. Yu Tao is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota.

Grace Cummings completed her PhD thesis in experimental high energy physics under the supervision of Professor Bob Hirosky. Grace has great accomplishments in instrumentation, physics studies, community building and innovative outreach efforts. Grace’s PhD studies focused on work at the CMS Experiment located in Geneva Switzerland at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Her research considers searches for extensions to the standard model of particle physics utilizing the newly discovered Higgs boson as a signature. She also led the assembly and testing of Virginia’s “next generation clock and control system” for the CMS Barrel Calorimeter and then served on very select team with access to modify the on-detector systems...working for many months 3 stories above the ground, 30 stories underground, to accomplish the upgrade! Grace received a coveted collaboration-wide award for these and other important contributions to the operation of the experiment. Grace is now working as a Lederman Fellow at Fermilab, one of the more prestigious postdoctoral fellowships awarded in the field of experimental High Energy Physics.