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Department History

Milestones in Physics

1958 - First external department chair hired, Dr. Mark Gurevitch (1917-2006).  Mark guided the department through a very successful growth period, adding both graduate and undergraduate degrees.  Gurevitch was a strong advocate for biophysics in the department, and proposed in the late 1960s a doctorate program in the field.  This eventually led to the hiring of Kwan Hsu as the first biophysics professor at Portland State University. (picture of Mark)

1960 - First group of undergraduate students: their tools of the trade: slide rules!  (picture)

1964 - First electron microscope at PSU, a Hitachi HS7S (a transmission electron microscope), after a life of faithful service, now in use as one of the experiments for undergraduate physics students.  (picture hitachi.jpg)

1966 - First low temperature experiments performed on campus (at 2 K, or minus 2700 C!).  Work in low temperatures continued into the mid 90's under the leadership of Drs. Laird Brodie, Arnold Pickar, Jack Semura, and Erik Bodegom culminating in the first ever tensile strength measurements of liquid helium and nitrogen.  (picture Liquid helium dewar was used to contain the extremely cold liquids and perform experiments near absolute zero)

1975 - First article in Nature by a PSU faculty member, Jack Semura with graduate student Shripad Tuljapurkar, who went on to get the first PhD in Physics from PSU. Dr. Tuljapurkar is currently Morrison Professor of Population Studies and Biological Sciences at Stanford University. 

  Link to Abstract

1976 - First PhD student graduated: Shripad Tuljapurkar with a dissertation titled "Theoretical Studies in Cooperative Phenomena and Population Ecology." 

  Link to Dissertation

1978 - Four female faculty in physics: Gertrude Rempfer, Kwan Hsu, Dawn Dressler, Su Wei.  (picture of Kwan Hsu)


1970's and 80's - Dawn Dressler was instrumental in establishing the relationship with OHSU such that PSU has been the main school for students admitted to OHSU.  (pictures will be sent over)

1997 - Endowed chair named after Gertrude Rempfer: this is the first endowed chair in a physics department in the State of Oregon! Dr. Gertrude Rempfer has received many awards, including the Oregon Academy of Science Award for Outstanding Scientist in 1998. 


1999 - Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (CNN) established.  The center was instrumental in PSU's participation in ONAMI - Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.  CNN later morphed into the Center for electron microscopy and nanofabrication.


1999 - Dr. Makoto Takeo (retired in 1989) publishes a well received book on "Disperse Systems." 


2002 - The latest and greatest electron microscope installed on campus: a field-emission transmission electron microscope (FEI Tecnai F20) which forms a corner piece of the Center for electron microscopy and nanofabrication.  (picture tecnai.jpg: graduate student Cheng Qi looking at silicon nanowires)