NCMN Alumni
NCMN-Affiliated Alumni
Dr. Andrew Baruth | Dr. Nina Hong | Dr. Pavel Lukashev | Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum

Dr. Andrew Baruth, Assistant Professor, Creighton University

Dr. Andrew Baruth

Dr. Andrew Baruth grew up in rural eastern Nebraska. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Doane College, a private, liberal arts college in Crete, Nebraska. Right away Andrew showed an interest for physics education and pursuing an academic career, completing his senior thesis “The Effects of Web-based Instructional Tools on Physics Education” and presenting on the topic at the annual American Association of Physics Teacher’s national meeting. During his senior year of college, the UNL physics department invited Andrew to be a teaching assistant and he gladly accepted. Taking on this role solidified his interest in academia. The next fall, he applied and was accepted into the physics PhD program. Upon receiving the sage advice that a great instructor is also a great researcher, he pursued graduate work with UNL NCMN professor Shireen Adenwalla and completed his PhD thesis “Exchange Coupling at Cobalt/Nickel Oxide Interfaces” and pursued post-doctoral work in materials research. After spending three years working in the Chemical Engineering and Material Science department at the University of Minnesota, Andrew returned to Nebraska as an Assistant Professor of Physics at Creighton University in Omaha. There he continues research with undergraduate students in photovoltaic thin films, block polymers and dental implant materials. He also maintains the largest solar array in the state of Nebraska, 85 kW.

Andrew’s PhD research experience at the NCMN revolutionized how he saw science. Whether taking trips to Argonne National Laboratory to work at the synchrotron or getting the opportunity to travel around the country for national meetings, he got to see the synergy of science and industry as a global enterprise. At the same time, Andrew was blessed to work with talented undergraduates to improve his teaching and mentoring skills. The annual picnic was always a highlight for Andrew. He could always look forward to seeing the new faces, being terribly awkward at sports and being ok with it, and enjoying the foods of various cultures. Andrew continues to visit the NCMN, use the facilities and takes an annual tour with his Introduction to Material Science course in the spring. He’s thankful for the many opportunities he took advantage of while at the NCMN as a student and the training that led him to doing exactly what he wanted in his home state. There is no place like Nebraska!

Dr. Nina Hong, Applications Physicist, J.A. Woollam Company

Dr. Nina Hong

Dr. Nina Hong is originally from South Korea. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Physics from Hanyang University. During her Master’s studies Nina visited the United States to present her work in magnetic shape memory effects at an international conference. It was then she became inspired by a talk regarding surface properties of spintronic materials presented by a UNL NCMN group, and decided to continue her studies in Physics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Nina received her PhD from the University of Nebraska in 2012 with the thesis of, “An Exploration of Neutron Detection in Semiconducting Boron Carbide”. She currently works as an applications physicist at the J.A. Woollam Company, a local scientific equipment company founded by Professor John A. Woollam as a spin-off from his research at UNL. As part of the applications group, Nina helps develop thin film characterization strategies for various electronic and optical devices using Spectroscopic Ellipsometry.

Her PhD research experience at NCMN helped build important skills to contribute to the applications team such as project planning and management, making constructive discussions, and dealing with both successes and failures to achieve progress. At the J.A. Woollam Company, Nina also tests company products, publishes scientific discoveries, and helps their customers find the best solutions for their thin-film applications. Nina often travels to academic conferences, universities, companies, and other countries where she finds herself talking with people from unfamiliar fields. Traveling the world reminds her of how comfortable she felt at the physics colloquium where she enjoyed hearing scientific talks with a respectful mind. The yearly Christmas party is one of her favorite memories from the UNL physics department. She enjoyed watching surprisingly well made Christmas skits by professors and students. Nina continues to visit UNL to meet with her PhD advisor and friends and also continues to attend many interesting seminars held there. She is thankful for the opportunities that she has had at NCMN and now being able to raise a family in Lincoln, Nebraska, while working at a high-tech company that leads the world in its field.

Dr. Pavel Lukashev, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Iowa

Dr. Pavel Lukashev

Dr. Pavel Lukashev was born in Armenia. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the Yerevan State University, and Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the American University of Armenia. In 2001 he moved to the United States to work on his PhD in Physics at the Case Western Reserve University, under the supervision of Prof. Walter Lambrecht. While working at the Case Western, Pavel developed the necessary skills (e.g. in density functional theory (DFT) based codes) to perform research in theoretical condensed matter physics and materials science. In 2006, he defended his PhD thesis on the “Crystal and Electronic Structure of Copper Sulfides”, a first comprehensive theoretical study of these materials, with potential photovoltaic applications.

In 2006, Pavel accepted a postdoctoral position offer from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), where he worked with Prof. Renat Sabirianov until 2010. Here, Pavel’s research shifted towards magnetic materials and magnetism, one of the main research fields practiced at the University of Nebraska and NCMN. While at UNO, Pavel regularly attending theory group meetings at UNL. In 2010, Pavel moved from UNO to UNL to continue his theoretical work on magnetic materials, in the NCMN-affiliated group of Prof. Evgeny Tsymbal. Pavel stayed at UNL until summer 2014, when he accepted a faculty position offer from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), and moved to Cedar Falls, IA. At the UNI, Pavel continues his research on theoretical and computational materials science, as well as teaches various physics courses.

Overall, Pavel spent almost eight years in Nebraska, an extremely productive period in which he published 14 peer-reviewed articles (11 of which are NCMN-affiliated) and presented his work at numerous scientific conferences and workshops. Pavel continues to regularly visit UNL–NCMN to meet with his colleagues and friends. The relativity of the term “driving distance” is one of the most overused clichés for Nebraskans, but one thing is for sure – 300 miles between Cedar Falls and Lincoln IS considered to be a leisure driving. Pavel is very thankful to NCMN for the numerous opportunities he had to develop as a scientist, to gain new knowledge and skills, to meet and work with brilliant researchers, to make new friends, and to become a physics faculty member – something which was always a career goal for him.

Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Professor, Rice University

Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum
Photo courtesy MacArthur Foundation

Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum started as an undergrad in Professor David Sellmyer's lab, graduating with a B.S. in 1985. She went on to earn an M.S. and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is currently Rice University’s Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering. Her laboratory focuses on translating research in nanotechnology, molecular imaging and microfabrication to develop optical imaging systems that are inexpensive, portable and provide point-of-care diagnoses for diseases ranging from cancer to malaria.

Richards-Kortum is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Optical Society of America, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the National Academy of Inventors. She was also selected as a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. Noted was her commitment to "improving access to quality health care for all the world's people" and "training and inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists" to address global challenges. In an interview with Nebraska Today she said, "I was a first generation college student and I didn’t even know there was a thing called 'research.' Dr. Sellmyer went out of his way to offer me a spot in his lab. I am forever grateful – it really did change my life."