Academics > Faculty

Physics Faculty

Steven Feller
B.D. Silliman Professor of Physics
B.S., Clarkson College of Technology
Sc.M., Ph.D., Brown University
Email: sfeller@coe.edu

Steve teaches most courses in the undergraduate physics curriculum. His research in physics centers on the atomic structure and physical properties of glass. In this area he has worked with about 150 students. With these student colleagues he has published 140 papers in the refereed literature of the field. Also, he has edited a number of books on glass science. His students and he have given over 200 presentations at well over 100 national and international conferences. Funding from 93 grants for over $8,200,000 has been secured since 1983 from a large number of foundations including the National Science Foundation. He also has a research-level interest in numismatics, the study of the history of money. In this area he has published over 100 articles, parts of several books, and in 2007 he coauthored (with his daughter) Silent Witnesses: Civilian Camp Money of World War II, now the standard in the field. He has been married more than 40 years to Barbara. They have two daughters Ray Feller and Heidi Berger and grandson Max.

He has been honored a number of ways including being named Fellow of the American Ceramic Society (2003) and the British Society of Glass Technology (2003), Physics Club Chapter Advisor of the Year by the national Society of Physics Students (2000), Distinguished Iowa Scientist by the Iowa Academy of Sciences (1999), Iowa Professor of the Year (1995) by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Also, he was given the 1993 American Physical Society Prize to a Faculty Member for Research in an Undergraduate Institution. During spring and summer 1996 he served as a Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom where he did neutron scattering studies of glasses and crystals. In 2001 and 2006 he was visiting professor of physics at Sojo University (Japan) and University of Warwick (England). From 1996-2002 he served on the national board of the Society of Physics Students. In 2002 he was elected the president of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, a position he was reelected to in 2004. He was the chair of the organizing committee of the 2008 and 2012 Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Congresses (the only national meeting for undergraduates in physics). The meetings were held at Fermilab, a national laboratory in 2008 and Kennedy Space Center and Orlando in 2012. He is serving as the chair of the 2016 meeting in Silicon Valley, California. He was especially gratified to have been awarded the C.J. Lynch Prize as Teacher of the Year by the 1993 senior class of Coe College.

In 2011 he played the role of Niels Bohr in Coe's production of the West End and Broadway play Copenhagen.

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Mario Affatigato, Chair
Professor of Physics
B.A., Coe College
Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
Email: maffatig@coe.edu

Honestly, now: I like to blast glasses with lasers. To be more formal, my personal research interests lie in the area of the optical properties of glasses and the relationship between such properties and the structure of the glass. Glasses of interest to me include heavy metal vanadates, alkali bismuthates, heavy metal oxide glasses, and sol-gel glasses. In particular, my recent work has focused on vanadium-based glasses, that is, those that contain vanadium as a glass former (e.g., lead and bismuth vanadates, barium/calcium vanadates), and also the formation of glasses by unconventional means (e.g., laser aerolevitation). Other recent families we have investigated include calcium silicates (with very high melting points) and alkaline earth aluminates. Now, why do I shoot these glasses up? Because a study of what happens can lead to a better understanding of how they are made up and where their properties come from.

The optical properties my students and I investigate include absorption, fluorescence, optical basicity, Raman spectroscopy, FTIR, as well as some interactions of light with matter such as laser-induced desorption and ionization and laser-induced crystallization. This last interest has led to a project involving the determination of the structure of glass using time of flight mass spectroscopy on the ions released by the sample when the laser light strikes it. This method is a different way to try to analyze the glass structure.

My teaching interests are varied. I like to try new things out in the classroom, while keeping the heart of the curriculum intact. For instance, I developed and taught a new class title Computer Techniques in Physics, in which the students received a veritable smorgasbord of applications of computers to physics. With spreadsheets we carried out a variety of statistical analysis. We then moved to learning and applying IgorPro to many physical examples and problems. The last third of the course focused on data acquisition and control. The students learn to program and use a Parallax microcontroller hooked up to a stepping motor and a variety of sensors.  I have also taught Physics with Legos, history of science courses, seminars in the Honors program, and a new introductory Physics of Natural Disasters first year class.

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Ugur Akgun
Assistant Professor of Physics
B.S., Middle East Technical University, Turkey
Ph.D., University of Iowa
Email: uakgun@coe.edu

Ugur's research area expands from experimental high energy physics to computational biophysics. He is involved in Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. After discovery of Higgs Boson on summer of 2012, LHC experiments focus to address some of the most fundamental questions of physics, advancing the understanding of the deepest laws of nature. Ugur is also member of SELEX and MIPP experiments at Fermi National Laboratory, in Batavia, Illinois. His main expertise is on radiation hard particle detectors. His recent projects include high density glass hadron calorimeter, neutron detectors, and a proton imaging detector.

Ugur's secondary research area is computational biophysics. His group use various molecular dynamics simulation techniques to determine the mechanisms of membrane proteins. Ugur and his students are recently simulating P-Glycoprotein, and AQP0-CaM systems.

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Firdevs Duru
Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics
B.S., Bosphorous University
M.S., Ph.D., University of Iowa

Firdevs has taught astronomy in our department since 2012. She is a research scientist in Space Plasma group in the University of Iowa, and member of NASA projects Mars Express and Cassini. Her main research interest is the ionosphere around the planets.

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James Cottingham
Professor of Mathematics and Physics, Emeritus
B.A., M.S., University of Chicago
M.S., Ph.D., University of Iowa