Physics Finds a Foothold in Remote Dissertations

Department of Physics Students Are First in CWRU History to Defend PhD Theses 100% Remotely

By Lydia Mandell,  CWRU (B.A. – English | 2023)

Zoom’s Role

Dr. Laura Johnson with her dissertation committee shortly after successful defense (from top left) Prof. Glenn Starkman, Prof. Kurt Hinterbichler, Prof. Daniel Solow & Prof. Harsh Mathur (04.13.2020)

The Zoom platform may not have meant anything to most people pre-March 2020, but now the program most certainly conjures an image of remote classes, business meetings, and maybe even social distancing parties. What may not be your first association   Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Physics has utilized Zoom for just that.

The COVID19 pandemic required most students and staff to leave their campuses all over the country in March 2020, and a plethora of problems arose. How to handle dissertation defenses of PhD and Master Candidates is one of the many unprecedented issues that arose out of this public health emergency.

Video chat programs have been key in retaining some sort of normalcy during the COVID19 pandemic, and in offering solutions to problems we have never had to face before. CWRU’s Department of Physics has had seven of their graduate students defend their dissertations online, which is the first time the department has had theses defended remotely.

Successful Physics Students

Kyle Crowley was the first in the department to defend his PhD thesis over Zoom on March 26.  Crowley’s dissertation, “Electrical Characterization, Transport, and Doping Effects in Two-Dimensional Transition Metal Oxides,” showcased his studies of electrical properties of 2D transition medal oxides.

The next student to defend remotely, another PhD candidate, was Jagjit Sidhu. On March 27 he also successfully defended his dissertation “Probing Macroscopic Dark Matter Parameter Space.” His paper explored dark matter and the future possibility of detecting this enigmatic space substance.

Two MS physics candidates at CWRU also successfully defended their dissertations via Zoom. On April 1, Joshua Chiel defended his thesis, “Natural Mechanical Topological Insulators.” Jacob Fruchtman did the same on April 7, with his thesis, “Analysis on the Feasibility of a Prototype SOFOS Telescope Module for Optical SETI.”

Another grad student to successfully defend online was former PhD candidate, Laura Johnson. Her thesis was titled, “Massive Gravity in Curved Spacetimes and Other Related Topics.” Johnson’s main areas of research have been gravity, cosmology, and quantum field theory. She also is interested in a little understood space property, dark matter.

The next to defend online was former PhD candidate Chi Tian. He, too, successfully defended his dissertation titled, “Exploring General-Relativistic Effects in the Universe.” He accomplished this completely remotely, like the others, on May 18.

Most recently, Santosh Kumar Radha defended his PhD dissertation via Zoom on June 29. His thesis was entitled, “Knitting Quantum Knots: Topological phase transitions in two-dimensional systems,” with a focus on how symmetry and topology can lead to unusual electronic properties in new materials.

The CWRU Department of Physics is proud of all these students and their years of research. In a time of uncertainty, it is amazing that these graduate students could still put forward their hard work and discoveries and receive the recognition they deserve.

See more in The Daily: PhD Candidates Defend Dissertations Remotely (03.31.2020)