Alumni Visiting Committee
The Visiting Committee consists of departmental alumni who meet with faculty, staff,
and students annually to provide advice on strategic initiatives and future
directions for growth. We are grateful to the members of this committee for their contributions. Learn more about the committee below.
Dr. William F. Lawson is the Chair of the Alumni Visiting Committee. He is the Director of Technology Commercialization at the University of Tulsa. Dr. Lawson is an applied physicist with a broad technology background including 31 years at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and its precursors, the last 12 years of which he served in leadership roles in the oil and gas research program area. He retired from DOE in January, 2006, as the first Director of DOE’s Strategic Center for Natural Gas and Oil. Dr. Lawson served as the Executive Director of the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council from 2011 through 2012. He taught as an adjunct professor for the 2006-2007 academic year at the University of Oklahoma in the colleges of Business and Earth and Energy. Dr. Lawson received his collegiate degrees in physics from West Virginia University ('69, '76, and '85). He retired from the United States Navy with the rank of Commander.
Dr. Caitlin Ahrens received her B.S. in Physics/Astrophysics and Geology from West Virginia University in 2015, and her Ph.D. in Space and Planetary Science at the University of Arkansas in 2020. Dr. Ahrens is a Postdoctoral Program Fellow at Goddard Space Flight Center, where she is also a member of the Diviner Science Team. Her research involves remote sensing of icy surfaces and volatile interactions, including permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles, focusing on the composition and thermodynamics of ices. In 2018, Dr. Ahrens received the Ten Outstanding Young Americans award (presented by the Jaycees) for her efforts in science communication and outreach. Learn more about Dr. Ahrens here.
Dr. Jerry Carr, Jr. received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Physics at West Virginia University, obtained after graduating with a B.S. in Physics from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2007. He is the President of the Morgantown/Kingwood branch of the NAACP, and a plasma physicist and federal project manager for the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Dr. Carr's leadership and outreach as a physical scientist extends beyond his assignments at NETL. He tries to use his distinction as the first Black Ph.D. physicist from WVU to inspire others to pursue their dreams in science and education. Learn more about Dr. Carr here.
Dr. Bruce Dean received the B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Physics from WVU (1991, 1994, 1999), as well as the M.S. Degree in Mathematics in 1996. After graduating, Dr. Dean joined the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where he began work as an Optical Physicist, and later formed a Wavefront Sensing and Control Group where he is currently Group Leader. Dr. Dean holds 10 U.S. Patents and is the lead wavefront sensing algorithm developer for the James Webb Space Telescope. He has received numerous awards including: the NASA Headquarters Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal, the Federal Executive Board Bronze Award for Volunteer Service, and the Goddard Honor Award for Engineering Achievement.
Dr. Sean M. Finnegan received his Ph.D. in physics from West Virginia University in 2008, where his research (largely theoretical) focused on plasma waves in the ionosphere. Upon graduation, he joined LANL as a post-doc in XCP-6 (Plasma Theory and Applications) working on simulations of laser-plasma-interactions, and contributing to the design of capsule implosions for the study of material mixing in burning plasmas. In 2011, he joined the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) program office, as the program manager for the high-energy-density plasmas portfolio, later becoming the management team-lead for the broader Discovery Plasma Science portfolio within FES. While in the Office of Science, he oversaw funding activities executed jointly between FES and the National Science Foundation as well as with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), served on the Office of Science User Facilities Working Group, and organized an Intergovernmental Working Group for High-Energy Density (HED) Science. He later joined the NNSA management staff in the Office of Research, Development, Test, and Engineering overseeing the ICF-Ignition, HED-Facilities, and HED Academic Awards (including the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester) portions of the Weapons Activities portfolio. Additionally, he served as the program lead for NNSA on the Warhead Options Working Group as part the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review implementation activities. In 2019 he returned to technical work, rejoining the staff at LANL in XTD-IDA (Integrated Design and Assessment) where his research has focused on thermonuclear systems, radiation transport in high-energy-density plasma, and novel algorithms for kinetic plasma modeling. He currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Laser-Net US, the HED Council for the NNSA HED Facilities, is the LANL lead for the HED physics topical area of the Joint Center for Resilient National Security and serves as the program manager for the Secondary Assessment Technologies program.
Dr. Rachel Henderson attended graduate school at West Virginia University from 2012 to 2018 where she received her Master’s degree and PhD in physics. Prior to WVU, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in physics from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. During her time at WVU, her dissertation work was supervised by John Stewart where she focused on the gender inclusivity of the rather historic yet commonly used physics assessments. In 2018, she moved to Michigan where she did her postdoctoral work in collaboration with Marcos “Danny” Caballero in the Physics Education Research Lab at Michigan State University (MSU). There, she focused on developing formal structures to support the newly transformed physics laboratories while developing assessment tools and practices for understanding student learning within these courses. In 2020, Rachel was hired as an Assistant Professor at MSU where she is currently jointly appointed in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the CREATE for STEM Institute. Generally, Rachel is a quantitative methods researcher who focuses on developing and implementing inclusive and equitable educational instrumentation that can be used to improve the learning and retention for students seeking Bachelor’s degrees in STEM. She has served as a member-at-large for the APS Topical Group on Data Science and the APS Topical Group on Physics Education Research and is currently serving as the chair of the American Association of Physics Teacher Physics Education Research Leadership and Organizing Council (PERLOC) as well as the secretary for the Eastern Great Lakes Section of APS.
Dr. John Lannon received B.S., and Ph. D. degrees in Physics from WVU (1991, 1996). and is currently is the General Manager of Micross Advanced Interconnect Technology. Since 2002, he has worked on the fabrication and improvement of resistive IR emitter devices (a MEMS-like device) for Infrared Scene Projectors. Beginning in 2005, he assisted with the development of high density interconnects (sub-20 µm pitch) for die stacking and detector hybridization and more recently contributed to the development of wafer-level vacuum packaging (WLVP) for MEMS devices. As part of Micross, he focuses on the development and implementation of 3D integration and advanced packaging technologies for government and commercial applications, as well as the development of novel 3D microstructures.
Dr. Jagadeesh S. Moodera received his Ph.D. in Physics from Indian Institute of Technology (Madras). He joined MIT in 1981 as a research staff at the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory (FBML), where he leads the “Thin Film Magnetism, Superconductivity and Nanospintronics” group. He has worked in several areas of fundamental and applied physics including nanospintronics, spin polarized transport and tunneling, thin film magnetism, superconductivity and topological insulators. He was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2000 and awarded the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize from the American Physical Society in 2009. Learn more about Dr. Moodera here.
Dr. Anna Zaniewski is a physicist who got her start at WVU, where she majored in Physics and minored in Creative Writing. She then earned her Ph.D. in Physics from UC Berkeley, specializing in semiconducting materials and photovoltaics. Early in her career, Dr. Zaniewski founded and directed a student support program at Arizona State University, focusing on mentoring, community building, and research experiences. Currently, as the CTO of a start-up, Advent Diamond, she serves as the PI for several government research projects that focus on developing semiconducting diamond materials and components for high power, quantum, and advanced sensor applications. Dr. Zaniewski is passionate about the potential for diamond technology to change what's possible across various industries.