Skip to main content

New Faculty Join WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy

Several new faculty members have joined the Physics and Astronomy Department this year.

Lian Li, Professor, Condensed Matter Experiment

 We would like to welcome Professor Lian Li who recently joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University. Prof. Li received his BSc in Physics from Yunnan University, China in 1983, and MSc in the same field from Tongji University, China in 1987, and PhD in Solid State Physics from Arizona State University in 1995. He received a Fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to conduct research at the Institute for Materials Research, Tohoku University, Japan from 1995 to 1996, and held a staff research associate position at the University of California, Los Angeles from 1996 to 1999. He joined the Physics department at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as an Assistant Professor in 1999, and was promoted to full Professor in 2007. He joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University as Robert L. Carroll Professor of Physics in 2016. Prof. Li received the E. W. Müller Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the International Field Emission Society (1996) and NSF CAREER Award (2001).

Prof. Li’s research unveils structure and property relationships of condensed matter at the atomic scale. Current interests are the molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) growth of Dirac materials (e.g., graphene, topological insulators, and Weyl semimetals), Fe-based superconductors, and 2D transition metal dichalcogenides, and application of in situ low temperature scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy (STM/S) and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) to gain new insights into these quantum phases of matter from the interplay of strain, proximity, correlations, and spin-orbit interactions. The research is currently supported by grants from NSF and DOE.

We wish Professor Li all the best in his future endeavors at WVU.

Kathryn Williamson, Teaching Assistant Professor

 Kathryn Williamson joined the West Virginia University Department of Physics and Astronomy in January 2016 after spending three years as the Public Education Specialist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, where she engaged students and teachers in inquiry-based astronomy investigations using radio telescopes both in-person and online through Skynet. At WVU she teaches Descriptive Astronomy and oversees the Planetarium, Lecture Demonstrations, and Astronomy Outreach activities. She is the faculty advisor for the WVU Astronomy Club and the WVU Chapter of the West Virginia Science Public Outreach Team (SPOT), which trains undergraduates to deliver interactive science-themed presentations and hands-on activities to schools across the state. Her doctorate degree is from Montana State University, and her dissertation was on college students’ understanding of gravity. Her current area of research focuses on how youth in out-of-school-time science clubs, such as the Pulsar Search Collaboratory and Skynet Junior Scholars, learn to see themselves as scientists and choose to pursue careers in science.

Sarah Burke-Spolaor, Assistant Professor, Astronomy

Sarah Burke-Spolaor graduated with a PhD from the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia in 2011. Her work has focused on studies of low-frequency gravitational radiation, transient radio events, binary supermassive black holes, and active galactic nuclei. She has previously studied these fields in a postdoc position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, and as a Jansky Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

At WVU, Dr. Burke-Spolaor will be investigating the origins of a newly discovered astrophysical phenomenon, Fast Radio Bursts, by localizing new bursts to distant host galaxies. She will also be investigating what gravitational-wave upper limits and detections imply about the nature and evolution of supermassive black holes.

Dr. Qiang Wang, Research Assistant Professor, Condensed Matter Experiment

Dr. Qiang Wang received his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 2003, and his M.S. and Ph. D. degrees in Physics from University of Colorado Boulder in 2008 and 2011. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) from 2012 to 2015 and at the Material Science Division (MSD) at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) from 2015 to 2016. He joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University as a research assistant professor in 2016.

Dr. Wang’s research interests include interface magnetism in heterostructures, probed using polarized neutron reflectometry (PNR); and electronic structure of exotic matters, probed using angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES). Current research projects include magnetoelectric coupling in multiferroic nanocomposite system, and magnetic and electronic structure of 5d transition metal oxide with strong spin-orbit coupling.

Back to news