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A classroom in Science Hall 2 is receiving a major facelift to benefit hands-on undergraduate learning opportunities and faculty research in physics thanks to a $60,000 gift from Hunter Industries, a residential and commercial irrigation company located in San Marcos. The renovation, slated to be completed by the end of this year, is creating state-of-the-art laboratories for applied physics Assistant Professors Stephen Tsui and Gerardo Dominguez.
The gift was championed by College of Science and Mathematics Advisory Council member Peter Woytowitz, director of electrical engineering at Hunter Industries.
Kelly Briggs, director of major gifts in University Advancement, worked with College faculty and staff to create the proposal that Woytowitz could put in front of decision makers at Hunter. Luckily it wasn’t a hard sell.
The applied physics degree program is one of the fastest growing at CSUSM according to College of Science and Mathematics Dean Katherine Kantardjieff. She says CSUSM students majoring in applied physics stand out and are highly valued in regional industries based in defense, programming, healthcare and engineering because of the hands-on experiences and mentorship they receive from faculty. But due to the growth of the program, laboratory space has been in short supply.
“When they were built, Science Halls 1 and 2 were designed to create instructional capacity for a younger, smaller university,” said Kantardjieff. “With our tremendous growth in enrollment and hiring of research active faculty, we’ve struggled to provide adequate space for instruction and research. This gift from Hunter Industries was instrumental in getting the ball rolling on this expensive project.”
Tsui, an experimental condensed matter physicist, says the new space will allow him to take his research and mentorship of students to the next level. “Right now I’m mentoring six undergraduates but my current space was never designed to fit more than three people at a time—it is literally a converted storage room. In the new, larger lab space, I’m looking forward to expanding my research into nanoparticles, which requires use of a fume hood which I don’t currently have.”
“This new lab will allow me to carry out some of my exciting research at the intersection of astrophysics and chemistry—research that will be carried out in part by undergraduate STEM students at CSUSM,” said Dominguez. “It will be the epicenter for what I hope will be the beginning of a long tradition of carrying out important fundamental research that will advance our understanding of nanoscale physics and surface chemistry, isotope geochemistry, and our origins from an astrophysical perspective.”
“Over the years, Hunter Industries has been a significant corporate supporter of athletics, business and other programs,” said Vice President for Advancement Neal Hoss. “The company’s recent generosity extends and enhances our reputation as an institute for practical and experiential learning, for innovation and for creating learning spaces that both foster and enable student discovery.”
Greg Hunter, president of Hunter Industries, said, “An educated work force is the foundation of a growing economy and essential to the prosperity of businesses and our community. We are proud to be partners with CSUSM, a vital educational institution in our region, and hope that we can inspire others to step forward and support the applied physics program in the College of Science and Mathematics.”