IV Consolidation Years: (2001-2010)
During these years, the department grew and matured, marking several important milestones. A PhD program was launched in the sciences mid-decade, and by 2006, the first physics PhD students began their studies. The first graduate course, Advanced Quantum Mechanics, was developed and taught by Professor Emeritus Keramat Ali after his retirement in 2003. Without neglecting the undergraduate major, the emphasis began to slowly but inevitably shift from an exclusive focus on undergraduate education in the first two decades to include both undergraduate and graduate studies.
In 2003, Saurya Das, a theoretician in black hole physics joined, and five years later, his wife, Arundhati Dasgupta, a theoretician in gravitational field theory, was recruited from mathematics at the University of New Brunswick. These additions significantly bolstered theoretical physics research, and led Mark Walton in 2008 to form a Theoretical Physics Group. Also in 2003, Adriana Predoi-Cross, an experimentalist in molecular spectroscopy, was recruited from JDS Uniphase as the university’s first female physicist, and 2 years later, she was awarded an NSERC University Faculty Award (UFA), the university’s first NSERC UFA for women in the natural sciences. Adriana’s husband, Albert Cross, left his position as MRI Lab Manager (Carleton University) to join Adriana in Lethbridge. Initially, he worked as a physics Sessional Lecturer, until 2004, when he took up the position of NMR Lab Manager of the university’s 500 MHz NMR facility.
In 2005, Albert took up a new position in the Department of Neuroscience as the CCBN MRI Staff Scientist, but he retained his link with the Physics Department as an Associate Member. In 2010, Masami Tatsuno, a computational and experimental neuroscientist who had joined the Department of Neuroscience just two years earlier, also became an Associate Member of the Physics Department.
In 2006, the university recruited two senior scientists from the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) in Ottawa, Karl Staenz and Philippe Teillet. Staenz joined Geography department, and Teillet joined physics. After a distinguished 29-year career with CCRS, Philippe Teillet was attracted by the university’s strong research program in imaging, led by David Naylor, and by the opportunity to continue his collaborations with scientists at the Lethbridge Research Centre (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada).
The intensity of research activities in the department was enhanced by a faculty-wide reduction in teaching load instituted in 2001: for research-active faculty, the nominal load was now four courses annually instead of five. In 2001, David Siminovitch and colleague Rene Boeré (Chemistry) were successful in securing funding from the Alberta Network for Proteomics Research (ANPI) for a 500 MHz NMR spectrometer, whose acquisition led directly to the creation of a new Academic Assistant position in physics as an NMR Lab Manager, and to the recruitment of two new faculty in the Department of Chemistry.
Early in 2002, Guangxin Lin joined the department as the university’s first NMR lab manager, overseeing the operation of the 500 MHz instrument; over the next 7 years, two other department members served in this capacity, Albert Cross (2003-2005), and Dinu Iuga (2005-2008).
David Naylor’s group grew substantially throughout the decade, so that by 2007, it was the same size as the department; in the 5 years he held his Board of Governors Research Chair, his external funding grew to some 5 million dollars in total. In recognition of the international stature of David Naylor’s Astronomical Instrumentation Group, and the large service role played by the department in teaching astronomy courses, in 2008, the department’s name was changed from Department of Physics to Department of Physics & Astronomy.