Stellar faculty and staff members
When you study physics, engineering and astronomy at SFA, you’ll get out of the classroom for some truly out-of-this-world experiences: You’ll get an astronaut’s-eye-view of the solar system in the SFA planetarium and an amazing view of the stars at the observatory. And, most importantly, you’ll find yourself working with experienced professors who are passionate about their subject matter and sharing their knowledge.
Dr. Harry Downing
Dr. Downing served as the chair of SFA’s Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy from 1988-2019 and was Regents Professor from 2013 to 2014. He holds a bachelor's degree in physics from the Arkansas State University and a master's degree and doctoral degree in physics from the Florida State University. Downing completed his post-doctoral work at Kansas State University where he conducted infrared spectroscopy studies on various liquids. His current interests involve developing introductory physics experiments for the visually impaired.
Dr. James Adams
Dr. Adams holds a B.S. in physics from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Ph.D. in physics from Texas A&M University. His primary research interest is optical polarimetry.
Dr. C.J. Aul
Dr. Aul holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Central Florida and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University. Before joining the physics and astronomy faculty at SFA, Dr. Aul worked as a mechanical engineer at Schlumberger, a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory and a staff scientist on a collaborative research project between The Aerospace Corporation and Texas A&M University.
Dr. Dan Bruton
Dr. Bruton teaches courses in physics, engineering, and astronomy and conducts research at the SFA Observatory and in the AASS research lab. He is the director of engineering and developed a new engineering physics degree program for SFA students. He holds a bachelor's and master's degree in physics from SFA, and he received his doctoral degree in physics from Texas A&M University. With the help of many students, Bruton has discovered 11 new minor planets in the solar system — one of which is officially named SFASU.
Dr. Thomas Callaway
Dr. Callaway holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics from West Texas State University, and he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas, where he studied the structure of liquid metals using x-ray diffraction techniques. He has been teaching at SFA since 1973 and served as Regents Professor from 1998 to 1999.
Dr. Robert Friedfeld
Dr. Friedfeld holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Seton Hall University and master’s and doctoral degree in physics from the Florida Institute of Technology. His current research focuses on the electrochemical deposition of thin film materials utilized in high efficiency thin film solar cells, scanning probe microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction. Current undergraduate research projects include atomic force microscopy of protein molecules related to the study of Alzheimer's disease and the development of CuInSe2/Si heterojunction thin film solar cells. Friedfeld has been at SFA since 1998.
Dr. Norman Markworth
Dr. Markworth is the director of the SFA observatory, which is the second-largest observatory in Texas. He earned his B.S. in physics from the University of Illinois and his PhD. in astronomy from the University of Florida. He has been a member of SFA’s physics, engineering and astronomy department since 1978, and he was Regents Professor from 2000 to 2001. His primary research interests are close binary star dynamics and computer-controlled telescopes and telescope instrumentation.
Edward Michaels is an astronomy lecturer and the director of the SFA Planetarium. He holds a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Master of Science in Natural Science from SFA. He is a member of several astronomy and physics associations, including the International Planetarium Society and the American Association of Variable Star Observers.
Michaels assembled a robotic 36-cm telescope and built an observatory to house it, equipped with a CCD science imaging system with multiband filters. The instrument is primarily used for precision brightness measurements of variable stars and is now capable of operating autonomously all night on single or multiple targets.
He is currently investigating a number of interacting binary star systems. Precision photometry acquired by the robotic telescope is being used to model these systems to determine the physical and orbital properties of the stars. Some of the properties from model solutions include orbital period and inclination, shapes and radii of the stars, effective temperatures, mass ratio, luminosities and more.
Dr. Joseph Musser
Dr. Joseph Musser holds a bachelor’s degree in education from West Texas State University and a doctoral degree in physics from Texas A&M University. He has been at SFA since 2008. Musser’s research interests include environmental sensing and quantum optics. Current undergraduate research projects include nonlinear optics; optical respiration monitoring related to sudden infant death syndrome; scattering of light by crystals within the leaves of the Amaranthus species as it relates to photosynthesis; and the detection and location of gas leaks in methane collection systems in landfills.
Dr. Hector Ochoa
Dr. Ochoa holds a bachelor's degree in physical sciences from Universidad de Guadalajara and a master's degree in physical sciences and doctoral degree in computer and electrical engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso. His research interests include remote sensing, radar signals and analysis of high velocity targets. Ochoa has been at SFA since 2016.
Ochoa is conducting undergraduate research in the fields of twisted coiled polymer actuators, machine learning and neural networks, and FPGA programming. He is always looking for passionate, hard-working students for his research lab.
Ali Piran holds a B.S. in physics from Lamar University and an M.S. in physics from SFA. He primarily teaches the general physics courses PHYS 1301 and 1302. He has been the Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy’s lab coordinator since 1990. As a lab coordinator, Piran is chiefly responsible for hiring quality students as lab assistants for the department’s laboratories. He served as the faculty advisor for the SFA chapter of the Society of Physics Students from 1995 to 2018.
Collin Timmons is a Nacogdoches native with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in physics from SFA. He teaches physics and engineering courses, but his passion is in electronics. He serves as the faculty advisor for the local chapter of the Society of Physics Students and a mentor for the Engineering Student Organization. Through these two organizations, he is heavily involved with undergraduate research. Timmons’ research interests consist of microcontrollers, digital circuits and programming.
Dr. Walter Trikosko
Dr. Trikosko holds a B.S. in physics from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, an M.S. in physics from the University of Memphis and a Ph.D. from Clemson University. His research interests are in Josephson tunneling and superconductivity. Dr. Trikosko has been at SFA since 1983.
Clay Watts came to SFA in 2013 from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he made scientific instruments for the Department of Physics for 10 years. He earned several degrees from SIUC including bachelor's degrees in botany and advanced technical studies and associates degrees in aviation mechanics and tool and manufacturing technologies. He enjoys helping students and faculty to design, fabricate, modify and repair scientific instruments, equipment, and components needed to complete apparatuses for their research projects and instruction and outreach activities.
Dr. Michael Janusa
Dr. Janusa’s research interests include environmental science, particularly water, soil and air quality involving metals and anions. His most recent research involves a study of local water quality in Lanana Creek and the Nacogdoches Surface Water Treatment Plant. Janusa holds a patent in complexing heavy metals with bagasse, a sugar cane byproduct.
Janusa teaches general chemistry, inorganic, analytical and environmental chemistry at SFA. He co-developed i-assign.com, an online homework system, and he is the author of an e-textbook, “Chemistry: The Core Concepts, Part I and II.” Janusa holds a B.S. from Louisiana Tech University and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.
Dr. Matthew Beauregard
Dr. Beauregard is an applied mathematician with research interests in numerical analysis, mathematical modeling and singular partial differential equation theory. His research expertise has enabled collaborative and interdisciplinary research efforts in quantum mechanics, computer and mechanical engineering, and biology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in economics from the University of New Hampshire and a master’s degree in applied mathematics and doctoral degree in applied mathematics with a minor in aerospace and mechanical engineering from the University of Arizona. Undergraduate and graduate students continue to play a central part of his research through directed research projects and funded summer research opportunities.
Outside of the classroom, Beauregard enjoys reading, cycling, spending time with his family and studying the Bible.
Dr. Carl Ziegler
Dr. Ziegler is an observational astronomer who is interested in planets orbiting other stars outside of our solar system. His research uses robotic telescopes to determine what these distant worlds are like, including whether they may be suitable for life. He also uses large telescopes on remote mountains to explore the stellar environment in which these planets are found. Ziegler is also the director of the SFA Observatory, which is being updated to perform automated astronomical observations.
Abigail Rickards holds a bachelor's degree in engineering physics from LeTourneau University and a Master of Science in Natural Science with a concentration in physics from SFA. She has completed research in radio astronomy, loop quantum cosmology, and binary star photometry and modeling. She loves talking with students about all subjects infinite and mind-boggling and investigating the synergy between science and her Christian faith. In her spare time, she enjoys sewing, knitting, reading and woodworking with her husband.