Department of Physics

Physics Department Advisory Board

The Physics Advisory Board exists to provide external perspective of the department's programs and initiatives. Member are drawn from department alumni, from all areas: university, secondary education, industrial, and federal labs.

Jim Arns, BA physics 1978Jim Arns

1st Job after graduation: Engineer, Hughes Aircraft Company, Los Angeles, CA

Jim had built an interest and a rudimentary capability in holography while at UNI and Hughes was developing holographic technology to support various military applications. He enjoyed the challenges of designing systems and fabricating holograms to support state-of-the-art optical displays for more than 14 years while at Hughes.

Present position: Kaiser Optical Systems, Inc. in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he is able to further the research and development of new holographic technologies and applications. "My concentration on improving Volume Phase Holographic (VPH) technologies have been leveraged into numerous VPH-based optical holograms used in various military, scientific, and telecommunications applications."

"UNI’s Department of Physics produced the environment where I could explore an interest outside the normal curriculum. Without this freedom I most likely would not have found the science and technology of holography that I have enjoyed as a career." Jim Arns full biography (pdf).

William Griffin, BS physics and BA chemistry 2006 William Griffin

1st and present job: Test Engineer at DISTek Integration Inc. in the Cedar Falls Industrial Park.

My primary responsibility is to create test systems for our clients like John Deere. Usually the client wishes to test the specification of a product. We design a system to test the specification that usually involves a collection of sensors and electronics. The signals collected from the sensors are then converted into digital data that is analyzed by a computer program written in LabVIEW. Once the design work is done, we assemble the system and write the software to handle the analysis.

During Fall 2008, I spent some time training a group of FIRST Robotics students and mentors on the ins and outs of LabVIEW. Each year, FIRST Robotics teams in high schools throughout the U.S. and abroad work together for six weeks to create robots. These robots are designed to compete at tournaments and score as many points as possible. Since the games change each year, the students need to build new robots each year to overcome the new challenges presented.
Griffin Biography 


Robert Spulak, BA physics 1977
Robert Spulak

Robert’s first “job” after UNI was graduate school at the University of Illinois.  His first “real job” was as a staff member at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Robert has had a long and varied career at Sandia.  His physics education at UNI was the ideal foundation for him to be able to pursue his interests across a broad range of science and technology, leading to expertise in the role of S&T in national security and ultimately to national security policy.  His BA in physics from UNI led to a master’s in astronomy, a master’s in nuclear engineering, and a PhD in physics.  As a staff member at Sandia he worked on nuclear reactor safety, design of neutron generators, and studies of technologies and national security issues.  He was an adjunct professor of political science at the University of New Mexico and taught a graduate course on US national security.

As a manager at Sandia, Robert has managed the neutron generator design science department, the strategic studies department, and is now manager of the special operations forces program office.  He is an associate fellow at the Joint Special Operations University at Hurlburt Field, Florida.  In the photograph, Robert is seen near La Macarena, Colombia, on a trip where he was invited by the government of Colombia and the US Southern Command to participate in a counterterrorism conference.  He is a member of the S&T Issues Team for the Project on National Security Reform, which is a congressionally funded project to reorganize the federal government so the US can better address the security threats of today, including the management of national security S&T.

The caring faculty in the physics department at UNI nurtured Robert’s broad interests and the solid physics education made it possible for him to pursue his graduate degrees.  Although he hasn’t always been “doing physics” he has returned to physics research more than once in his career.  In addition, his UNI physics education allowed him to have an interesting career across a broader spectrum of issues involving the intersection of S&T and national security.