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Physics Department evolves with the hiring of Margine

By Rebecca Bowyer

Elena Roxana Margine is unlike any of the other tenure-track faculty professors in the Physics Department at Harpur College. Why? Because she's a woman.

"I personally don't feel different," Margine said with a shrug. "I've been different places and I've never been treated differently because I was a female. It's true that it's a male-dominated department — although I'm not the only female physicist working. I'm just the only one on an assistant professor track."

Margine, 37, was born in Romania and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Bucharest before moving to the United States in 2001. She received her doctorate in computational physics and a minor in high performance computing from Pennsylvania State University. Upon graduating in 2007, Margine spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon in France and two years at the University of Oxford, England. She spent an additional two years at Oxford after being awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship.

Margine was inspired to apply for a research position at Binghamton University because of the active, changing nature of the department.

"The Physics Department has been quickly growing after restarting the PhD program five years ago," Margine said. "It's a very dynamic department with many young faculty members. The chance to collaborate with other colleagues that have similar interests to mine was one of the main attractions for me."

The Physics Department's graduate program is relatively new compared to the rest of Harpur College: After a hiatus of more than 20 years, its first PhD student graduated last summer. With the expansion of the Innovative Technologies Complex (ITC) and the addition of a new physics/chemistry building, the department is looking to capitalize on changing trends.

"When I came here in 2007 we may have had eight or nine professors. Now at the end of this year we should be around 15 or 16," said Bruce White, department chair. "There's a new building we're moving into across campus. The department has been growing like crazy; the number of graduate students has increased from two or three to more than 30. It's in a period of renewal."

This renewal prompted the hiring of Margine, who fit perfectly into the equation.

"We did a national search and Roxana was the best candidate that we could find," White said. "Her expertise in electronic materials, two-dimensional electronic materials, for many different applications are very appealing, it fits in well with the other faculty members in the department.

"You need as many bright people thinking about those [things] as you possibly can," White said, "Being able to tap into all areas of the population is very important and for some reason we haven't been able to do that until now, and we're really happy."

White also praised Margine's ability to forge connections not just within the department, but also across other schools.

"She already has some ties to folks outside the university at other SUNY schools; she has a grant," White said, referring to her partnership with Albany and Stony Brook for the SUNY-4E Network of Excellence. "That capability outside of the department is just fantastic. It costs a lot of money to do experiments and a lot of time, and if you could find a way to narrow down the spaces you need to search it's a really good thing. She's fantastic."

Margine's work focuses on smart energy, an area of research that has become heavily funded over the past several years. The necessity for new and more efficient ways of using energy fuels much of the research work that occurs.

"I use advanced computational methods for description and rational design of emerging materials," Margine said. "I am particularly interested in superconductors and thermoelectrics which have strategic applications in energy transport, energy harvesting and electronics."

The importance of partnership within Binghamton University is one reason that the ITC is expanding so rapidly. Ground was broken on the newest addition at the beginning of the fall semester and faculty hope doors will be open as early as 2017.

"The ITC is a place where a lot of collaborations can be established with faculty members from different science and engineering areas," Margine said. Her role within Harpur College is not solely defined by a single code or even by the amount of funding she draws in.

White said Margine's introduction is just the first step in an effort to bring more underrepresented groups into the Physics Department.

"We have female undergraduate students. They look around the department, they only see men. When we have colloquium speakers show up, they are mostly always male. So I think increasing the number of women faculty members in the department will help with that."

The future of the Physics Department is evolving and maturing, and Margine said she finds herself at home here among the faculty, and is looking forward to immersing herself further into Binghamton culture.

"Everyone is young and comes from very good universities," she said. "It's a diverse background and we all have common interests."


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Last Updated: 3/1/17