William & Mary

Physics Graduate Student Elizabeth Radue awarded the 2016 Cheryl Griffith Tropf Fellowship in Physics

Ms. Ellie Radue

Ellie Radue was recently awarded the 2016 Cheryl Griffith Tropf Fellowship in Physics.  Selected based on her strong progress on her research, and her excellent potential as a physicist, the award allows Ms. Radue to focus on research during the spring semester and provides a small research budget.

Ms. Radue studies thin films of Vanadium Dioxide (VO2), an interesting material that can transition from an insulator to a metal under the action of heat or intense laser radiation. Its unique properties enable revolutionary new technologies such as ultrafast switches or smart windows.  Thin VO2 coating on smart windows can make them more reflective of infrared radiation as the temperature rises.  This automatic shielding would make buildings more energy efficient.

The main challenge in developing these new technologies, is understanding the nature of the phase transition and tailoring it for a specific purpose.  Ms. Radue uses a laser that produces extremely short pulses to investigate the dynamics of the metal-insulator transition. Her research revealed that both transition temperature and the ultrafast behavior of VO2 films strongly depend on the films' crystal structure, inhomogeneities, and the material they are grown upon. These also affect how much laser power is needed to induce the transition, and how quickly the films recover back to the insulating state, useful properties to know when building a switch.

The Tropf Fellowship was generously endowed by William J. Tropf III to honor his late wife Cheryl's accomplishments and love of William and Mary.  Both Bill and Cheryl received their B.S. degrees in Physics from William & Mary in 1968, both subsequently earned doctorates from the University of Virginia, Bill in Physics and Cheryl in Applied Mathematics.  While at William and Mary, Cheryl played varsity field hockey and was a member of Kappa Delta sorority. She received two NSF Undergraduate Research Grants, was president of physics honor society Sigma Pi Sigma, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  After earning her PhD, she worked at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and taught graduate mathematics at Johns Hopkins. Cheryl spent a year as Congressional Science Fellow, and she was a power plant manager for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  After the birth of her son, Cheryl attended Georgetown University, earning a master’s degree in accounting and the first-in-class award. She went on to teach accounting and finance at the University of Baltimore, while establishing her certified public accountant practice.  She was twice named business woman of the year, and was active in her local government and community.  Bill is a member of the College’s Graduate Advisory Board, and has been a generous supporter of the department.