By Tiffany Whitfield

Professor Charles Sukenik served as chair of the Department of Physics at Old Dominion University from May 2011 through May 2017 and again May 2020 to May 2023. Over his nine years as chair he took on multiple projects while continuing to teach and do research. May 24, 2023, was his last day as chair of the Department of Physics. 

Dean Gail Dodge said, “Charles Sukenik has done an outstanding job as Chair of the Physics Department. He is a natural leader and approaches the position in the spirit of service.  He has expanded the curriculum to include an astrophysics major and he has supported faculty to establish a new research area in quantum science, to name just two of many accomplishments.”

Sukenik has taken much pride in his role and embraced the heavy demands of his position as chair. “My principal goal was to enable the faculty to be able to concentrate on enhancing the core mission of the department in research, teaching and service,” said Sukenik.

He is very content with his track record of recruiting “truly excellent faculty” to ODU. In looking back over what he will miss the most, he said, “I’ll miss assisting colleagues.”

In his role of chair, Sukenik has always had to multi-task. In addition to his many administrative and strategic responsibilities as chair, he still carved out time to innovate in the classroom and to engage in cutting-edge research, supervising both undergraduates and graduate students in the lab.

“I did not have to teach every semester, but I chose to teach in order to try to lead by example,” said Sukenik. “During my time as chair, I taught a variety of courses including introductory physics, electronics lab, advanced physics lab, and senior thesis.”

Sukenik’s research program is well-funded and involves collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Ocean & Earth Sciences and at NASA Langley Research Center.

“My research is in several very different areas, including ultracold atomic and molecular physics, supersonic flow diagnostics and remote sensing of the ocean,” said Sukenik. “I never stopped doing the research or supervising students while serving as chair and I maintained my external funding, but now that I am not chair, I will have much more time to spend in the lab.”

He juggled various roles as well during his last few months as chair.

“For the last 1.5 years, I also simultaneously served as the Physics Department Operations Manager,” said Sukenik. “Now that I am not chair, I will, of course, take on new service responsibilities in the department as assigned by the new chair, Sebastian Kuhn.”

ODU has now been designated as an R1 institution (Carnegie classification: very high research activity), and the Physics Department has played an important part in making that possible.  Sukenik cites the innovation of the faculty and students as key to that success.

“ODU is special because of the many great faculty, staff and students across the university,” said Sukenik. 

Students and faculty in the Department of Physics appreciate that they had a strong advocate in Charles Sukenik and are grateful to him for spending a total of nine years as chair to help them reach their potential.