Display Accessibility Tools

Accessibility Tools


Highlight Links

Change Contrast

Increase Text Size

Increase Letter Spacing

Readability Bar

Dyslexia Friendly Font

Increase Cursor Size

Jonas Becker, Tyler Cocker honored as Jerry Cowen Endowed Chairs of Experimental Physics

Michigan State University Assistant Professors Jonas Becker and Tyler Cocker were each honored as a Jerry Cowen Chair of Experimental Physics in the College of Natural Science's (NatSci) Department of Physics and Astronomy at an investiture ceremony held March 24 in the Christman and Jackson Lounges of MSU’s Wharton Center.

Eleanor and Randy Cowen standing with Cowen Chairs Becker and Cocker.n chairs
Pictured L to R: Eleanor Cowen, Jonas Becker, Tyler Cocker and Randy Cowen, pose for a photo following Becker and Cocker's investiture ceremony at MSU's Wharton Center. Credit: Harley J. Seeley

The endowed chair was established by Jerry Cowen’s son, Randy, who, along with his sister, Eleanor Cowen, represented the Cowen family at the investiture.

“This chair honors my father, who had a passion for research and teaching, especially in working with his graduate students,” Cowen said. “We felt that the right way to honor him was creating a chair so that the university—especially the physics department, which is where my father spent his whole life—had the opportunity to go out and recruit extremely talented young professors to come, be endowed chairs and grow their careers at Michigan State and in this department. I thank the university and the physics department for providing an environment where this can happen in a way that is great for MSU, great for the faculty and students, and great for our family.”

Jonas Becker presenting at his investiture ceremony.
Jonas Becker giving his presentation on solid state quantum optics during the investiture ceremony. Credit: Haarley J. Seeley

Becker’s research is in the field of solid-state quantum optics. Broadly speaking, he and his group use optical and microwave-based methods to study and control the interactions of light and matter. A key goal of Becker’s research is to create optical devices for applications in quantum information processing. Prior to coming to MSU in December 2021, Becker was a research associate in quantum information at Imperial College, London, and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford. He received his Ph.D. in physics at Saarland University, Germany, in 2017.

“Receiving a Jerry Cowen Endowed Chair is a great personal honor,” Becker said. “It was great to talk to Randy Cowen about our research and his enthusiasm is absolutely refreshing! With his generous support we will be able to position MSU at the very forefront of cutting-edge research in optical quantum technologies.” 

Cocker’s research uses lightwave-driven terahertz scanning tunneling microscopy, or THz-STM, to capture ultrafast snapshots of single atoms to probe new physics regimes and help lay the groundwork for novel technologies in quantum physics, molecular electronics and nanotechnology. Since coming to MSU in 2018, Cocker has received several major honors, including the Young Scientist Award from the IRMMW-THz Society and an Army Research Office Young Investigator Program award. Before joining MSU, Cocker spent five years at the University of Regensburg in Germany as a postdoctoral researcher, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, and a junior group leader. He received his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.

Tyler Cocker giving his presentation on ultrafast physics dring the Cowen Chair investiture.
Tyler Cocker giving his presentation on ultrafast physics during the investiture ceremony. Credit: Harley J. Seeley

“It is a tremendous honor for me to be named a Jerry Cowen Endowed Chair of Experimental Physics,” Cocker said. “The generous support of Randy Cowen is helping to nucleate new projects in my lab in the spirit of curiosity-driven physics research. Of all the components that go into a state-of-the-art research lab, the vibrancy and creativity of motivated graduate students and postdocs is the most important, and Randy’s gift enables them to thrive.”

“The Jerry Cowen Endowed Chair in Experimental Physics helps guarantee that MSU will maintain its worldwide reputation as a leader in experimental condensed matter physics,” said Phil Duxbury, NatSci dean. “Mentoring from top-level scientists such as Jonas and Tyler will also ensure that our students and trainees have research opportunities that are among the best in the world. We’re looking forward to great things from Drs. Becker and Cocker!

Stephen Zepf, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was thrilled to be able to acknowledge and celebrate Becker and Cocker at an in-person investiture ceremony.

Jonas Becker and Tyler COcker conversing following the investiture ceremony.
Jonas Becker (left) and Tyler Cocker share a moment following their investiture ceremony. Credit: Harley J. Seeley

“Drs. Becker and Cocker are outstanding scientists building state-of-the-art labs in fast-moving fields of ultrafast physics and quantum devices,” Zepf said. “These endowed chairs are absolutely critical for recruiting top-notch scientists to MSU and for providing them with the resources needed to succeed. We are extraordinarily grateful to Randy Cowen and the Cowen family and look forward to the groundbreaking work to come from the Becker and Cocker labs.”

Jerry Cowen received his Ph.D. in physics from Michigan State University in 1954. In 1955, he and his wife, Elaine, moved to Okemos, Mich., where he returned to teach in the physics department—a position that he held until just weeks before his death in 1999. Professor Cowen excelled in both materials science research and teaching. His research spanned five decades and included many international collaborations. 


Banner image: Jonas Becker (center left) and Tyler Cocker (center right) are joined by (L to R) MSU President Samuel L. Stanley, NatSci Dean Phillip Duxbury, Department of Physics and Astronomy Chair Stephen Zepf, and MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff following Becker and Cocker's investiture ceremony to honor them as Jerry Cowen Endowed Chairs of Experimental Physics. The ceremony was held March 24 at MSU's Wharton Center.