2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Mike Litos graduated from Okemos High School in 1998. He played trumpet in band throughout middle and high school, which served as a cornerstone for his personal development. He also played football despite his small size, being given an award by his peers for having “the stature of Pee-Wee Herman and the tackling ability of Ronnie Lott”. Mike enjoyed the company of a wide variety of social cliques, though always tried to maintain a strong sense of individuality, as reflected in his “punk rock rodeo clown” attire. He earned his B.S. in physics at Michigan Statue University in 2003, with an additional major in Japanese. Mike next went to graduate school to further his education in physics at Boston University. Both aspects of his undergraduate degree were put to use in grad school, when he joined the Nobel Prize winning Super Kamiokande collaboration, a neutrino physics experiment based in Japan. He earned his Ph.D. in physics in 2010, and immediately moved to California to begin his postdoctoral work at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, where he conducted research in plasma wakefield acceleration—a technique to make smaller, more efficient and affordable particle accelerators for use in applications ranging from medical radiation therapy to high energy physics particle colliders. In 2011, Mike married his wife, Leah Angstman from Mason, MI, whom he has known since their teenage years when their punk and ska bands used to play basement shows together. The first major research paper he wrote as a postdoc was featured on the cover of Nature Magazine in 2014, following which Mike was hired as an associate staff scientist by SLAC. In 2016 Mike took a tenure-track position at the University of Colorado Boulder as an assistant professor in the physics department, where he currently teaches physics at all levels and continues his research in the field of plasma wakefield acceleration.