Meet the 2023 SPS Outstanding Chapter Advisor: Chad Kishimoto

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Singularities - Profiles in Physics

Meet the 2023 SPS Outstanding Chapter Advisor: Chad Kishimoto


Kendra Redmond, Editor


Chad Kishimoto (center) and his research group hang out with then SPS director Brad Conrad (left) at the 2023 APS April Meeting. Photos courtesy of Kishimoto.

The SPS Outstanding Chapter Advisor Award is the most prestigious award given by SPS, bestowed annually on the basis of the leadership, student leadership development, support, and encouragement the advisor has provided to the chapter. For his leadership and guidance of the SPS chapter at the University of San Diego, Chad Kishimoto is the 2022–23 SPS Outstanding Chapter Advisor.

It’s hard to convince Chad Kishimoto that he’s an outstanding SPS advisor. He credits his students and the University of San Diego’s immediate past SPS chapter president and executive board for the active, vibrant group—and for this award. They make me “look better as an advisor,” he says. But it was these students who nominated Kishimoto for the SPS Outstanding Advisor Award.

Kishimoto came to physics through astronomy. “As long as I can remember, I’ve been a math and science kind of a person,” he says. A college astronomy class introduced him to astrophysics, and the more physics he saw, the more fun he had. Kishimoto kept on taking classes in the field, eventually completing all of the work for both an astronomy and physics major and heading to graduate school.

At the University of California, San Diego, Kishimoto earned a PhD in physics doing theoretical neutrino astrophysics research. After a postdoc, he became an adjunct professor at several Southern California institutions—a so-called “freeway flyer.” The nickname reflects how adjuncts in the area “literally fly along the freeway from class to class,” he explains.


Chad Kishimoto (center) and his 2022–23 SPS executive board attend a Zone 18 meeting in February 2023.

When Kishimoto landed at the University of San Diego in 2014, an SPS chapter existed—but only on paper. He took the wheel. “I’m not sure how I first heard of SPS or that it was a thing, but it seemed like a valuable umbrella for building life in a department,” he says. And it was.

As the SPS chapter took hold, the department became more closely knit, Kishimoto says. Today, the department and SPS are so integrated that the line between them isn’t always clear. “In a way, my role is to blur that line,” Kishimoto says. That means creating an environment where the department supports what the students want to do and vice versa, he says. “Our doors are open, and students feel free and welcome to come in and talk about classes, about research, about life, the universe, anything.”

Kishimoto also sees his role as connecting students to opportunities—which often means finding money. “I don’t ever want [funding] to be the issue—why we can't do things that are engaging for all our members,” he says. In 2022, 15 of his students traveled 3,000 miles from San Diego to Washington, DC, for the Physics Congress. The chapter covered all expenses—primarily through Kishimoto’s fundraising efforts.

“I’ve had a lot of excellent SPS student leaders who were able to corral their colleagues, their peers, to do things,” Kishimoto says. “When we have a really successful year, my role is just to connect [students] to those resources.”

 When students are less engaged, Kishimoto may plan some SPS events, invite students, and “yell into the void,” but he doesn’t sweat it. “The students who have interest in doing these things, they ebb and flow. I’ve never stressed about it when the ebbing part happens.”

Kishimoto’s approach to advising is helping students find their passion in physics and supporting them in what they want to do. It’s one of the things he finds most rewarding. That means that each SPS cohort sets its own agenda based on what the current students are passionate about. But they don’t have to reinvent the wheel—the chapter’s strong legacy of activity, relationships, and community carries on.

“Dr. Chad Kishimoto, or simply Chad to most of us, is the best chapter advisor and mentor I could have hoped for,” one student wrote in Kishimoto’s nomination package for this award. “Through Dr. Kishimoto, the rest of the faculty in the department have become very supportive and accustomed to our SPS chapter, which has resulted in more collaborative events, more funding, and more exposure. SPS has truly become our little family, and this is largely thanks to him.”



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