Skylar Dannhoff

Graduate Student



Skylar Danhoff is a first year graduate student pursing PhD studies in high-energy-density plasma physics who thrives with experimental, hands-on, trouble-shooting and instrumentation. 

I grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where my parents, grandparents, and family dog Olive still live. I’ve also got two older brothers. I generally liked science growing up, but high school physics at Central high was a pretty significant turning point. That was the most challenging class I had ever taken. It kind of blew me away that there was this whole other language that existed to describe how everything works, usually in ways exactly opposite to how I thought. 

I went to undergrad at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio and kept studying physics, and that’s also where I found myself drawn to electrical engineering. A big turning point there was discovering amateur radio and getting to know the students and faculty involved with the Case Amateur Radio Club. I was also a resident assistant for three years for second and first year students, which really helped keep life in positive perspective. I explored a lot of different physics research through different groups during the summers and school years, from condensed matter, to optics, to space weather and radio physics. I was lucky to have a lot of fantastic mentors and experiences in the Case physics department, electrical engineering department, and residence life, as well as at Lehigh University and Colorado State University. 

When I applied to grad schools, I specifically wanted to work with groups that worked on big, collaborative projects, and ideally on projects with some eventual likelihood of wearing a hard hat. Mostly I just didn’t want to work on entire projects alone on a single bench top. That’s how I stumbled on the high energy density physics group in the PSFC at MIT, and the diagnostic work they do in collaboration with National labs. I didn’t have any strong experience with HEDP or plasma, but I’m happy to say it’s a field that’s easy to get excited about and stay excited about. Everyday I’m exposed to something I never knew existed, or never realized I’d ever be involved in, and I’m lucky that the group of students and researchers I work with work hard at being collaborative and supportive. 

Outside of the lab, I try to play ice hockey as regularly as I can, and I like to hang out with the folks in the MIT radio society. I like getting out to explore eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area when I can, and I hope that during the next several years I’ll learn how to sail, ocean fish, do a successful kickflip on a skateboard, hike around, and learn how to use (and then switch over) to Linux. Once my classes/exams calm down, I’d also like to get a lot more involved with outreach and mentorship. 


Massachusetts Institute of Technology | Cambridge, MA Aug. 2021 – Present 

  • Course of study: physics graduate studies, plasma division 

  • Research group: High-Energy-Density-Physics (HEDP), Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) 

Case Western Reserve University | Cleveland, OH Aug. 2017 – May 2021 

  • Bachelors of Science in Engineering, Engineering Physics May 2021 
  • Minor in Electrical Engineering May 2021 

Awards and Honors

  • 2nd place graduate poster presentation, OLUG 2022 Workshop April 2022 

  • Case Western Reserve University Dean’s High Honor List Fall 2017 – May 2021 

  • Elmer C. Stewart Memorial Award to an outstanding senior in Engineering Physics Spring 2021 

  • 1st place presentation, University of Arizona College of Optical Science Winter School & Workshop Spring 2021 

  • National Residence Hall Association Regional October Resident Assistant of the Month Fall 2020 

  • Richard F. Sigal Physics Award for Excellence in Studies and Intent to Pursue a Physics Career Spring 2020 

  • David E. Scheule Award for an Outstanding Junior in Engineering Physics Spring 2020 

  • Case Alumni Scholarship Recipient Spring 2019 

  • David Knaus Memorial Scholarship Recipient Spring 2019 

  • University Scholarship Recipient Spring 2017 

  • Central High School Student of the Year Spring 2017 

  • Central High School Physics Student of the Year Spring 2016 


MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, High-Energy-Density-Physics group | Cambridge, MA. Aug. 2021 – Present 

Graduate Student Research Assistant (Advisors: Dr. Chikang Li, Dr. Johan Frenje, Dr. Maria Gatu Johnson) 

  • Thesis work: Investigating plasma flow and interface dynamics in Au-foam lined hohlraums by measuring self-emitted electric and magnetic fields using proton radiography (on-going)

  •  Lab projects:

    • Image plate characterization and scanner calibration for quantitative image plate measurements (on-going) 

    • Systematic studies of x-ray impact on wedge-range-filter response using image plates, x-ray sources, and the HEDP linear electrostatic ion accelerator (on-going) 

Engineering Research Center For Extreme Ultraviolet Science And Technology | Fort Collins, CO. Jun. 2020 – Aug. 2020 

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Intern (Advisor: Dr. Carmen Menoni) 

  • Aligned thin film coatings in carrier frequency interferometry set-up and imaged interference patterns 

  • Wrote MATLAB simulations and Fourier analysis code to visualize wavefront distortions and calculate thin film stress 

  • Presented thin film stress data in a 10-minute talk during an oral symposium 

Lehigh University Dept. of Physics | Bethlehem, PA. May 2019 – Jul. 2019 

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Intern (Advisor: Dr. Ivan Biaggio) 

  • Designed, constructed, and implemented a crystal mounting apparatus to apply 0.3-0.8 Tesla to crystal samples 

  • Wrote a python script to characterize quantum beats in the delayed photoluminescence of rubrene 

  • Presented photoluminescence and quantum beats data in an oral symposium 12-minute talk and created a poster 

Other Work Experience

Case Western Reserve University Office of Residence Life | Cleveland, OH. Apr. 2018 – May 2021 
Resident Assistant 

  • Assessed and responded to the needs/interests of ~100 residents over three years to support student success 

  • Advocated for social justice and diverse perspectives through active and passive programming 

  • Upheld university policy and ensure safety and security of residents 

Case Western Reserve University Dept. of Electrical Engineering | Cleveland, OH. Jan. 2021 – May 2021 

Senior Engineering Capstone Project (Advisor: Dr. David Kazdan) 

  • Assembled a 15’ tall dual dipole array and set up a Radio JOVE receiving station at the CWRU farm in a 3-person team 

  • Collected Jovian radio signals using an RTL-SDR receiver coded in GNURadio on a Linux-running Raspberry Pi 

  • Wrote a technical report detailing the basis for replacing the traditional Radio JOVE receiver with the RTL-SDR as a potential 3.4 to 9-fold cost improvement 

Case Western Reserve University Dept. of Physics | Cleveland, OH. Aug. 2018 – Dec. 2019 

Grader, Introductory Physics II, Modern Physics 

  • Evaluated student homework sets with strict attention, consistency, and constructive feedback 

  • Met deadlines and effectively communicated with primary instructor 

Torrance Casting, Inc. | La Crosse, WI. May 2018 – Jul. 2018 

Summer Manufacturing Agent 

  • Operated hydraulic wedges for gating removal and grinded small casting flashing and tear-up 

  • Conducted CNC mills and standard shop equipment to assist in pattern rigging 

  • Gained exposure to foundry engineering software, including SolidWorks, Mastercam, and NovaFlow