Category Archives: News

Cloud in a Box

Cloud Chamber20140324_0003When it comes to climate change, clouds are the wild card. Atmospheric physicists at Michigan Tech use a turbulence-generating cloud chamber to better understand the details and droplets.

There are few absolutes in life, but Will Cantrell says this is one: “Every cloud droplet in Earth’s atmosphere formed on a preexisting aerosol particle.”

And the way those droplets form — with scarce or plentiful aerosol particles — could have serious implications for weather and climate change.

It’s been known for decades that cleaner clouds tend to have bigger cloud droplets. But through research conducted in Michigan Tech’s cloud chamber, which was published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cantrell, graduate student Kamal Kant Chandrakar, Raymond Shaw and colleagues found that cleaner clouds also have a much wider variability in droplet size. So wide, in fact, that some are large enough to be considered drizzle drops.

Dirtier clouds, Shaw explains, not only have smaller droplets, but also much more uniformity in droplet size, with no observable drizzle drops.

“If clouds have more aerosols in them, the drops would be smaller and more similar in size,” Shaw says. “It would be harder for the cloud to rain, and the cloud would then last longer. If a cloud rains, or has less water in it, it won’t be there to reflect sunlight.”

By Stefanie Sidortsova, read the full story.


SURF Applications Open

Cloud Chamber 201510230011Applications for 2017 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships are now open. Fellowship recipients will spend the summer on an individual research project under the guidance of a Michigan Tech faculty mentor. SURFs are open to all Tech undergraduates who have at least one semester remaining after the summer term. Awards are up to $4,000. Applications are due by 4 p.m. Jan. 27.

A workshop on writing effective SURF proposals is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 in Fisher 132.

For more information, access to the application materials and instructions, visit the webpage or contact the SURF coordinator, Will Cantrell.

Jaszcak discovery is spreading across the world

image144299-persDozens of news outlets and science blogs have covered research by John Jaszcak (Physics) and his team that led to the discovery of the new mineral merelaniite.

Several of the outlets include United Press International, Australian Mining,, the German blog Scinexx, several geology blogs like Geology In and Science Explorer. Local coverage in Tanzania has also been extensive including stories by the BBC and The Guardian in Swahili.

Cosmic-Ray Showers Reveal Muon Mystery

The Pierre Auger Observatory has detected more muons from cosmic-ray showers than predicted by the most up-to-date particle-physics models. This finding suggests that the best models of hadronic interactions are missing something. Read more about Pierre Auger Observatory and proposed missing links here on the APS Physics website.

This Month in Astronomical History

Teresa Wilson’s monthly series “This Month in Astronomical History” has released its November publication “Launch of Sputnik 2”. Each month, as part of this new series from the Historical Astronomy Division of the AAS, an important discovery or memorable event in the history of astronomy will be highlighted. This month, we look as the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 2. You can read the compete article here or on

Jaszczak On the Road

image144299-persJohn Jaszczak (Physics/A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum) recently gave two lectures while on sabbatical travel.

At Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) on Oct. 7, he spoke about “Mineralogical Miracles at Merelani, Tanzania.”

For the Cincinnati Mineral Society on Oct. 14 he spoke on “A Virtual Tour of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum.”

Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship Awards For Fall 2016

Bishnu_Tiwari          Gaoxue_Wang          Fan_Yang





In order from left to right: Bishnu Tiwari (Advisors: Dr. Yap and Dr. Zhang), Gaoxue Wang (Advisor: Dr. Pandey), and Fan Yang (Advisor: Dr. Shaw).

Congratulations to Bishnu Tiwari, Gaoxue Wang, and Fan Yang for receiving the Fall 2016 Outstanding Teaching and Outstanding Scholarship Award. They have demonstrated their exceptional ability as a teacher and commitment to their research.

A Metacognitive Moment

We’re beyond the halfway point in most classes, and it may be a good time to take just a (metacognitive) moment to review progress and map the road ahead.

In my physics class, I ask students each day as part of their class preparation to attempt an explanation of a real or simulated physics result. The question is based on material to which they’ve just had their first exposure, by reading or video lecture. It’s challenging, and initially not well liked. But it’s definitely something at which students improve with practice. They become not only more willing to “guess,” but they begin to support their answers with evidence, independent research and/or mathematical analysis far more often.

When I recently told my students that I had begun seeing that progress, a number of them spontaneously reflected and then shared agreement that this was getting more comfortable. It’s easy to lose track, in mid-semester, of how far you’ve come already. And it can be highly motivating to students when they see progress. In a similar way, looking backward momentarily can sometimes help put what remains in perspective.

As a physics student, when I first learned about rotational motion, I missed the idea that every rotational quantity had a linear analog. I struggled mightily as I tried to learn rotational kinematics in about a week, and the pace seemed completely unreasonable to me given that we’d spent about seven weeks learning the same concepts for linear motion.

This week, as I teach the same material, I explicitly connect each new rotational quantity back to the linear one. This seems to help students not only absorb the new material but reinforces the old and makes the pace more reasonable. A look backward could be an open-ended reflection on progress, or an explicit challenge to make comparisons to, connections with, or predictions about what’s coming. It could be done as a formal assignment, an in-class exercise, as a “minute paper” reflection near the end of a class or through a Canvas survey or quiz.

If you’re looking for other instructional strategies (and don’t want to wait for next week), stop into or contact the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning.

by Mike Meyer, CTL Director