Category: Advising

Physics Student Kelci Mohrman presents at Undergrad Research Symposium

imedImageKelci Mohrman research, The Geminga Pulsar Wind Nebula and the Positron Excess, was presented at Michigan Tech’s 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium this past week. Mohrman looked to identify and model the gamma-ray emission of the Geminga PWN in GeV energies using data from the Fermi Space Telescope in order to determine the potential contribution to the local electron and positron flux.

Geminga (PSR J0633+1746) is a rotating neutron star, called a pulsar, located in the direction of the constellation Gemini. Surrounding the pulsar itself is a pulsar wind nebula (PWN), which accelerates particles to high energies and emits constant gamma radiation. It has been suggested that the particles accelerated by the Geminga PWN could explain the observed excess in the locally measured positron flux, though it was also proposed that this anomalous overabundance of positrons could be a consequence of the annihilation or decay of dark matter.

The Undergraduate Research Symposium highlights the amazing cutting-edge research being conducted on Michigan Tech’s campus by some of our best and brightest undergraduate students.

The students showcasing their work today have spent a significant portion of the past year working alongside Michigan Tech faculty and graduate students to explore, discover and create new knowledge. They’ve spent long hours in the lab or out in the field designing experiments, gathering data, creating new models and testing hypotheses. They’ve applied their classroom knowledge in new and sometimes unexpected ways, and developed new skills that will propel them forward in their careers.

Advisor: Dr. Petra Huentemeyer
Funding: SURF


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.

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

Naturally Graphite Supplies Samples for Study

Graphite on Tape
K-12 students prepare graphene using graphite and scotch tape.

Naturally GraphiteTM is a local business that started as a project of Nanotech Innovations Enterprise, a former Enterprise program at Michigan Tech operated by undergraduate students. The business, advised by Professor of Physics Dr. John Jaszczak, supplies high quality natural graphite crystals and substrates for research, industry, and education. Jaszczak also serves as adjunct curator at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum.

Naturally Graphite was recently credited with supplying graphite crystals to a research group at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec in Canada. The research, published in Physical Review Letters, involved the use of high-speed electron diffraction techniques to study electron-phonon coupling in graphite.

High quality graphite crystals from Naturally Graphite are also routinely sought by laboratories around the world for the production and study of graphene. As a single layer of carbon atoms in graphite, graphene often generates much interest in carbon-based nanotechnologies. Graphene exhibits unique and amazing mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties. It is strong, highly conductive, transparent, elastic, and impermeable.

Naturally Graphite also donated graphite crystals to K-12 for an outreach event, Family Math Night based in Rocklin, California. The event involved simple experiments with graphite, including an activity for cleaving the graphite into layers using scotch tape. This was the original experiment by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov from the University of Manchester that led to the discovery of graphene and a Nobel Prize in 2010.

Learn more about the graphene sheet lesson plan in the 22-minute video Family Math Night Collaborative Project: Graphene Sheet by Elementary Mathematics Specialist Karyn Hodgens,.  The description of the experiments begins at about 16:20.

Will Cantrell on Best Professors

Associate Professor Will Cantrell (Physics) is quoted in an article about how to find the best professors, published on the web site See Online Schools.

From Tech Today.

The Faculty Factor: How to Pick the Best Professors

Learning that takes place outside of the classroom is also equally important, and frequent interaction with professors can lead to greater gains in personal development and general education knowledge, the study found. It’s all about having a professor who is accessible.

“If you can go to a professor’s office and ask him or her for help, you will be able to learn a lot more,” says Will Cantrell, an associate professor of physics at Michigan Technological University. “A lot of university-level material is difficult. You probably will get stuck on something. There’s no substitute for having someone who has already mastered the material help you get unstuck.”

When you’re looking for a new dentist or hair dresser, it’s almost a no-brainer that you get the word-of-mouth before you’re sitting in the chair and it’s too late. The same can go for professors. When shopping for classes, ask current students in your area of study for recommendations on teachers they’ve liked.

“Talk to other students. There is no substitute for this,” says Cantrell. “Ask other students what classes they liked, and more importantly, why they liked those classes and professors. Take classes from professors that helped students learn, not just the ones who were easy.”

Read more on Education Debate at Online Schools.

Summer Internships in Germany for Jacobson and Adler

Droplet Velocity FieldTwo Physics majors, Darcy Jacobson and Michael Adler, will be accepting summer internships with the German Academic Exchange Service this summer. The program is called RISE, or Research Internships in Science and Engineering. The internship is offered through DAAD, or Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, the German Academic Exchange Service.

Darcy Jacobson will be working at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany. Darcy will be collaborating with PhD student Martin Rohloff on a project entitled “Size Distribution of Rain Droplets,” measuring droplet size distributions and velocity fields for various temperature ramps, compositions and stirring rates. The research group, coordinated by Jürgen Vollmer, is working on a wide range of topics in non-equilibrium statistical physics.

Michael Adler will be collaborating with Konrad Makowka on “Numerical Simulation of Supersonic Combustion including Turbulence Chemistry Interaction with Large Eddy Simulation.” The application is for scramjets, which are hypersonic airbreathing engines that may offer more efficient travel to space than classical rocket engines. This work will take place at the TU München, or Technical University of Munich, preceded by a two week language immersion program in Berlin.

In mid July members of the RISE program will meet in Heidelberg for a conference.