Sunny forecast for Physics Pi Cloud Chamber

Michigan Tech Pi Cloud Chamber
Michigan Tech Pi Cloud Chamber

$4 million in NSF funding makes the Physics Pi Cloud Chamber and extensive supporting instrumentation available to the atmospheric sciences community for investigations of atmospheric processes including aerosols and clouds. The award will also support a 10-week experiential learning program for visiting students through a Pi Chamber laboratory fellowship program and broaden student participation in the physical sciences. Funding will also go towards the design of a larger cloud chamber.

What is the Pi Chamber?

The Pi Chamber at Michigan Technological University simulates cloud conditions within the range of pressures and temperatures occurring in the lower part of the atmosphere (the troposphere). It has a proven record of enabling productive and insightful research in aerosol-cloud interactions, ice nucleation, mixed-phase cloud properties, cloud optical properties, and moist Rayleigh-Bénard convection in the atmospheric sciences.

Design of a larger cloud chamber in the works. 

Current cloud chambers do not allow for collisions between cloud drops as would occur in natural clouds. That’s why the NSF is funding an Aerosol-Cloud-Drizzle Convection Chamber too. NSF support of this project facilitates a cohort of researchers to conduct preliminary design work on a large cloud chamber capable of producing droplets up to the size of drizzle, which is a key transition point for fully understanding the development of precipitation. The proposed chamber would dramatically expand the US and international research community’s ability to conduct laboratory studies of clouds.

Read more about the Pi Chamber.

Yoke Khin Yap Selected for Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Yoke Khin Yap
University Professor Yoke Khin Yap

College of Sciences and Arts Dean David Hemmer has selected Yoke Khin Yap, a Michigan Tech distinguished professor of physics, as the fifth Deans’ Teaching Showcase member.

Yap will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Yap is enthusiastic about teaching and research and treats the two as inseparable. His performance is exceptional in both: He is a recipient of Michigan Tech’s Research Award and has made research contributions of widely recognized significance in the field of nanotechnology.

Simultaneously, he has been an excellent instructor in the classroom and led the Department of Physics in making research opportunities available for a wide cross-section of students. For example, he has reached out to high school students via annual workshops in nanotechnology, which started with an introductory seminar (with animated videos), followed by hands-on sessions in which students constructed carbon nanostructures using the ball-and-stick models.

Yap has been a major driving force in improving the undergraduate and graduate physics curriculum. He initiated a redesign of the undergraduate optics laboratory encouraging cooperative learning between students. Later, he led efforts in designing and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in nanotechnology, which combine lectures, invited seminars and laboratory demonstrations/tours.

Physics chair Ravi Pandey provided special commendation for Yap’s supplemental instructions to his students. “Dr. Yap took the time to plan and carry out his classes in a way that led students to an understanding of state-of-the-art laboratory techniques to characterize materials at the nanoscale,” says Pandey. “Recently, he has integrated the course into the online mode, using his recorded video lectures.”

Currently, Yap teaches Introductory Physics (PH2200) with 380-plus students. He uses a combination of traditional and contemporary pedagogies to provide a learning opportunity to first-year students. His tools include clickers, online homework and tutorials, extensive online student resources and, most popularly, pedagogically effective demonstrations.

Faculty must be extremely organized, personable, highly motivated and energetic to carry students through introductory physics courses. “Clearly,” Pandey emphasizes, “Dr. Yap brings these attributes through his initiative and commitment, making him a scholar-teacher faculty at Michigan Tech who believes in the unity of teaching and research, mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students, and critical thought.”

Dean Hemmer concurs. “Our large introductory science courses are critical for retention and student success,“ he says. “It is wonderful to see one of Michigan Tech’s top scholars play such a critical role in ensuring the quality of our introductory physics course, and it is great for students to be exposed early in their studies to one of our very best researchers!”

Lab Associate Doug Wilken Passes Away

Doug Wilken
Dr. Doug Wilken

Doug Wilken, instructor and laboratory associate in the Department of Physics, passed away Jan. 28 in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Wilken taught laboratory courses in optics, electronics and modern physics. He also provided all of the demonstration support for a variety of physics classes, managing a group of undergraduate students for assistance (his Demo Crew).

Wilken received an M.S. in physics in 1988 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1993, working in Professor Bryan Suits’ laboratory at Michigan Tech. His thesis was on a nuclear magnetic resonance study of surface oxides on aluminum metal particles. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Florida, he joined the corporate world for 20 years, working in Minneapolis. He returned to Michigan Tech in 2016.

Wilken was a gifted musician, playing piano and sharing his beautiful singing voice on many occasions, including at church and family gatherings. He loved to read and carry on discussions across a myriad of topics. His personal library of books spanned countless technical volumes, history, political science, biography and science fiction and fantasy novels — to name just a few of his favorite subjects.

One of Wilken’s true passions was sharing his knowledge of experimental physics with students. In this endeavor, he practiced continual self-examination and improvement, finding better ways of getting across main ideas and techniques that students would be able to utilize no matter where they found themselves later on in scientific and engineering disciplines.

His greatest passion, however, was spending time with all of his family — and in recent years, he especially enjoyed being “Grandpa” for his granddaughter for as much time as he could.

Doug will be deeply missed in the department. A memorial service is planned in Foley, Minnesota. Service dates and times are pending.

Read Wilken’s obituary.

Outstanding Graduate Students

We’re proud of the excellent work our graduate students do, both in the lab and in the classroom. Congratulations to our students recognized by the graduate school for their outstanding work at Michigan Tech.

Oindabi Mukherjee earned the Outstanding Teaching Award for her phenomenal performance during Fall 2021. Oindabi is a PhD candidate studying gravitational lensing with advisor Dr. Robert Nemiroff.

Andrew Puyleart earned the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship for his work with advisor Dr. Brian Fick. Andrew is studying cosmic ray physics, working with the Pierre Auger Observatory to classify anomalous interactions between cosmic rays and the atmosphere.

Congratulations, Oindabi and Andrew!

New Funding

Professor Emeritus David Nitz (Physics/EPSSI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $249,804 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

This three-year project is titled “WoU-MMA: Enhancing the Neutrino Sensitivity of the Pierre Auger Observatory.”

The Pierre Auger Observatory is used by researchers from across the world to study high energy cosmic rays – high energy particles that can travel through space at speeds approaching the speed of light. This project will support the AugerPrime upgrade to the observatory, increasing the detection efficiency of the observatory’s surface detectors.

Professor Emeritus Michael Wertheim Passes Away

Professor Emeritus Michael Wertheim passed away on Friday, September 24 in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Wertheim was a well-respected scholar and teacher in statistical physics. He was a deep thinker, making fundamental advances in the theory of simple and polar fluids. His foundational paper, published in Physical Review Letters (1963), is still well-cited by the scientific community.

Dr. Wertheim received his Ph.D. from Yale University in nuclear physics in 1957 and began his professional career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He joined Michigan Tech in 1990 as a professor of physics and retired in 2003. Prior to joining Michigan Tech, he also worked at Universität Frankfurt, Germany; University of New Castle, U.K.; University of Alberta, Canada; and Rutgers University, U.S.

Dr. Wertheim was on the editorial board of the Journal of Statistical Physics and was a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Besides physics, he will be remembered for regularly swimming in Lake Superior at McLain State Park during the summer months.

https://www.mininggazette.com/obituaries/2021/10/michael-s-wertheim/

Physics Colloquium – Henrike Fleischhack

Dr. Henrike Fleischhack, postdoctoral fellow at Catholic University of America and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, will be presenting at this week’s physics colloquium.

Fleischhack’s presentation is titled “AMEGO-X: 
MeV ɣ-ray Astronomy 
in the Multi-messenger Era.”

Please register in advance and join the colloquium tomorrow (Sept. 2) at 4 p.m. via Zoom. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email from Dr. Giusarma containing information about joining the event.

Read more about Fleischhack’s research background and the presentation on the Events Calendar.

New Funding

Raymond Shaw (Physics/EPSSI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $2,903,682 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

Shaw, co-investigators Will Cantrell, Kartik Iyer, Claudio Mazzoleni, and researchers from institutions across the country will collaborate on the project titled “A Community Laboratory Facility for Exploring and Sensing of Aerosol-Cloud-Drizzle Processes: The Aerosol-Cloud-Drizzle Convection Chamber.”

The proposed ACDC2 cloud chamber will be a world class facility, capable of producing droplets up to the size of drizzle while allowing air motion analogous to that in real clouds.