Students, professor publish nanotechnology paper

Nathan Follin, lead author

Three University of Richmond students and their professor have recently published an article in the journal Review of Scientific InstrumentsTheir article describes a new technique they invented for correcting certain kinds of imaging and measurement errors that are common in scanning probe microscopy.  The students, Nathan Follin ’13, Keefer Taylor ’13, and Chris Musalo ’12, all worked with physics professor Matt Trawick to both develop the new technique and test it on Richmond’s state-of-the-art atomic force microscope.  They expect their technique will find wide-scale use in nanotechnology, where accurate measurement and imaging of nanometer-scale features is routinely required.

Dr. Con Beausang Wins Grant Renewal

This fall Richmond physics professor Con Beausang had his Department of Energy grant renewed for a further three years. This award, funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration funds Dr. Beausang’s non-classified research into nuclear stewardship science. In addition to providing travel and equipment funding the award provides salary support for a postdoctoral fellow and graduate student as well as summer stipends for Richmond undergraduates to enable them to participate in experiments and study nuclear physics under Dr. Beausang’s guidance.

Richmond Students Present Their Nuclear Physics Research

Two University of Richmond physics majors, Liam Murray and Keegan Sherman, will be presenting posters about their research from last summer at the fall meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society. The meeting will be held in Newport Beach, CA and their work will be part of the Conference Experience for Undergraduates (CEU) held each year as this meeting to highlight undergraduate contributions to nuclear physics. Liam and Keegan both received funding for the trip from CEU and from the University. They worked last summer with Jerry Gilfoyle whose research is focused on the underlying quark and gluon structure of atomic nuclei and how the color force that binds quarks creates the world of nuclear physics. Here are links to Liam’s and Keegan’s abstracts describing their work.

Grant renewal for Dr. Jerry Gilfoyle

This spring, one of the Richmond Physics faculty, Jerry Gilfoyle had his US Department of Energy research grant renewed. Dr. Gilfoyle studies nuclear physics at Jefferson Lab, a large national accelerator lab in Newport News, VA. Dr. Gilfoyle’s work is focused on understanding how the strong force binds quarks together in protons, neutrons, and atomic nuclei. The grant will provide funds for summer stipends for Richmond undergraduates to study nuclear physics under Dr. Gilfoyle’s guidance. A supplement to the original proposal was also approved and will provide funding for a masters student to study with Dr. Gilfoyle in 2013 as part of a joint program between the University of Richmond and the University of Surrey in the UK.

Summer Research Students visit Jefferson Lab

A group of five Richmond physics students went on a tour of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab or JLab) in Newport News, VA in July. The tour was led by one of the Richmond Physics faculty, Jerry Gilfoyle, whose research is focused on the program in Hall B at JLab. Three of the Richmond students (Keegan Sherman, Liam Murray, and Spencer Bialt) are doing nuclear physics this summer with Dr. Gilfoyle. Jocelyn Xue and Rob Lee also went along. They are doing cosmology research this summer with Ted Bunn.

JLab is built around a mile-long electron accelerator (CEBAF) that can accelerate electrons up to energies of 6 GeV. The beam is then directed into one of four end stations. The group started in Hall B which holds one of the large particle detectors called CLAS. CLAS is a large, spherical, magnetic spectrometer about 10 m in diameter. It surrounds the target so nearly all of the debris from a collision with the electron beam is detected. The goal of the science at JLab is to uncover the secrets of the strong force that binds quarks together to form protons, neutrons, and, in turn, atomic nuclei. That force is described by a theory, quantum chromodynamics (QCD), that has been highly successful at higher energies and should work at JLab energies, but until now the theory has not been solved. With JLab we hope to challenge theory with new data on nucleon and nuclear structure.

The group started in Hall B. The first picture below shows them standing on the forward carriage that holds some of the CLAS components. The main part of the CLAS can be seen to the right.

Liam, Keegan, Rob, Jocelyn, and Spencer on the forward carriage in Hall B.

The second picture below shows the group now at the point where the beam enters the detector. Normally a vacuum pipe carrying the beam would go through the middle of the picture and enter the round opening behind them. In a real experiment, that opening would be filled by a target.

The group stands near the point where the electron beam enters CLAS and strikes the target.

The last shot below shows them later in the accelerator tunnel. The JLab electron beam is accelerated by superconducting cavities that have a rapidly changing electric field and form a racetrack shape about a mile around. Individual electrons injected into the machine can make up to five laps before being extracted and sent into one of the end stations. The shot below shows one of the large cryomodules at lower left that hold the cavities. A string of  cryomodules form a long chain that extends down the tunnel behind the group.

The group in the accelerator tunnel. One of the cryomodules that contain the accelerating cavities operating at less than 3 K can be seen at lower left.

Physics courses for entering students

We in the UR physics department are looking forward to welcoming the new members of the Class of 2016 in the fall. Here’s some information you might find helpful as you think about registering for fall courses.

If anything’s not clear, or if you have any questions about which course is for you, ask us!

Physics majors typically start with Physics 131 in the fall and either 132 or 134 in the spring.  There are four sections of physics 131 available this fall.  Physics 131 is mostly about mechanics but has some other topics as well.  It requires either that you’ve had some calculus or that you take Calc. 1 at the same time.

Pre-med students and students in other science majors also take Physics 131, and the course fulfills the science requirement for non-science majors, so even if you’re not sure what you’re majoring in, keep this course in mind.

Students with strong high school physics backgrounds can skip Physics 131 and start right away with Physics 132.  There is one section of this course offered in the fall. University policy says that you need a 4 or 5 on the Physics C Mechanics, or departmental permission, to skip Physics 131.  If you have a strong physics background but didn’t take the right AP exam, email us or talk to one of the physics faculty when you arrive in town to see if you should be in 132.  (This applies especially to international students, who aren’t part of the US AP system.)

If you think you might want to major in physics (even if you’re not sure), and you’re eligible to skip 131, we strongly urge you to sign up for Physics 132 in the fall.  Finishing the introductory physics sequence early will give you a lot more scheduling flexibility in future semesters (and remember that even if you end up majoring in another science, you may still need to take this course).

Students with very strong physics backgrounds (a 4 or a 5 on the Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism AP exam) are eligible to skip both semesters of the introductory sequence.  If you’re in that category, and you think you might want to study physics, the best courses for you are Physics 205 (Modern Physics) and/or Physics 301 (Mathematical Methods).  Once again, if you didn’t take the appropriate AP exam but think you might have the right background for this option, ask us.

For students who aren’t planning to major in a science, we offer Physics 125, a survey of conceptual physics.  This course fulfills the general-education science requirement, but it does not fulfill prerequisites for more advanced science courses.

Finally, I’ll point out that there’s one physics-related first-year seminar this fall:

Space is Big. This course will examine three occasions in the history of Western thought when the conception of the size of the Universe underwent large expansions: 1) The transition from an Earth-centered to Sun-centered view of the Universe, which led to an enormous increase in estimates of distances to stars, and hence in the scale of the known Universe; 2) The gradual understanding, in the early 20th century, of an expanding Universe filled with billions of galaxies; and 3) Contemporary ideas of the multiverse, according to which our observed environment is only a tiny fraction of all that exists. The most extreme and controversial versions of the multiverse hypothesis propose that the very laws of physics vary throughout the Universe, and that our observed patch may be quite atypical. In the course of examining the amount of space in the Universe, we will examine ideas about the nature of space, which also underwent major shifts during each of these periods.

Like all first-year seminars, this course is open to all first-year students, not just science majors. But I thought I’d mention it, because someone who’s read this far down into this post might be particularly interested in a topic like this.

Chris Musalo presents his research in nuclear physics at national meeting.

Chris Musalo, a senior physics major, recently traveled to East Lansing, Michigan for the 2011 meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics. He was part of the Conference Experience for Undergraduates and presented his poster entitled ‘Simulation of the CLAS12 Dual Hydrogen‐Deuterium Target’ on October 27. His poster is here. Part of his travel costs were paid by the American Physical Society.

Physics courses for new first-year students

It's time for incoming first-year students to register for classes for the fall semester.  We in the physics department are looking forward to meeting you all in the fall.

Here's some information about the physics courses available for new students.  If anything here isn't clear, or if you have any questions about which course is for you, ask us!

Physics majors typically start with Physics 131 in the fall and either 132 or 134 in the spring.  There are four sections of physics 131 available this fall.  Physics 131 is mostly about mechanics but has some other topics as well.  It requires either that you've had some calculus or that you take Calc. 1 at the same time.

Pre-med students and students in other science majors also take Physics 131, and the course fulfills the science requirement for non-science majors, so even if you're not sure what you're majoring in, keep this course in mind.

Students with strong high school physics backgrounds can skip Physics 131 and start right away with Physics 132.  There is one section of this course offered in the fall. University policy says that you need a 4 or 5 on the Physics C Mechanics, or departmental permission, to skip Physics 131.  If you have a strong physics background but didn't take the right AP exam, email us or talk to one of the physics faculty when you arrive in town to see if you should be in 132.  (This applies especially to international students, who aren't part of the US AP system.)

If you think you might want to major in physics (even if you're not sure), and you're eligible to skip 131, we strongly urge you to sign up for Physics 132 in the fall.  Finishing the introductory physics sequence early will give you a lot more scheduling flexibility in future semesters (and remember that even if you end up majoring in another science, you may still need to take this course).

Students with very strong physics backgrounds (a 4 or a 5 on the Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism AP exam) are eligible to skip both semesters of the introductory sequence.  If you're in that category, and you think you might want to study physics, the best courses for you are Physics 205 (Modern Physics) and/or Physics 301 (Mathematical Methods).  Once again, if you didn't take the appropriate AP exam but think you might have the right background for this option, ask us.

For students who aren't planning to major in a science, we offer Physics 125, a survey of conceptual physics.  This course fulfills the general-education science requirement, but it does not fulfill prerequisites for more advanced science courses.

Finally, I’ll point out that there’s one physics-related first-year seminar this year:

Space is Big. This course will examine three occasions in the history of Western thought when the conception of the size of the Universe underwent large expansions: 1) The transition from an Earth-centered to Sun-centered view of the Universe, which led to an enormous increase in estimates of distances to stars, and hence in the scale of the known Universe; 2) The gradual understanding, in the early 20th century, of an expanding Universe filled with billions of galaxies; and 3) Contemporary ideas of the multiverse, according to which our observed environment is only a tiny fraction of all that exists. The most extreme and controversial versions of the multiverse hypothesis propose that the very laws of physics vary throughout the Universe, and that our observed patch may be quite atypical. In the course of examining the amount of space in the Universe, we will examine ideas about the nature of space, which also underwent major shifts during each of these periods.

Like all first-year seminars, this course is open to all first-year students, not just science majors. But I thought I’d mention it, because someone who’s read this far down into this post might be particularly interested in a topic like this.

Grad School Plans

A horde of recent physics grads are headed to graduate school in physics and related fields. Calina Copos and Brent Follin (class of 2010) are headed to doctoral programs on the left coast and the University of California at Davis. Calina will be doing computational physics and Brent will study cosmology. Jeff Zheng will stay on the right coast and also study cosmology. He will be at MIT. Mark Moog has been admitted to the physics program at the University of North Carolina and will be working on nuclear physics at TUNL, a nearby accelerator facility. Finally, Bernard Wittmaack will be staying a bit closer to Richmond. He will be pursuing his PhD in materials science and engineering at the University of Virginia.

Welcome, Admitted Students!

Congratulations to all newly admitted prospective UR students!  Every year we are excited to meet the new group of admitted students interested in physics and and engineering.  We hope that exploring this blog and our website will give you a good feel for what the physics department is all about.  If you would like to know more, feel free to leave a comment here, or contact us directly.  And of course, please drop by and say hello if you are able to visit campus in person.

If you are visiting campus, we would be happy to let you sit in on a physics class!  To set up a classroom visit, please contact our department admin, Mary Ann Stewart.  During the fall, classroom visits are arranged centrally by the UR admissions office; they don’t do it during the spring, presumably to avoid unmanageably large numbers during that busy time.  But as usual, the physics department doesn’t play by the rules; we’re small enough that we can welcome visitors anytime if you contact us directly.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Physics Major Receives Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship

Congratulations to Junior physics major Sarah Scheurich for being chosen as first runner-up for the Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship!  The scholarship is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and is named for Clare Booth Luce, a playwright, journalist, ambassador, and U.S. congresswoman.  In recognition for her achievement in science and mathematics Sarah will receive a  scholarship towards the remainder of her Richmond education.

Richmond Physics Olympics Fun

Last weekend was the Richmond Physics Olympics.  Fifteen teams of high school students competed in various fun events, building towers, floating boats, and throwing bags of sand off the third floor balcony into the science building atrium.  Many thanks to the University of Richmond students who volunteered to help out with this event.  Several of our students also had some fun with a video camera, proving that our students can goof off just as hard as they work.

Two students present research at national physics conference

Sophomore Nathan Follin and junior Chris Musalo traveled with professor Matt Trawick to Dallas, Texas, to present their research at the annual March meeting of the American Physical Society.  Approximately 5000 physicists from around the world convened there for the five day conference.  Nathan and Chris presented a new technique in atomic force microscopy that enables topographical imaging with nanometer scale accuracy.  The two did their work using the University of Richmond Physics Department’s state of the art atomic force microscope.

Change to fall 2011 schedule

UPDATE: We had to change it yet again! I’m sorry for all the confusion. The following should be really truly final.

We have had to move the meeting time of PHYS 132. It will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9:00-11:45.

I’m sorry for the last-minute change. If you need to talk to me about scheduling issues, let me know.

Schedule of classes: Fall 2011

UPDATE: We had to make a number of changes to the fall schedule. The most important one for current and prospective physics majors is that we’re moving computational physics from fall to spring. In addition, instructors for some courses got shuffled around, and math methods moved from Tuesday-Thursday to Monday-Wednesday. Details below. Changes are marked in bold italics.

Here is our current plan for the schedule of physics courses for next fall. It may change, but probably not dramatically. Instructors’ names are listed in parentheses.

  • PHYS 125: Elements of Physics. MWF 9:00-11:00 (Serej).
  • PHYS 131: General Physics w/ Calc. I. Four sections:
    • MWF 9-11 (Nebel).
    • TTh 1:30-4:15 (Nebel).
    • MWF 1:30-3:30 (Lipan).
    • TTh 9-11:45 (Gilfoyle).
  • PHYS 132: General Physics w/ Calc. II. MWF 1:30-3:30 (Serej).
  • PHYS 205: Modern Physics. MWF 10:30-11:20 (Bunn).
  • PHYS 215: Cancelled for fall. Moved to spring.
  • PHYS 301: Mathematical Methods in Physics. MW 1:30-2:45 (Fetea).
  • PHYS 309: Quantum Mechanics I. TTh 3-4:15 (Lipan).
  • PHYS 397/398/497/498: Junior and Senior Seminar. W 4:30-5:30 (Beausang).
  • IQS (Physics portion taught by Dr. Fetea).
  • First-year seminar: “Space is Big.” MWF 3-3:50 (Bunn).

Let me know if you have questions about physics courses.

Research Update: Mark Moog '11

mark_moog.jpg Senior Mark Moog is part of a team that is preparing for the “12 GeV Upgrade” at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News. The upgrade is a $300 million project at Jefferson Lab to explore new territory within the atomic nucleus. Mark has been performing sophisticated simulations of a new detector which will be used in experiments to measure the internal structure of the neutron, a project lead by professor Jerry Gilfoyle. Mark traveled to Santa Fe, NM, this fall to present his work at the fall meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society.