Physics News


Auburn University opens unique, world-class plasma physics research laboratory

During the past five years, physics Professor Edward Thomas developed the mantra, "No stress, no stress, no stress." By repeating the phrase over and over, he had hoped to stave off any ill effects that might result from overseeing the creation of the new Magnet Laboratory at Auburn University, which included the development and delivery of a 6,000-pound superconducting magnet, the only one of its kind in the world. The new lab houses the Magnetized Dusty Plasma Experiment, a one-of-a-kind facility that will support plasma physics research for Auburn University students and researchers, as well as for a diverse team of national and international researchers who will come to Auburn to perform experimental and theoretical studies. More than a dozen Auburn students, including undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral-researchers, were involved in the design and implementation of the new laboratory, and as the research evolves over the next several years, Thomas envisions opportunities for a long line of undergraduate and graduate student researchers.


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COSAM student receives Fulbright Scholarship

Three Auburn University Honors College students, including Jamesa Stokes, a senior physics major, have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships to continue their studies in the United Kingdom and Germany this summer and fall. Stokes will conduct research at the German Space Agency’s Institute of Structures in Design in Stuttgart, Germany. An Atlanta native, Stokes has completed internships with Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In addition, she was a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar to Reutlingen, Germany. Her research investigates the behavior of fiber-oriented ceramics during hyper-sonic flight in order to develop better thermal protection systems for spaceflight vehicles. “I studied in Germany in the fall of 2012, and it was my first time traveling outside of the country, so it was truly an amazing experience,” Stokes said. “Now I can go back and experience more of Germany while doing research that interests me at the same time.”


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Gordon named Goldwater Scholar

Graham Gordon, a COSAM Honors College student double-majoring in mathematics and physics, has been chosen as a 2014 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, an honor that is only bestowed to a approximately 300 students nationwide each year. The scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the United States for undergraduates in STEM disciplines. Gordon, of Aiken, S.C., conducts research under the guidance of Professor Peter Nylen in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. He is also an undergraduate teaching assistant with Professor Joe Perez in the Department of Physics, and he previously participated in a research group studying computational Rydberg atomic physics. “I would like to thank Dr. Nylen for being an ideal research adviser and Dr. Paul Harris (associate director for national prestigious scholarships) for guiding me during the application process,” Gordon said. “Anyone pursuing research in a STEM field should consider this scholarship. Applying is an enlightening experience itself.” Gordon’s primary research involves partial distance matrix completion with multilateration applications to wireless sensor network localization, and his publications include an article in the Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics.


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Duncan lecture featured discussion of quasars and black holes

The annual Duncan Lecture was held on April 23, and featured Bradley M. Peterson, professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy at The Ohio State University and a member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee and chair of the Astrophysics Subcommittee. The title of his lecture was, “Solving the Quasar Mystery: A 50-Year Quest,” and featured discussion of quasars, which are among the most distant and intrinsically brightest objects in the universe, but also small and dense. Quasars are powered by spectacularly massive “black holes,” objects so dense that not even light can escape from them. Peterson related the story of how quasars and supermassive black holes and their role in the cosmos have come to be understood.


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Loch named SGA Outstanding Faculty Member

Stuart Loch, associate professor of physics, was selected as the recipient of the SGA Outstanding Faculty Member Award for the College of Sciences and Mathematics. The award is presented to one faculty member from each of the university's schools and colleges. Nominated by students, recipients are chosen for respect of their peers and students, excellence in teaching, and concern for and involvement with students.


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Department hosts Nobel Prize winning physicist

The Littleton-Franklin Lecture in Science and Humanities was held on April 15 and featured Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Department of Physics and the Office of the Provost. Wilczek’s talk was titled, “Expanding the Doors of Perception: The Physics of Color Vision,” and detailed his work in the area of particle physics.


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