Saturday, May 09, 2015

Congratulations Class of 2015! Once a Duke always a Duke...

Well done all of our physics majors who graduated today, May 9th, 2015:
  • James McDermott Barney, B.S.
  • Christopher Andrew Castillo, B.S.
  • Peter Gregory Clark, B.S.
  • Nicole Christine Creange, B.S. (cum laude, graduating with distinction)
  • Keely Ryan Criddle, B.S. (graduating with distinction, service award)
  • Joshua John Dunbar, B.S.
  • Graham Perry Gearhart, B.S.
  • Morgan Elizabeth Hedden, B.A. (graduating with distinction)
  • Seth Alexander Heerschap, B.S. (graduating with distinction)
  • Gregory Michael Houchins, B.S. (magna cum laude)
  • Kevin Sean Hunter, B.S.
  • Alexandra Teodora Iuga, B.S.
  • Kirill Olegovich Korsak, B.S. (magna cum laude)
  • Brian Nicholas Lang, B.S.
  • David Alexander Loving, B.S. (magna cum laude)
  • Harkirat Singh Mann, B.S.
  • Wayne Henry Morris III, B.S.
  • Andrew R. Nutter, B.S.
  • Galen Wolcott Richard, B.S.
  • Yosyp Schwab, B.S.
  • Daniel Calvert Shorts, B.S.
  • Daniel Gregory Jenks Votaw, B.S. (magna cum laude, research award))
  • Colleen May Wallace, B.S. (magna cum laude/outstanding senior)
  • George Cross Wilkes, B.S.
  • Meris Victoria Yates, B.S.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Links for the Love of Physics!

With the semester coming to an end and the impending doom of not having physics classes for the next few months becoming ever-increasing, fear not - for through the internet your love of all things physics can be nurtured all season long.

Make A solar system and watch it crumble over millions (or sometimes thousands) of years.

Watch some fun and educational videos.

Learn more about those SI units we adore.

Check out NASA's Astronomy picture of the day.

Read about how the everyday things we use were made.

Watch a video on the physics of comic books.

Enjoy this PBS Documentary about Feynman.

Revel in the awesomeness of some of Lewin's best lines.

Check out NPR's You're the Expert (Coming to JMU this fall!!).

-Keely Criddle
JMU Physics & Astronomy Blogger
You may want to take a moment and note today’s date. This just might be the day you’ll recount to your grandchildren when they complain about the energy bill in their first studio space-apartment. That still leaks somehow.


Anyways, yes, what I just said is an actual possibility given what’s being put on the table: a virtually unlimited, zero-emission energy source. Making it even more of an actual possibility is from whom that promise is coming from: Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs, better known as the Skunk Works. Past projects include: the P-80 Shooting Star , the first fighter jet the USAF deployed over the skies of Korea; the U-2 spyplane, famous from its eponymous “incident”; and of course, the rockstar: the SR-71 Blackbird. Not a pedigree to scoff at to say the least. With the Skunk Works’ history of doing what can’t be done, and quickly to boot, this makes for extremely exciting news.

 Maybe the first thing that came to mind when I said, “virtually unlimited, zero-emission energy source” was wind power, maybe tidal, or perhaps solar, but the answer is actually nuclear. Nuclear fusion, that is. Unlike nuclear fission, where one atom splits into two and releases energy as a result, nuclear fusion, when two atoms fuse into one, is not commercially employed in any nuclear power plants. That’s because the energy from fission reactions is relatively simple to harvest compared to fusion.

So, in fission reactors (pictured above) the source of heat for steam turbines comes from the fission of radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium, where the rate of fission can be manipulated through control rods which absorb neutrons that would have split more uranium atoms. Fusion reactors, on the other hand, involve recreating conditions akin to the core of our sun, which is to say, a lot of heat and a lot of pressure. If we were to peer into the sun’s core, we’d see superheated gas is separate into its ions and electrons. Subsequently, when the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together. According to Lockheed’s page, “When this happens, they release a lot of energy – about one million times more powerful than a chemical reaction and 3-4 times more powerful than a fission reaction.” With that amount of energy at humanity’s disposal, the entire technologic and economic landscape changes. Today’s science fiction pipe dreams could become tomorrow’s kickstarter projects.


Now, a team headed by MIT graduate Thomas McGuire, seen above with a compact fusion prototype, is attempting to create a compact, 100-megawatt fusion reactor; enough power for a small city of 50-100k people. McGuire and his team diverge from the fusion community’s first attempt at fusion power, the tokamak design (the same design being used in ITER), instead opting for a high beta concept  that “uses a high fraction of the magnetic field pressure, or all of its potential, so we can make our devices 10 times smaller than previous concepts.”


A goal, if achieved, would change the world in as we know it. We’re talking clean, limitless energy with no lingering radioactive waste, no risk of proliferation, all in a transportable form factor. Suddenly, daunting problems like providing clean water and electricity to the whole world becomes a lot more palatable. Looking beyond the scope of our planet, adding fusion energy into the mix with space travel nets shorter travel times, crucially cutting down on radiation exposure during transit. And with space travel, comes colonization, mining operations, and a third-thing-you’ve-seen-in-space-movies-that-you-always-wished-was-real.

The dream of cheap, green, and plentiful fusion energy, if realized, would undoubtedly become the catalyst for the next great human revolution, the true vision of the atomic age our scientists since the 50s could only envision in their dreams.

Check out the source for more technical information on the Skunk Work’s Compact Fusion project.

-Alan Chen
Guest Blogger

Friday, May 01, 2015

JMU's presence at international workshop in particle & nuclear physics

Every year the particle and nuclear physicists, experimentalist and theorists alike gather together for a weeklong workshop to discuss the latest developments in Deep Inelastic Scattering and related processes.

This year more than 200 physicists representing a plethora of international labs: LHC, KEK, RHIC, Fermilab, JLab, DESY are meeting (April 27 to May 1) at the XXIII DIS 2015 International Workshop at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas. The JMU Physics and Astronomy's Particle and Nuclear Physics Group (JMU PNP) were major contributors to several of the talks presented, including a talk on quark-hadron duality on the neutron delivered by Dr. Gabriel Niculescu (see photo).  As the conference started, JMU PNP members were informed that their paper on q-h duality on the neutron was accepted for publication in Physical Reviev C (PRC). 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Physics Majors outnumbered the JMU delegation at the 2015 National Conference on Undergraduate Research!

The 2015 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) took place at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA from April 16-18.

JMU was represented by 11 undergraduates among which seven students were Physics Majors, as follows: 
  • Christopher Castillo - "Building the most robust catalog of voids and void galaxies" (research adviser: Dr. Anca Constantin)
  • Nicole Creange - "Surface science analysis of Gallium Oxide deposited on Gallium Nitride semiconductor" (research advisers: Drs. Jason Haraldsen and Costel Constantin)
  • Charles Crook - "Understanding superexchange   correlations in magnetically doped graphene" (research adviser: Dr. Jason Haraldsen)
  • Gregory Houchins - "Simplifying magnetic dimer calculations" (research adviser: Dr. Jason Haraldsen)
  • Galen Richard - "Variational calculations for spin canting at complex oxide interfaces" (research adviser: Dr. Jason Haraldsen)
  • Daniel Votaw - "Finding optimal parameters for use of position-sensitive ionization chamber" (research advisers: Drs. Dan Bardayan (University of Notre Dame) and Adriana Banu (JMU))
  • George Wilkes - "Plate tracking for a granular Casimir effect" (research adviser: Dr. Brian Utter)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Talk at NRL

On April 16, 2016 Dr. Scarel visited the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington and presented Infrared power generation: physics and applications.  The presentation described the work of Dr. Scarel with collaborators and JMU undergraduate students: Yosyp Schwab, Graham Gearhart, Brian Lang, Harkirat Mann, Kyle Britton, Justin Kaczmar, Zach Marinelli, and Aidan Gordon.  The group hopes to establish a research collaboration with the researchers at NRL, where many opportunities are available.
The figure below introduces the nano-power generator, fabricated in 2014 by Harkirat and Brian.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Biking with and for Art (Fovargue), our awesome lab manager!

  Thank You, dear Art, for everything, your help and support for over a decade, and all those beautiful memories like the ones we shared this morning biking all together! YOU WILL BE MISSED!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

JMU Physics Majors doing research in Nuclear Physics attended the 13th Annual Colonial Academic Alliance Undergraduate Research Conference!

The Physics and Astronomy Department at JMU was represented by two physics majors - Wayne Morris (senior) and Evan Meekins (junior) - at the 13th Annual Colonial Academic Alliance Undergraduate Research Conference that took place at Drexel University (PA), March 27-29, 2015.

Both our physics majors did a great job showcasing their undergraduate research work: Wayne Morris (research advisers Drs. Ioana and Gabriel Niculescu) had a poster presentation entitled "Dark current, gain and wavelength testing of PMTs for the gas ring imaging Cherenkov detector" while Evan Meekins (research adviser Dr. Adriana Banu) had an oral presentation entitled "94Mo(g,n) cross section measurements towards understanding the origin of p-nuclei".

Kathleen Krist (Chemistry major), doing research in the field of materials science under mentorship of our own Dr. Christopher Hughes, also had a great oral presentation at this year's CAA Undergraduate Research Conference. The title of her presentation was "The utilization of chloroform post-treatment to improve the adhesion of Au thin film onto PMMA".

Wayne Morris (senior) during a poster session at the CAA 2015 Undergraduate Research Conference at Drexel University

Evan Meekins (junior) presenting at the CAA 2015 Undergraduate Research Conference at Drexel University

JMU was represented overall by a large delegation of 9 students (2 from Physics and Astronomy, 1 from Anthropology, Media Arts & Design, 1 from Biotechnology, 1 from Chemistry, 2 from Public Policy & Administration, 1 from History, and 1 from Biology). Dr. Marta Bechtel (Biotechnology) and Dr. Adriana Banu (Physics and Astronomy) served as the two chaperones of the delegation.

JMU delegation at the CAA 2015 Undergraduate Research Conference, Drexel University

We were very honored to have with us also Dr. A. Jerry Benson - JMU's Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, who was very impressed with the performances of our Dukes:

Thanks to all of you for your stellar performance at the CAA Undergraduate Research Conference.  You were such great representatives of all the students at JMU and our university as a whole.  It was my pleasure to have a little bit of time to be with you.  Best of everything as you move toward the end of the semester.  And a special thanks to Drs. Bechtel and Banu for your caring leadership and mentoring.

A. Jerry Benson