Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"STEM Sell" - March 31, 2010

STEM Sell, the radio program hosted by Brian Utter and me and dedicated to STEM issues, had its most recent airing on March 31st. Our guest was the Physics Department's own Kevin Giovanetti. A recording of the show will soon be posted on the STEM Sell website, Kevin discussed some of the physics that will be explored by the Large Hadron Collider. We also discussed with him some of the things he and JMU students are doing at Jefferson Lab in Newport News.

Some of the other things we talked about were:
  • Astronomy Night at JMU on April 2nd
  • Replacing bar codes using radio frequency identification technology and the possible replacement of cashiers
  • Genetically enchanced muscle-trout and the troubles they might cause the ecosystem
  • A mini-Ice Age that followed the last Ice Age that ended 13,000 years ago due to the melting of a glacier
  • A small satellite using a solar sail not only for gaining momentum, as you'd normally expect, but also for a relatively gentle slowing down due to collisions within the extremely rarefied atmosphere
  • Computer simulations of comets delivering glancing blows to planetary surfaces and, in turn, the possible generation of biochemical molecular precursors within the comets
  • The discovery that identical twins don't have identical sets of bacteria within their intestines, a finding that resulted from the in-depth study of their fec. . . well, perhaps I've said too much.

If you want to follow up on any of these, send Brian and me an e-mail at And let me remind that you have a brain--don't be afraid to use it!

Angular behavior of optical phonons

Phonons are important for energy harvesting and conversion. How do they behave when radiation illuminates then at changing angle? Researcher have started to investigate this problem. Results have been recently published:

G. Scarel, J.-S. Na, and G.N. Parsons, “Angular behavior of the Berreman effect investigated in uniform Al2O3 layers formed by atomic layer deposition”. J. Phys. Condens. Matter vol. 22, 155401 1-9 (2010).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Symposium

Once again time for the Spring Symposium in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. There are 12 presentations to be given by out students. the keynote speaker is James B. Roberto, Director of Strategic Capabilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He will speak on The Search for Superheavy Elements: Expanding the periodic Table and Exploring the "Island of Stability".

Each year the student presentations that are judged by the faculty and the top three students are awarded small cash prizes and are recognized at the department honors banquet on April 7. An update will be forthcoming on the winners and their presentations.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ALD at JMU: great thickness uniformity

Aluminum oxide films fabricated on silicon surface using the new ALD reactor at JMU exhibit an uniformity with less than 1% variations over a 2 square cm area. Silicon surface preparation, growth temperature, heat treatment, and other factors (e.g. growth parameters) are under examination to improve the result.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thickness response of the Berreman effect

A team of researcher including JMU faculty has unveiled the response of the berreman effect to the thickness of oxide layers. The results are published in:
G. Scarel, J.-S. Na, B. Gong, and G.N. Parsons, “Phonon response in the infrared region to thickness of oxide films formed by atomic layer deposition”. Appl. Spectrosc. vol. 64, p. 120-126 (2010).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New atomic layer deposition reactor at JMU-Physics

A new atomic layer deposition reactor is working at the Physics Department - JMU! The reactor is "home-made" and can easily fabricate thin and uniform oxide layers at low and high temperatures!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The value of undergraduate research

A new study published by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, documents the many benefits of undergraduate research for both faculty and students. A summary by James M. Gentile, President of Research Corporation.

The summary is very interesting and there is a link to the book, free on-line.

Undergraduate research is central to the mission of the JMU Department of Physics and Astronomy.