Thursday, November 21, 2013

Department Recognized

We received notice yesterday that Physics and Astronomy at JMU has been selected to receive the Improving Undergraduate Physics Education Award from the American Physical Society's Committee on Education.

The award will be announced at the APS April Meeting in Savannah, GA.  Along with the honor and a plaque, we will have recognition on the APS website, the AAPT eNNOUNCER and the APS Forum on Education Newsletter.

We are all very excited by this recognition. Previous recipients of this award are Colorado School of Mines, Kettering University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse, the Compass Project at UC Berkeley, Mount Holyoke College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Utah State University. This puts us in good company and we are proud to be among their number.

If you were looking for just one more reason to consider JMU as the place to come study physics, isn't this it?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Infrared power generation in an insulated compartment

Thermoelectric power generators can help harvesting infrared radiation from the sun and transform it into electricity.  These devices can produce a voltage difference linearly proportional to the temperature difference between the two junctions.  This phenomenon is known as the Seebeck effect.  JMU researchers lead by Dr. Scarel have found that, when infrared radiation activates a thermoelectric power generators, the Seebeck effect is violated.  The first results will soon be published in a paper accepted by Complexity:  Y. Schwab, H. S. Mann, B. N. Lang, J. L. Lancaster, R. J. Parise, A. J. Vincent-Johnson, and G. Scarel, “Infrared power generation in an insulated compartment”.  Complexity, in press (2013).  Undergraduate students played a key role in the research: Yosyp Schwab set up the data acquisition system and performed the data analysis, Harkirat Mann compared the data with those produced by the Seebeck effect, and finally Brian Lang explored diligently the literature to find similar and related experiments.  More is to come!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

JMU undergraduates attending Conference Experience for Undergraduates (CEU13) in Newport News, VA

Bryan Isherwood (left) and Daniel Votaw (right) at the CEU13 poster presentation session

Every year in conjunction with the Fall meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society takes place also the Conference Experience for Undergraduates (CEU). The goal of this event is to provide a "capstone" conference experience for undergraduates students who have conducted research in nuclear physics, by providing them the opportunity to present their research to the larger professional community and to one another. Additionally, it enables the students to converse with faculty and senior scientists from graduate institutions about graduate school opportunity.

This year the meeting took place 23-26 October 2013 in Newport News, VA, and JMU was represented by two of our physic majors, Bryan Isherwood (senior) and Daniel Votaw (junior), who do research in nuclear astrophysics under Dr. Adriana Banu's supervision. Moreover, both Bryan and Daniel have been awarded funding by the CEU13 review committee to attend the meeting for their high quality research accomplishments, which is remarkable taking into account the high number of applications (over 170) and a finite budget.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

At what rate is work done by this machine?

In this video, there is an electric motor running at 200 rpm. It is connected to a series of gears each of which reduces the rotation rate by a factor of 50. After 12 such reductions, the last gear is turning at a rate of 1 rev/2.3 trillion years. Just for emphasis, this last gear is set in a block of concrete. 

So as an interesting exercise, at what rate is this machine doing work?

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Quest to Produce more Physics Teachers

Dr. Brian Utter  and colleagues have obtained a Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) grant to support, ultimately, the production of more well-qualified high school science teachers.  But this grant does more for our department and JMU students than encourage the production of much-needed teachers. It is giving our upperclassmen an opportunity to really learn physics by helping to teach it. It has spurred the reform of our introductory physics classes, making them more engaging and productive. It has brought a Teacher-in-Residence to the department to help connect our department to the College of Education, the prospective high school teachers, and give the TIR some experience outside the usual high school classroom.

The recent article in the Breeze give more details.

Physics Major Writes a Book

It isn't often that a freshman write a book that is published. It is even less often that this freshman is a physics major. Evan Meekins fits into this narrowly defined category.  He has written a young-adult fantasy novel called The Black Banner that will hit the stores nationwide next month. You can find more details on the Breeze.

More proof that physicists can do anything!