Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2 Physics & Astronomy Faculty Proposals Selected!

This year JMU organized a new way to fund faculty initiatives through the MADISON TRUST INNOVATION GRANT.  The call for proposals was sent out in August 2014; 55 responses were received, and 12 proposers were called to present their project to the Madison Trust Principal Investors on Friday, November 14, 2014 in the President’s Board Room.  Of the 12 presenters, two of them came from the Department of Physics & Astronomy! Shanil Virani, Director of the John C. Wells Planetarium, and Dr. Giovanna Scarel.  Mr. Virani presented a project entitled “STARRY NIGHTS JMU: What do we lose when we lose the night” (in collaboration with Dr. Paul Bogard in the Dept. of English), while Dr. Scarel presented “From JMU to the World: embracing the need of new energy sources”.  Both Projects received funding!

The presentation of Dr. Scarel describes the work she and her students do at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, in investigating a new method of harvesting radiation to be transformed into usable electricity.  It is called Infrared Power Generation.  The Group has published various papers with the JMU students as as first authors.  The work has attracted the attention of a research group in Finland headed by Prof. Maarit Karppinen at Aalto University that asked to collaborate.  The Group has engaged research with the Center for Nano-phase Materials Sciences at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (TN) where the students traveled twice with Dr. Scarel in 2014.  Recently the U.S. Office of Naval Research funded one of the Group’s research projects on Infrared Power Generation.  As part of the activities of this project, the group is planning a Workshop entitled “Infrared radiation, thermoelectricity and chaos”.  The Workshop will take place at JMU on June 17, 2015.  This event will contribute to giving to JMU international visibility in research on energy-related topics.  Two of the invited speakers are from California, one from Mexico, and one from Italy.  The students, as well as the JMU 4-VA Consortium, and the JMU Office of Research and Innovation, will be part of this event.

We just don’t see a dark, starry night the way Americans 2 generations ago would have seen. In fact, it is estimated that 98% of Americans will never see the Milky Way Galaxy, our home in the Universe. Does it matter? What do we lose when we lose the night? “Starry Nights JMU” is a dynamic a new program that will make James Madison University the leader not only in Virginia but across the country in energy-efficient lighting that improves student and citizen safety, preserves human and environmental health, and brings back the beauty of the night.

Shanil Virani, Director of the John C. Wells Planetarium

“Starry Nights JMU” is designed to address the many serious—and, for the most part, unnecessary—consequences of light pollution. Defined as the overuse and misuse of artificial light at night, light pollution wastes energy and money, negatively impacts human and environmental health, and reduces our safety at night. For example, we waste more than $110 billion worldwide, and increasing numbers of studies show a link between light at night and cancers of the breast and prostrate. All of us benefit from light at night, and the question isn’t if we will use it but how. “Starry Nights JMU” exists to raise awareness that light pollution is well within our ability to solve. And now is the time. After a century of electric lighting, our society is moving toward electronic (LED) lighting. By acting now, we can recognize the energy-saving benefits of this new technology, rather than see the problems caused by light pollution grow worse. A Madison Trust Grant would allow us to act by taking following steps:
  1. campus-wide lighting assessment.
  2. retrofitting lights on campus and in the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum.
  3. establish demonstration plot of LED lights on campus.
  4. expansion of “Starry Nights” events in 2015.
      Check out this cool video (below) from the day-long series of presentations made to potential donors to get a feel of what it was like!