Student Achievements

Two Physics Students Present Research at APS Plasma Meeting

Posted December 1, 2016 by Physics

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APS Fall 2016

Physics majors April Futch (’18) and Brayden Schott (’17) traveled with Dr. Darren Craig to San Jose, CA on Oct 31 to present their plasma physics research at the American Physical Society – Division of Plasma Physics Meeting. About 1500 scientists from all over the world were in attendance. April presented a poster on The Effects of Resistivity and Viscosity on m=0 Rise and Fall Time. She used a well-established visco-resistive magnetohydrodynamics code to simulate toroidally confined plasmas and compared her work to experimental measurements in the Madison Symmetric Torus at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Brayden presented a poster describing First Absolutely Calibrated On-axis Ion Flow Measurements in MST. He applied new calibration techniques developed at Wheaton College to measure the flow of carbon ions via the Doppler effect. This work was also done in collaboration with researchers at the University of Wisconsin. Both students enjoyed dialoguing with other scientists about their work. On Nov 2, the students and Dr. Craig participated in the annual gathering of the Plasma Science Christian Fellowship. About 35 people from a variety of Christian traditions gathered early in the morning to hear a testimony, pray together, and enjoy Christian fellowship as they talked about how their faith and work interact.

Honors Thesis Research Results in Paper in Review of Scientific Instruments

Posted August 9, 2016 by Physics

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Maddie Baltzer (Physics ’16) and Dr. Darren Craig recently published a paper in Review of Scientific Instruments. The paper describes research Maddie did over a two year stretch, research that culminated in an honors thesis in May 2016. The paper is entitled “Absolute wavelength calibration of a Doppler spectrometer with a custom Fabry-Perot optical system.” As the title suggests, Maddie and Dr. Craig developed a light source to achieve high accuracy wavelength calibration of a spectrometer that is used to measure plasma flow via the Doppler effect. To achieve flow accuracy to +/- 1 km/s, the device needed to be calibrated with a reference emission line whose wavelength was determined to +/- 0.001 nm. The reference line also needed to be centered within a narrow 0.5 nm wide wavelength range that is measured by the spectrometer. The custom light source achieved these goals and a set of experiments were done to verify that the systematic uncertainties due to the whole calibration process were less than 0.003 nm. The next steps are to use the calibrated spectrometer to measure plasma flows in the Madison Symmetric Torus at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

What did our Students do this Summer?

Posted August 9, 2016 by Physics

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For many of our students the summer is an important time to gain valuable real life experience in their field. Many of our engineering students will participate in internships throughout the country, while students interested in research often have an opportunity to join a research group either at Wheaton College or some other university of national laboratory through a program called Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). The list below provides just a snapshot of the experiences that our students enjoyed this summer.

Stephen Yonke (Aerospace Engineering '18)
Internship at the Department of Aeronautics Research Lab (DFAN), United States Air Force Academy.

I have spent the summer as a research assistant at the Department of Aeronautics Research Lab (DFAN), United States Air Force Academy. Its been an incredible experience working in a small team of me, a professor, a technician, and a machinist as we have designed and developed an "ejector wing" concept. The ejector wing uses a small amount of high energy flow along the wing to entrain and energize the ambient air, primarily through the use of geometry. We have shown the concept to not only work, but to augment thrust by more than 2x the original flow. Our research this summer will guide the Air Force Academy as their cadets work over the next few semesters to develop an extremely silent, efficient UAV, capable of STOL and long-range flight on electric power.

Colorado Springs has been excellent, and I am sad to leave! I have really developed strong relationships with the professors here in the Research Lab, including a Chicago native, IIT-engineering grad! It has opened the door to further research opportunities this fall/spring in Wheaton.

April Futch (Physics '18)
Summer Research Position at Wheaton College working with Dr. Darren Craig

I have worked with Dr. Darren Craig to examine the effects of plasma resistivity and viscosity on plasma mode fluctuation during a process known as the sawtooth cycle. I have used primarily computer simulations to test these effects, but also did some experimental analysis to verify simulation results. It was really exciting to gain experience doing real research, improve my skills with computer code and data analysis, and learn more about plasma physics in general.

David Barbalas (Physics '17, Math '17)
Engineering internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, MD.
I will be working with the Detector Charaterization Lab testing the capability of detectors to be used on NASA's upcoming missions. My assigned team pulls from a diverse interdisciplinary background and are very knowledgeable in a multitude of fields. I'm looking forward to applying my knowledge of optics along with developing practical laboratory skills and learning about instrument design.

Hudson Thomas (Physics '18, Math '18)
REU at Johns Hopkins University
This summer I will be working at JHU in its lab for Computational Sensing and Medical Robotics (CSMR). The project I will be working on involves customizing a DaVinci remote surgery robot for satellite servicing. The problem we are trying to solve is that the large distance between the controller and the robot causes a time delay in the feedback system. To solve this, we will have the operator interact with a virtual model of the satellite-robot system, and the robot will check the real life situation against the model after the time delay to check the accuracy of the model and adjust accordingly. I am super excited to have this  opportunity to continue to hone my grad school plans as well as to further develop research, programming, and engineering skills. Plus I’m getting paid to build space robots.

Scott Wurtz (Physics '17, Computer Science '17)
Summer Research Position at Wheaton College working with Dr. AJ Poelarends
I will be researching binary stellar systems with Dr. AJ, specifically developing models to predict the behavior of stars near the end of their life, and whether a star will explode as a supernova or will turn into a white dwarf based on initial parameters. I am looking forward to using my knowledge and skills developed in classes toward contributing to the project in this exciting area of astrophysics.

Maggie Shuh (Mechanical Engineering '20)
Engineering Internship at the Maritime Applied Physics Corporation (MAPC), Baltimore, MD

"I will be officially working in engineering marketing and business development.  I will also be able to learn about the research, design, and fabrication process, joining the company's ongoing projects.  MAPC is a small contractor, specializing in watercraft, housed in a building with both offices and shop space, and backs right up to the harbor.  The result is a company that can control the whole production process, from idea to prototype to reality."  

Maddie Baltzer Presents Research at APS

Posted January 12, 2016 by Physics

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Maddie at APS

Maddie Baltzer (BS Physics 2016) traveled to Savannah, GA along with research advisor Dr. Darren Craig to present her research at the American Physical Society – Division of Plasma Physics meeting in November 2015. Maddie has been doing research with Dr. Craig in plasma physics for about 2.5 years now and this is her second trip to the APS-DPP meeting. Her poster presented progress in making absolutely calibrated ion flow measurements in the Madison Symmetric Torus, a large magnetically confined plasma experiment at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Maddie has traveled to Madison several times to take data and has developed a custom calibration light source at Wheaton College that will be used in Madison. Flow measurements are made by observing small Doppler shifts of impurity emission lines and the new light source enables an accurate calibration of the spectrometer used for these studies. Maddie is completing an honors thesis this year in which she plans to use all of the hardware and software she has been working on to make the first absolutely calibrated and localized measurements of ion flow in MST.

Emily Willson ('16) Presents Research at International Conference In Toronto

Posted July 13, 2015 by Physics

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Willson ISMR

Emily Willson (’16), a physics and mathematics major at Wheaton College, has presented nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) research at the 2015 meeting of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Emily is working with Dr. Heather M. Whitney on a project that seeks to predict the role of radiation damping in magnetization transfer (MT) measurements. The title of her poster presentation is “Initial Investigation into Effect of Radiation Damping on Magnetization Transfer Parameters Extracted From Inversion Recovery Experiments.”

“MT is a property of macromolecular systems – materials that are made up of semisolids – that can be measured by magnetic resonance experiments,” said Willson. “Measuring them is part of an effort in biomedical circles to make imaging measurements overall more quantitative, so that the actual measurement of a value can be associated with some state of a tissue, versus a qualitative comparison which points out that there are just differences that exist.”

“MT and the parameters that describe it, such as the ratio of protons in the liquid versus the semisolid state, have the potential of serving as biomarkers for certain disease states. Currently, one variation of an MT measurement serves to measure the presence of multiple sclerosis,” said Dr. Whitney. “Our research is part of a larger effort to investigate how robust these measurements are in the presence of imaging difficulties such as radiation damping, also known as RD. RD occurs when the measured signal is so strong that it induces a current in the coils that produce magnetic fields in an NMR system, which makes it more difficult to acquire quantitative information.”

Willson’s work uses a simulation of the different portions of protons that interact in magnetization transfer. She then simulates different levels of RD to see how it affects the ability to extract the MT parameters. “Emily’s work is a good example of interdisciplinary research at the undergraduate level. She is incorporating principles from physics, mathematics, computer science, and even a little chemistry. We’re excited to present her work at ISMRM, where Wheaton may be the only undergraduate institution represented there.”

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