March 30, 2010
Wooster Physicists (from left) Don Jacobs, Joe Neff '93, Margaret Raabe '12, Heather Moore '10, John Lindner, Amanda Logue '11, Alison Huff '10, Katsuo Maxted '12, David Simpson '12, and Larry Markley '12 gather below a Foucault pendulum that was permanently suspended from the ceiling of the Oregon Convention Center, site of the 2010 American Physical Society Meeting.
WOOSTER, Ohio - A noteworthy contingent of students, faculty, and alumni from The College of Wooster gathered in Portland, Ore., last month (March 15-18) to share their research at the 2010 American Physical Society Meeting (APS).
"This was a wonderful reunion of a good portion of our research group from last summer and one of the largest groups we've ever assembled at an APS meeting," said John Lindner, professor of physics at Wooster. "The undergraduates enjoyed their first professional convention, and together, our students, alumni, and faculty, made an impact on behalf of the College."
Among the alumni from Wooster were George Williams, emeritus professor of physics at Wake Forest University and a 1962 Wooster graduate, and Jeff Moffitt, a 2003 graduate who was honored as the author of the Most Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research in Biological Physics in 2009. Moffitt's project, "Viral DNA Packaging at Base Pair Resolution," developed experimental and theoretical
tools for studying molecular motors. Also present were Joe Neff (1993), Nick Harmon (2004), and Danny Shai (2007).
Current Wooster students participated in seven different projects, including junior Amanda Logue, who worked with New York University's Jacob Lynn, recent Wooster graduate Frank King (2009), and Lindner on the "Slashdot" Body Problem, which considers the diverse dynamics of a linear object and a spherical body interacting gravitationally.
Lindner also worked with colleague Barbara Breen from the University of Portland and Wooster
sophomore Katsuo Maxted on generalizing one-way coupled arrays to two dimensions where solitary waves propagate at different speeds in different directions, and with sophomore Margaret Raabe on escape from the three-body problem, an attempt to compute the minimum speed for a projectile to escape a solar system consisting only of a star and a planet.
Don Jacobs, professor of physics at Wooster, collaborated with students on four projects, including one with sophomore Larry Markley and recent graduate Mary Mills that examined the concept of self-organized criticality through an experiment that involved dropping zirconium beads on conical bead piles and measuring the frequency and size of avalanches that result. Jacobs noted that "the applications of our research extend from fluctuations in the stock market to
earthquakes, and connected to several invited talks at the conference."
Jacobs also worked with senior Heather Moore, first-years Lorenzo Dumancas and Tyler Rhoades, and recent graduate Mark Zimmerman on a project that looked at the percolation transition in spherical granular material by measuring the resistance to the flow of electricity through a system of conducting and insulating the spheres. In addition, Jacobs and collaborators presented results
of experiments on a system that models self-aggregation in biological molecules. By using a material that consists of three polymers bonded together where the two on the ends hate water and the one in the middle loves water and placing it in water at different concentrations and temperatures, the material can self-aggregate into spheres. Sophomore David Simpson studied the energy needed to form these spheres while Jacobs, senior Alison Huff, and recent graduate Kelly Patton, along with colleagues Bryna Clover and S.C. Greer, both from the University of Maryland, College Park, looked at the phase boundaries marking when the spheres form, their size, and when a phase separation occurs.
"Our students presented their research alongside faculty, graduate students, and industry scientists and interacted at a very high level," said Jacobs. "This conference is the largest gathering of physicists in the world each year, and Wooster students learned about many cutting-edge topics. They also made several important contacts, and shared their research results with the world."
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