Representing Wooster at the 2012 American Physical Science Meeting in Boston were (from left), John Lindner, Shila Garg, Theresa Albon, Norman Israel, and Karl Smith.

Representing Wooster at the 2012 American Physical Science Meeting in Boston were (from left), John Lindner, Shila Garg, Theresa Albon, Norman Israel, and Karl Smith.


Physics Majors Represent Wooster at National APS Meeting

Three students attend for the first time at event held earlier this month in Boston

March 19, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Of the nearly 9,000 attendees at the recent international meeting of the American Physical Society, only a handful were from undergraduate institutions — and of that group, three were students from The College of Wooster. Theresa Albon, Karl Smith, and Norman Israel were joined by faculty members John Lindner and Shila Garg at the annual gathering held earlier this month in Boston.

“This is part of what makes Wooster unique,” said Lindner, professor of physics at Wooster. “Our students presented at a professional conference alongside some of the world’s top physicists. No other undergraduate institution is better represented at these meetings than we are.”

Albon, a junior physics major from Columbus, presented research she conducted last summer, titled "Investigation of Forces Exerted During the Expansion of Nanomechanically Tensioned Organosilica Materials.” Working with Susan Lehman, associate professor of physics, and Paul Edmiston, professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, Albon focused on the powerful force of Osorb, a glass-like material discovered at Wooster that can separate contaminants like petroleum from water as it expands. Using a mechanical device that measures pressure, Albon determined that in addition to its remarkable ability to rid water of contaminants, Osorb has a swelling force of more than 100 lbs. per gram — enough to lift a human off the ground as it expands.

Smith, a junior chemical physics major from Nashville, Tenn., presented summer research he conducted with Lindner, titled "String Theory (Knot Really).” Using computer simulations, Smith explained his efforts to bridge the gap between the mathematical theory and the physical science of knots. These simulations used physics to determine why some knots are better than others. It turns out that there is a critical friction above which each knot holds and below which it slips, explained Lindner. “Knots are amazing, but often taken for granted,” he said. “Karl’s research helps us to understand from a physical science perspective why some knots are stronger than others.”

Israel, a senior physics and math double major from Jamaica, presented his Independent Study research, titled "Pure Quantum Gravity Simulation in 1+1 Dimensions using Causal Dynamical Triangulation (CDT),” which he conducted with Lindner. His research centered on the longstanding inconsistency between quantum mechanics, our best understanding of atoms, and general relativity, our best understanding of gravity. Physicists have been working for more than 50 years to develop a theory that embraces both, according to Lindner, and Israel devised a computer simulation of a toy universe of one space and one time dimension that incorporates both. “He imagines space-time not as a smooth surface, but as divided into a set of triangles, which make it easier to simulate,” said Lindner. “The spatial fluctuations of Norman’s simulated universe agree well with theoretical predictions, which is one small step in providing a better understanding of quantum mechanics and general relativity.”

Lindner noted that this was the first professional convention for the three students. “It was enormously beneficial for them,” he said, “and they made a strong impression on behalf of the College (with their presentations) at this important event.”