Students Present at Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference

Physics students Anna Gaudette ’09 and Hillary Bauer ’11 presented their work at the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference at the University of Toronto recently. Both Anna and Hilary worked with Prof. Amanuel, who accompanied them to the meeting.

Gaudette presented on studies of mechanical reinforcements of polymer nanocomposites. Bauer’s work focused on the phase transition of physically restricted molecules in the nano scale. The conference drew 272 delegates from 39 institutions across Canada and the United States.

(For pictures, visit the Union College Chronicle)

Alpher Plaque Dedicated in Olin Building

Union dedicated a bronze plaque this week in honor of Ralph Asher Alpher, a distinguished research professor of physics and astronomy and a pioneering architect of the Big Bang model for the origin of the universe. Alpher died Aug. 12, 2007 at age 86.

[…]Alpher taught at Union from 1986 to 2004 and was director of the Dudley Observatory. He also spent more than 30 years at the GE Research and Development Center in Niskayuna.

In 1948, as a young doctoral student, he wrote the first mathematical model for the creation of the universe and predicted the discovery of cosmic background radiation that proves the Big Bang theory.

Hundreds of people showed up at George Washington University for his dissertation defense, but the work of Alpher and his colleagues went largely unrecognized. In 1965, two radio astronomers in New Jersey who were tuning their equipment stumbled on proof of Alpher’s background radiation and were eventually awarded the Nobel Prize.

While the Nobel Prize eluded Alpher, he collected a host of other prestigious awards and honors, including the National Medal of Science, which is administered by the National Science Foundation and is the highest honor for science.

Read the full story in the Union College Chronicle.

Prof. Newman Authors Textbook


Jay Newman, R. Gordon Gould Professor of Physics, has authored a textbook Physics of the Life Sciences, just published by Springer. The full-color text has its origins in a course developed here at Union College and is designed to show the fundamental connections between physics and modern biology and medicine. With over 900 photos and drawings to illustrate the principles and applications of physics, and a large collection of homework problems for students, the 700 page book, weighing in at almost 5 pounds, is designed for a two semester (or trimester) course in introductory physics.

The text fills a large niche in providing an interdisciplinary book for those who study physics at the college/university level.

For more information about the book, see the Physics of the Life Sciencespage at

Union Joins NASA NY Space Grant Program

Union College was invited this year to become an affiliate member of the NASA NY Space Grant consortium, a program to support and enhance science and engineering education at 20 institutions across NY State. The program sponsored summer research projects by three Union students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The program also makes Union students eligible for internships at NASA centers and at industrial partners across the country.

John Robens ’09 worked with Prof. Rebecca Koopmann on a project titled “Searching for Optical Counterparts of Galaxies and Tidal Streams Detected by the ALFALFA Survey.” He analyzed optical images from the Cerro Tololo Observatory in Chile, via the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System, to search for visible-light signs of galaxies detected at radio wavelengths by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

David Barker ’09 and Daniel Barringer ’11 used the Union College Observatory 20-inch telescope in their research with Professor and Observatory Manager Francis Wilkin. Both projects used the telescope to monitor small changes in the light from distant stars. Barringer’s project, “Searching for Eclipses of Extrasolar Planets,” used the telescope to look for a slight dimming of the light from a distant star as a planet orbiting that star passes between it and Earth. Barker’s project, “CCD Photometry of Variable Stars and Transiting Planets,” is aimed at tracking how the light output of variable sources changes in time.

For more details, see the Union College Chronicle.