Union Wins Outstanding Chapter Award from SPS

The Union College chapter of the Society of Physics Students was recognized as an outstanding chapter for 2010, one of just 50 chapters nationwide (out of more than 700 nationwide) given this award. Union was cited for “Extensive outreach, community service, and social activities.” This is the second year in a row that Union has earned this distinction.

Congratulations to all the SPS students whose hard work has made this possible.

Prof. Orzel Speaks at AAAS Meeting

Associate Professor Chad Orzel gave a presentation at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC, as part of a symposium titled “Science Without Borders: Learning from TIMSS Advanced 2008,” about the Trends in International Math and Science Survey, an international test of math and physics given to students in nine countries. Chad’s talk, “What Physics Knowledge Is Assessed in TIMSS Advanced 2008?” evaluated the content of the physics test by comparing them to college and high school curricula and tests developed through physics education research. Other speakers in the symposium included representatives from the international study center that administers TIMSS, and from the national test centers in Norway and Slovenia talking about their nations’ experience with TIMSS Advanced.

The AAAS is one the world’s largest general scientific society, and one of the premier science organizations in the world. This year’s meeting brought together several thousand scientists, educators, journalists, and policy makers from some 50 countries.

O’Brien ‘11 and Barringer ‘11 Present at American Astronomical Society Meeting

Katelyn O’Brien, ’11, and Daniel Barringer, ’11, presented posters about their research at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, WA, in January.

Katie O’Brien ‘11 with her AAS Poster
Katelyn presented results from her senior thesis project with Associate Professor Rebecca Koopmann, ’89. Entitled “SMARTS Hα
Observations Of ALFALFA Gas-rich Galaxies In NGC 5846″, the poster described Katelyn’s analysis of star formation from images of galaxies obtained at the Cerro Tololo National Observatory in Chile through Union’s participation in the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS) consortium. Katelyn is pursuing a major in physics and minors in astrophysics and Spanish.


Danny Barringer ‘11 with his AAS Poster
Daniel presented results from his Summer 2010 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer project at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, AZ. Daniel worked with Connie Walker of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory on the “Effects Of Light Pollution On The Movements Of Leptonycteris Curasoae Yerbabuenae In
The Tucson Area.” Daniel used data from the GLOBE at Night project and telemetry-tracking data to study the effects of light pollution on the flight paths of the lesser long-nosed bats between their day roosts and night foraging areas around the city of Tucson, AZ, finding that these bats are able to tolerate a fair degree of urbanization. Daniel was one of 6 students selected from a pool of 157 applicants from across the US to be awarded an REU internship at Kitt Peak in summer 2010. Daniel is a physics major and astrophysics minor.

The American Astronomical Society is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America.

Halley Darling ‘13 attends NSF-Sponsored Workshop at Arecibo Observatory, Organized by Prof. Koopmann

Prof. Koopmann and Halley Darling ‘13 at the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the fourth annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 16-20, 2011. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

Halley Darling, ’13, a Physics & Astronomy major, accompanied Koopmann and a select group of 16 other undergraduate students and 12 faculty members from 14 colleges and universities across the United States. Together they conducted observing runs, toured the telescope, and worked on group activities designed to model scientific collaborations.

As part of the workshop, Darling presented a poster about her Summer 2010 research project at Union (sponsored by NASA New York Space Grant). Entitled “ALFALFA HI Observations of the NGC 5846 Group of Galaxies,” the poster described the Union team’s research on environmental effects (such as gravitational interactions) on a concentration of galaxies. Ana Mikler, ’12, and SreyNoch Chin, ’12, were coauthors on the poster.

Darling used her new skills to help Koopmann conduct a remote observing run from her Union campus lab in Science and Engineering. Two first-year students, Lucas Viani ’14 and Alexandrea Safiq ’14, were enthusiastic participants. They can be seen steering the telescope on the ALFALFA blog.

The ALFALFA project, led by astronomers Riccardo Giovanelli and Martha Haynes of Cornell, is a multiyear survey of a large area of the sky at radio wavelengths appropriate for the detection of neutral hydrogen gas in other galaxies. It is expected that more than 30,000 galaxies out to a distance of 750 million light years will be detected by the survey.


Colloquium 2/17/11: “ALFALFA and the Hunt for Extreme-Mass Galaxies “

Speaker: Ann Martin, Cornell University

Title: ALFALFA and the Hunt for Extreme-Mass Galaxies

Abstract: The ongoing Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA (ALFALFA) survey is using the Arecibo Observatory to make a census of neutral hydrogen gas in ~ 30,000 nearby galaxies. This method is efficient at finding very low mass, very faint galaxies as well as distant, rare high-mass galaxies. The statistical distributions of gas-rich galaxies in the local Universe will reveal relationships between galaxies’ stellar properties, star formation histories, gas masses, and environment, helping us to untangle galaxy evolution. I will describe ongoing projects that challenge our current understanding of both very small and very large galaxies. I will discuss two statistics, the neutral hydrogen mass function and the correlation function, and how they reflect the cosmological implications of the characteristics of the ALFALFA sample.

As always, the colloquium will be at 12:40 in Room N304, with pizza and soda available at 12:20 for those attending the talk. For details of future colloquia, see the Winter 2011 colloquium schedule.

Colloquium 2/10/11: “The Roles of High and Low Energy Electrons in Nanofabrication”

Speaker: Jason E. Sanabia ’96, Ph.D., President & CEO Raith USA, Inc.

Title The Roles of High and Low Energy Electrons in Nanofabrication

Abstract In his 1959 speech entitled There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, Richard Feynman asked “Why cannot we write the entire 24 volumes the Encyclopedia Brittanica on the head of a pin?” After explaining how it was possible, Richard Feynman next asked “How do we write it?” and then hypothesized “We can reverse the lenses of the electron microscope.” Toward the end of his speech, Richard Feynman offered a price of $1,000 to “the first guy who can take the information on the page of a book, and put it on an area 1/25,000 smaller in linear scale, in such manner that it can be read by an electron microscope.” In 1985, Richard Feynman mailed a check for $1000 to Tom Newman, then a graduate student in R. Fabian W. Pease’s group at Stanford University, who used electron beam lithography to write the opening page of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities at a scale of nanometers.

Today, 50 years since Richard Feynman launched the field of nanotechnology, electron beam lithography is a critical facility for the world’s research in nanotechnology. Device physics research (graphene and spintronics), materials science (bit patterned media), electrical engineering (transistors), mechanical engineering (nanoelectromechanical systems, NEMS), optical engineering (waveguides and photonic structures), and biophysics (single molecule detection) are examples of today’s active fields of research that benefit from electron beam lithography facilities. But why cannot electron beam lithography do everything? Why is it difficult to control matter below 10 nm with electron beam lithography? What prevents the manufacture of computer chips using electron beam lithography? I will introduce the basic concepts of electron beam lithography, with particular emphasis on the roles of the high and low energy electrons. Within this framework, I will discuss today’s challenges that limit the application of electron beam lithography.

Joint colloquium with Chemistry Department

As always, the colloquium will be at 12:40 in Room N304, with pizza and soda available at 12:20 for those attending the talk. For details of future colloquia, see the Winter 2011 colloquium schedule.