Category Archives: News

Profs. Amanuel and Orzel Present at March Meeting

Assistant Professor Samuel Amanuel and Associate Professor Chad Orzel traveled to the 2010 March Meeting of the American Physical Society in Portland, OR. The March Meeting is the largest physics conference in the world, with over 7,500 papers presented over the course of the week.

Prof. Amanuel presented two papers on his research on phase transitions in confined materials: a talk titled “Melting and Freezing of Decanol inside Nanoporous Silica,” and a poster titled “First Order Phase Transition of Primary and Secondary Decanol Inside Nanoporous Silica.” Both papers were on research conducted in his laboratory at Union, with first-year students Amer Khraisat and Jargalsaikhan Dulmaa.

Prof. Orzel gave an invited talk titled “Lasers in the Undergraduate Laboratory: Precision Measurement for the Masses” as part of a special session organized for LaserFest, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first working laser in 1960. (The idea of the laser had earlier been developed by several scientists, including Union Physics alumnus Gordon Gould ’41.) He discussed a number of laser experiments done in physics classes at Union, and how they illustrate techniques used in ultra-precise measurements.

Prof. Newman Presents at Biophysical Society Meeting

Jay Newman, the R. Gordon Gould Professor of Physics, presented a paper at the Biophysical Society annual meeting in San Francisco in February. “Amyloid Gels: Formation and Mechanical Properties of Insulin Fibrillar Networks” was co-authored with four Italian colleagues. Related work, titled “Amyloid Gels: Precocious Appearance of Elastic Properties during the Formation of an Insulin Fibrillar Network,” was recently published in the journal Langmuir by Newman and the same colleagues. This study demonstrates the unexpected onset of a macroscopic elastic modulus during the initial lag phase of insulin aggregation, earlier than has ever been observed before

Union Honored as Outstanding Chapter of Society of Physics Students

Fifty-four of the society’s more than 700 chapters on campuses across the country received the designation from the national organization, based in College Park, Md.

Selection criteria include chapter involvement in local and national meetings, outreach efforts to grades K-12 and the general public, community service participation, contributions to student recruitment and retention, and interaction with the department’s alumni.

Union SPS members regularly take part in programs in the community, including an annual visit to the Schenectady’s Katharine Burr Blodgett Elementary School, part of a program with Union’s Kenney Community Center. In the fall, for instance, Hillary Bauer ’11 and Peter Bonventre ’11 showed the elementary school students how liquid nitrogen is used to rapidly freeze liquids.

Read more in the Union College Chronicle

Union Astronomy Team Organizes and Attends NSF-Sponsored Workshop at Arecibo Observatory

Union astronomers at AreciboAssociate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the third annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 11-14, 2010. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

SreyNoch Chin ’12 and Schuyler Smith accompanied Koopmann to the workshop, joining a selected group of 18 undergraduate students and 14 faculty members from 16 colleges and universities across the United States to learn about radio astronomy, observing at Arecibo Observatory, and applications to the study of other galaxies.

As part of the workshop, Chin and Smith presented a poster about their Summer 2009 research project at Union.
Entitled “ALFALFA HI Observations of the NGC 5846 Group of Galaxies,” the poster describes their research on a concentration of galaxies within the ALFALFA survey area to determine how their proximity has influenced their evolution. Kaitlyn O’Brien, ’11, was a coauthor of the poster.

Among other activities, Chin and Smith visited the platform suspended 450-feet above the reflecting surface of the Arecibo telescope and participated in observing runs for the ALFALFA project.

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.

Union Astronomers Present at 2010 American Astronomical Society Meeting in Washington DC

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, and Physics major Katelyn O’Brien, ’11, traveled to the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., Jan 5-7, to present the results of their research on the gas properties of galaxies, as traced by radio observations at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. O’Brien presented a poster with Union co-authors SreyNoch Chin, ’12 and Schuyler Smith entitled “ALFALFA HI Observations Of The NGC 5846 Galaxy Group,” reporting the gas properties of galaxies located in an intermediate density region of the ALFALFA survey area.

Koopmann presented two posters. “ALFALFA HI Content and Star Formation of Early-type Dwarfs in The Virgo Cluster,” with coauthors R. Giovanelli & M. P. Haynes of Cornell University, B. R. Kent of the National Radio Astronomy Observatories, and N. Brosch of Wise Observatory and Tel Aviv University, describes Koopmann’s work on gas and star formation in low-mass galaxies in a dense environment. Koopmann’s second poster “The Undergraduate ALFALFA Team” with coauthors S. Higdon of Georgia Southern University, T. J. Balonek of Colgate University and M. P. Haynes and R. Giovanelli of Cornell University reported results from the first two years of the NSF-sponsored grant program that encourages undergraduate activities within the ALFALFA program. More than 50 undergraduates across the United States have participated so far. Activities include annual workshops (organized by Koopmann) and observing runs at Arecibo Observatory as well as summer and academic year research programs.

Prof. Orzel Publishes “How to Teach Physics to Your Dog”

Chad Orzel, associate professor of physics has written a popular-audience book explaining quantum physics through imaginary conversations with his German Shepherd mix, Emmy. Their conversations are recorded in How to Teach Physics to Your Dog, published by Scribner on December 22, 2009. Author Cory Doctorow, in a review at Boing Boing says that it combines “a scientist’s rigor and accuracy with a natural raconteur’s storytelling skill,” and Booklist says “It’s hard to imagine a better way for the mathematically and scientifically challenged, in particular, to grasp basic quantum physics.”

More information about the book is available at the book’s web site, including reviews, a sample chapter and book-related videos, and interviews with Chad and Emmy. You can also learn more in the Union College Chronicle.

Prof. Orzel Publishes in Physics World

An article by Chad Orzel, professor of physics, is included in the December issue of “Physics World,” a popular-audience magazine. “Measuring (Almost) Zero” (free registration required) details experiments using cold molecules to search for an electric dipole moment of the electron. These experiments, going on at Yale and in the United Kingdom, could shed light on some of the deepest mysteries of particle physics without needing billion-dollar particle accelerators. “Physics World” is published by the Institutes of Physics in the UK.

Physics Faculty and Students Present at Conference in Hawaii

Five students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy were among some 140 undergraduate students from the U.S. and Japan who presented posters at the Third Joint Meeting of the Nuclear Physics Division of the American Physical Society (APS) and the Physical Society of Japan in Waikoloa, Hawaii, in October. Daniel Barringer ’11 and Ana Mikler ’12 presented posters on their research in nuclear astrophysics with Professor Rebecca Surman, who also presented on “Nucleosynthesis of Nickel-56 from Gamma-Ray Burst Accretion Disks”. Colin Gleason ’11 and Chad Harrington ’11 reported on work they conducted with Professor Michael Vineyard on the elemental analysis of pollutants in aerosol samples using proton-induced X-ray emission (PIXE). Katie Schuff ’12 presented a poster on the PIXE analysis of pollutants in rain water performed with Professor Scott LaBrake. The students all won competitive awards from the Conference Experience for Undergraduates program of the APS for travel and/or lodging.

Prof. Orzel Appears at Quantum to Cosmos Festival

Chad Orzel, associate professor of physics, was part of a panel on
Communicating Science in the 21st Century” as part of the Quantum to
Cosmos Festival
at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The Quantum to Cosmos Festival was a
ten-day international celebration of science, bringing together
scientists, journalists, authors, and artists to discuss current
science, its influence on modern life, and what we can expect in the
future. On the panel with Prof. Orzel were Kathryn O’Hara, the CTV
Chair in Science Broadcast Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa
and president of the Canadian Science Writers Association; Ivan
Semeniuk, Journalist-in-Residence, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and
Astrophysics at the University of Toronto; Nadia El-Awady lecturer of
online journalism at the Al-Ahram Canadian University in Cairo and
President of the World Federation of Science Journalists; and
Véronique Morin, a freelance science journalist for television, radio
and magazines, science journalist for the science magazine program Le
Code Chastenay on the public network Tele- Quebec, and past president
of both the Canadian Science Writers’ Association and the World
Federation of Science Journalists. The panel discussed the importance
of science communication and science journalism for both science and
society at large, and the effects of new technologies on the status
and future of science communication. The panel was streamed live on
the web, and recorded for future broadcast on TV Ontario.

Prof. Amanuel Presents at Thermal Analysis Conference

Samuel Amanuel, assistant professor of physics, recently presented a paper on “Reconciliation of the Apparent Delta H During the Phase Transition of Physically Confined System” at the North American Thermal Analysis Society Annual Conference in Lubbock Texas. The analysis and calculations showed that the behavior of molecules within 2.14 nano meters from a surface is different than molecules far away from a surface. The work involved summer research by Physics majors Hillary Bauer ’11, Peter Bonventre ’11 and Dana Lasher ’08.