by Ngozi Williams
On October 4, 2017, the Cleveland State University (CSU)’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) hosted the first-ever poster session highlighting research and outreach achievements of CSU students working with Physics faculty and/or SPS. The 15 student presenters were honored by the attendance of special guests Dr. Anette Karlsson, the Dean of the Washkewicz College of Engineering, Dr. Meredith Bond, the Dean of the College of Sciences and Health Professions, Dr. Jerzy Sawicki, the Vice President for Research, and Dr. Janet Kavandi, the director of the NASA-Glenn Research Center.
The event highlighted the undergraduate research at CSU supported through National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant and CSU’s own Undergraduate Summer Research Award (USRA). Half of the student posters presented results of last summer from the REU program. In this program (directed by Dr. Kiril Streletzky and co-directed by Dr. Bickel), faculty from the Department of Physics and Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering advised students from colleges including CSU, Hiram College, Rowan College, Rutgers University, The University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and Duquesne University through their research in the synthesis, assembly, and characterization of soft matter. Research topics ranged from studying microgels, micelles, from nanotubes to the design of protein copolymers and from synthesis of gold nanoparticles to the optimization of wet-sample electron imaging. The REU is expected to run through the summer of 2019, giving undergraduates from across the country and at CSU the opportunity to gain valuable research experience and make important interdisciplinary scientific advances.
Figure 2: Undergraduates (left to right) William Calabrase, Nicholas Barron, Samantha Tietjen, and Ilona Tsuper present their summer research. Photo by M. Irwin.
Students who conducted undergraduate physics research during the summer outside of the REU also presented posters at the SPS session on topics ranging from analysis of cloud forms through cloud simulations, microscopy imaging, light-scattering studies of micelles, and synthesis and characterization of microgels, microfluidics, design of atomically smooth surfaces, and colloidal monolayers. Most of these students were sponsored by the university’s USRA program, run by CSU’s Office of Research, and physics faculty research grants. The USRA program is designed to provide undergraduates with the opportunity to conduct research under CSU professors.
The physics outreach program, nicknamed “Physics Fridays”, currently directed by SPS Outreach Coordinator Samantha Tietjen also was featured at the event with both a poster and a special presentation where its founding member James Pitchford, B.S., 2011 assisted me in the creation of liquid nitrogen ice cream. All the guests of the event, as well as curious CSU students, enjoyed vanilla and chocolate ice cream as well as other refreshments. SPS officers perform this demonstration both at the final SPS chapter meeting of each semester and for the students at the Campus International School (CIS) students during the school year, most recently taking place at the Halloween meeting where the CIS students will explore the properties of dry ice with the help from SPS students and their advisor.
Figure 3: Drs. Kavandi and Sawicki observe SPS volunteers Ngozi Williams, James Pitchford, and Mitchell Zito making liquid nitrogen ice cream. Photo by K.Streletzky
The physics outreach program, generally composed of six to 10 SPS members, many of whom are physics majors or students seeking dual degrees in mathematics or engineering along with physics, make a monthly visit to the CIS campus to teach lessons and perform demonstrations relating to a fundamental physical concept which most recently has been the nature and properties of sound as a wave. The program, supervised by Dr. Streletzky, SPS faculty advisor, has won seven consecutive yearly Marsh White awards starting in 2011 and has been shown to increase the interest of elementary-age children in physics as well as foster the ability to educate in undergraduates who are responsible for teaching lessons.