(L-R): Cook, Coates, and Yuly
(L-R): Cook, Coates, and Yuly
Author: Michelle [Shelly] Hillman
Date: November 29, 2017
Categories: Academics|Impact|Physics

Two Houghton College students – junior Katelyn Cook and senior Micah Coats – recently won an outstanding undergraduate poster award at the national American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics meeting.

This is the second year that Cook and Coates have been honored with this award, and the third year that Houghton College students have brought home such a prize. The distinction is one of the highest honors available to undergraduates performing research in plasma physics.

The students’ poster presentation featured their latest findings in a multi-year research project related to inertial confinement fusion (ICF). This year, Cook, Coates, and Dr. Mark Yuly, professor of physics and associate dean for the natural sciences and mathematics at Houghton, focused on creating a detector system that can be used to measure sub-second half lives in ICF. This detector, which must be able to withstand the harsh radiation environment inside the ICF target chamber, will be used for future studies of the tritium-tritium reaction – the probability of which has never before been measured. The research was largely performed during the Summer Research Institute, Houghton’s innovative opportunity that takes students’ knowledge beyond the classroom to solve real-world problems through experiential learning.

Presenting at this major conference offered Cook and Coates valuable insights into post-collegiate career and study possibilities. As Cook notes, “The meeting [was] a glimpse into what doing physics research is all about, and the different kinds of things we could do after Houghton.” For Coates, this collaborative experience was “exceptional in a number ways,” for “very few people receive the opportunity to work on such cutting-edge research at the undergraduate level with experienced collaborators linked to major research facilities.”

Houghton’s science program infuses experiential learning into all its majors, preparing students for lives of fulfilling service to others. The Paine Center for Science, identified as a priority for IMPACT: The Campaign for Greater Houghton, is moving forward in plans for renovations that allow for continued experiences through new and improved labs, state-of-the-art equipment, and faculty-student research opportunities that shape the student experience.

The American Physical Society (APS) is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world.