Author: Megan Fisher
Date: December 14, 2017
Categories: Academics|Physics

Houghton College’s physics department will benefit from a Department of Energy grant that supports student research during the summer and academic year.

The $420,000 grant – the result of a partnership between Houghton College, the State University of New York at Geneseo (SUNY Geneseo), and the University of Rochester – is part of an ongoing research program at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) at the University of Rochester, the second-largest facility of its kind in the world. Funds will support the summer and academic year studies of approximately 20 students and six faculty from SUNY Geneseo and Houghton. Projects covered by the grant focus on experiments related to inertial confinement fusion (ICF), nuclear and plasma physics.

According to Dr. Mark Yuly, professor of physics and associate dean for mathematics and natural sciences at Houghton, ICF occurs when a number of lasers compress a small amount of nuclear fuel. This process generates large amounts of energy without releasing carbon dioxide into the environment like fossil fuels or producing radioactive waste like nuclear fission. Since this fascinating phenomenon also mimics the core of a star, research into this area can also help scientists understand the universe more fully.

Yuly has served as a co-principal investigator on this project since 2011, along with faculty members from SUNY Geneseo. The grant, administered by the State University of New York Research Foundation, provides stipends to Yuly and two student researchers, Micah Coats ’18 and Katelyn Cook ’19. Funds also cover travel expenses, as well as access to research equipment. The grant partnership will allow Houghton students to design and carry out a future experiment using the University of Rochester’s OMEGA laser at LLE, and perform tests at the particle accelerator lab at SUNY Geneseo.

Over the past seven years, this grant money has opened doors for several Houghton students to pursue careers and further study in physics research. Yuly emphasized the grant’s crucial role in supporting Houghton’s dedication to student-involved research, stating that, “We wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for students.”