Author: Carina Martin
Date: December 13, 2016
Categories: Physics

Houghton College’s physics department recently received part of a Department of Energy grant to conduct student research.

The grant will provide funds to continue ongoing diagnostic research at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester, the second-largest facility of its kind in the world. Current projects covered by the grant mainly focus on experiments related to inertial confinement fusion and other areas of plasma physics.

According to Dr. Mark Yuly, professor of physics and associate dean for mathematics and natural sciences at Houghton, inertial confinement fusion occurs when a laser collides with a small amount of nuclear fuel. This process is notable because of its ability to generate large amounts of energy without releasing carbon dioxide or radioactive waste into the environment. Since this fascinating phenomenon also mimics the formation of a star, research into this area can also help scientists understand our universe more fully. 

Yuly is a co-principal investigator on this project, along with several faculty members from State University of New York at Geneseo. Houghton will receive a portion of the $400,000 grant, which the department mainly uses to remove financial barriers to student participation in research. “It mostly goes for students, to be able to have money so they don’t have to get a summer job but can do research instead,” Yuly remarked.

This research experience is invaluable when students apply to graduate school or jobs in the field. Over the past six years, such grant money has opened the door 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.”