Author: Carina Martin
Date: December 12, 2016
Categories: Physics

Two Houghton physics students recently won the Outstanding Undergraduate Poster Award at the 58th annual conference of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Plasma Physics’ in San Jose, Calif.

Micah Coates ’18 and Katelyn Cook ’19 designed a poster that summarized a nuclear physics experiment that could be done using internal confinement fusion (ICF), performed during the summer under the supervision of Dr. Mark Yuly, professor of physics and area associate dean for natural sciences and mathematics at Houghton. They designed a detector system and collected a promising set of feasibility study data in facilities at State University of New York at Geneseo (SUNY Geneseo).

Since the APS conference draws on such a wide variety of participants and topics, it offers a different perspective from traditional classroom instruction, for which both students were grateful. Over 150 undergraduate groups travelled from across the country to present research on highly specialized areas, building on existing studies in those fields.

Coates and Cook plan to relocate their continuing research to the Laser Laboratory for Energetics in Rochester, where they will work to measure a previously unknown cross-section of a nuclear fusion reaction. They hope that this research will shed more light on complex ICF reactions and their potential to generate large amounts of energy with very little waste. Research in this field is integral to advancing the science of inertial fusion, which may lead to a clean source of energy.

Both students enjoyed this glimpse into the vast field of physics and are even more excited to delve back into their own research. According to Cook, “The most challenging aspect of making a poster and presenting it is being able to give that elevator speech about the research you worked on for months and have someone understand it in a short period of time. There was so much information and so many intelligent people in the same place all attempting to do this, and it’s honestly mind-blowing how many discoveries are being made.”