Houghton College Faculty and Students Present at National Conferences

Dr. Mark Yuly, associate dean for the natural sciences and mathematics, and Houghton senior Katelyn Cook recently presented at the Fifth Joint Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Nuclear Physics and the Physical Society of Japan in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

This conference brought nuclear physicists and students from across the United States and Japan to the Hawaiian island. Yuly presented on Department of Energy funded work done in collaboration with scientists from State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Ohio University, and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. The project, which also involved a number of Houghton students from 2010-2015, focused on measuring the probability (or “cross section”) of a particular nuclear reaction that is important in developing a diagnostic technique to study inertial confinement fusion (ICF). ICF is a process that utilizes lasers to compress and heat a tiny speck of nuclear fuel until nuclear fusion reactions begin to occur, just like in the core of a star. This technique could be used to generate large amounts of energy without releasing harmful carbon dioxide or producing radioactive waste. The work of Yuly and eight Houghton alumni contributors was published in Physical Review C this past year, and featured findings from two summers at Ohio University’s Edwards Accelerator Lab and three years of research at Houghton.

Cook’s poster presentation focused on ICF research done by the same collaboration since 2015, with the intent of discovering ways to study fundamental nuclear physics using ICF as a tool. Several other Houghton students have participated in this project over the last three years, including Micah Coats ’18 and junior Emma Bruce, who recently presented a poster on the same topic at the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Such undergraduate research opportunities – which happen as part of the Summer Research Institute – are key features of Houghton’s science programs, and priorities of the college’s multi-year, $70 million comprehensive campaign, “IMPACT: The Campaign for Greater Houghton.” By supporting academic and experiential investment (academic and co-curricular program endowment), Houghton is able to continue to provide the high-quality education and experiences necessary to prepare students to have an impact on the world.