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News & Events

2014 Summer Interns

Rising Senior Melissa Brett will return (almost) to the Arctic region in her work in the Juneau Icefield Research Program. This program has monitored glaciers in this area since 1942, and her work is critical in the ongoing work on Earth’s climate.

Melissa—majoring in both Physics and Geology—will be blogging from the field during her two months living and working on glaciers. You can track her progress here: She was featured on the RU homepage due to her work in the Arctic Geophysics class this spring. Her words then were prophetic: “The opportunity to conduct undergraduate research in the harsh polar climate gives me a chance for me to test my skills and knowledge against one of the most extreme places on earth….” Melissa plans on making arctic research her life’s work. She will give a talk this fall on her extraordinary experiences in this remote area in work that will help the futures of all of us. 

Rising Junior Jordan Eagle has participated in research by being one of the students in the Arctic Geophysics class this spring. But she was also accepted into a one-week intensive workshop in radio astronomy held at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia. This workshop is called “Educational Research in Radio Astronomy”, or ERIRA  ( This workshop is led by UNC professor Dan Reichart and other radio astronomy professionals. Only 15 students nationwide were accepted into this program which is designed to encourage physics/astronomy majors to do research early in their careers.

In a recent email about her just-completed week at Green Bank Jordan said of her work, “We are … doing a project that includes using a dipole antenna to estimate the current number of sunspots and just recently I heard that they picked up an IOB storm with it.”

When she returns to RU this fall she will be setting up RU’s very own dipole antenna and receiver to monitor our sun, Io (Jupiter’s moon), and other radio sources. We will get the results online when she has it up and running. 

Rising Junior Joe Ashley will be at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) facility in Gaithersburg, MD for 11 weeks. Joe worked with Dr. Huston to set up our new Scanning Tunneling Microscope in the Curie 039 research lab. Editor’s note: 2004 Physics grad Tim Dutton participated in this same internship. Joe described his project in a recent email:

“Most photovoltaic devices in production today are silicon based…Unfortunately, photovoltaics made of  silicon need to be relatively thick in order to capture enough energy to be useful, causing solar cells to be expensive and bulky.

Some people at NIST (including my advisor Paul Haney) recently developed a way to measure the grain boundaries in polycrystalline semiconductors, and found that even though grain boundaries can reduce efficiency in some cases, in other cases they can actually increase efficiency as well. This would allow us to use a variety of polycrystalline materials which can be more efficient than silicon at a fraction of the thickness. This would hopefully make solar cells much cheaper, as well as introduce them to a variety of applications such as being ingrained into clothing, or maybe even coated onto windows. … I am  [modeling] the drift-diffusion equations for a polycrystalline semiconductor with variable grain boundaries and doping in order to gain a better understanding of the conditions which affect efficiency and how they interact with each other.”

Jan 5, 2015
Dr. Rhett Herman