Springfield, Ohio – College education and the real world came together at a recent regional physics research gathering, where Wittenberg physics faculty members and students made presentations and briefly crossed into the world of professional research.
At the most recent meeting of the Ohio-Region section of the American Physical Society at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, three Wittenberg students presented the results of research experiments. Matt Kowalski, class of 2010 from Solon, Ohio, Yuru Niu, class of 2010 from Jinan Shandong Province, China, and Joseph Fritchman, class of 2008 from Dayton, Ohio, gave poster presentations or short speeches regarding their research, results and the significance of their data.
The gathering provided the students with valuable experience for assessing the professional world they are preparing to enter following graduation. Kowalski said that executing the research itself, as well as preparing for the presentation, will "benefit (me) this year and next year, and definitely in graduate school."
Associate Professors of Physics Daniel Fleisch, Elizabeth George and Paul Voytas took an active role in directing the student experiments and research activities. Voytas said it is important to expose science students to the broader world of research science during their undergraduate years.
"This is a place where professionals go to display their research results," said Voytas, who along with George supervised Kowalski in his research. "It is a good forum for (the students) to see what it means for people to exchange scientific ideas with each other in a professional format.
"They certainly are energized. They are more interested in the experience of what it means to be part of a larger community of intellectual activity."
The successful student presentations were not the only good news for Wittenberg's physics department during the fall semester. The university's chapter of Society of Physics Students (SPS) has been recognized as an Outstanding SPS Chapter by its national organization for the 2006-07 academic year. It was the second time in the last four years that Wittenberg's SPS chapter has been so honored.
The award recognizes outstanding chapters that display devotion to "areas such as physics research, public science outreach, physics tutoring programs, hosting and representation at physics meetings, and providing social interaction for chapter members," according to the citation, which accompanied the award. Student research, trips to presentations, and focused and energized students were key elements that earned the chapter honor, but Voytas said the Wittenberg education goes deeper than a certificate and a handshake.
"Having the experience of being able to go and see what a meeting is like and get excited about what kind of things might be going on in the field is important as a way to broaden (students') perspective," he said.
Written By: John Strawn