On March 8, 12 NOVA students from Dr. Walerian Majewski’s PHY 298 class and the NOVA chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) participated in the spring SPS D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area meeting. The NOVA SPS chapter is rated nationally in the top 10 percent among 700 participating universities and colleges.
Four of the 11 research posters in the poster presentation session were by NOVA students. The project “Inductional Levitation of Electrodynamic Wheels,” by NOVA students Ian Bean, Vincent Cordrey and Ozan Duran, won the gold medal. “Cosmic Ray Muon Decay and the Standard Model of Fundamental Particles,” by NOVA students Yash Shevde, Brendon Knopes, Nima Yahyazadeh and Mohammed Jamal (Shevde and Yahyazadeh were presenters), was one of the three runners-up.
NOVA’s undergraduate research in physics was supported by grants from the SPS, NVCC Educational Foundation and Virginia Community College System.
Majewski’s students faced competition from the University of Maryland-College Park, George Washington University, Old Dominion University, University of Mary Washington, Towson University, Morgan State University and Randolph-Macon College. NOVA was the only community college in attendance.
After the poster session, NOVA students attended lectures by two of the world’s leading scientists and Nobel laureates in physics: Dr. John C. Mather, an astrophysicist and cosmologist from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Dr. William D. Phillips from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Phillips won the Nobel Prize in 1997 for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. He lectured on “Time, Einstein and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe.” He also gave students a lively demonstration of cold temperatures using liquid nitrogen.
Mather won the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics. He serves as the senior project scientist for building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to be launched in 2018. JWST can be thought of as a powerful time machine with infrared vision that will peer back more than 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe. Mather’s lecture was on “From Big Bang to Stockholm and the End of the Universe.”
NOVA students also toured the Nonlinear Dynamics Lab and the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland, where the meeting was held.