Society of Physics Students Distinguished Chapter

The Saint Joseph’s University chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) was recognized as a 2018-19 Distinguished Chapter for its participation in regional SPS events and outreach to the University, community, and physics alumni. Chapter president, Emily Lehman (’21, dual major Physics & Environmental Science, center) and vice-president, Alexander Manduca (’22, Physics with Music minor, left) were presented the SPS Distinguished Chapter certificate and congratulated for their efforts at the February 2020 chapter meeting by the SPS faculty advisor (Mark Scafonas, Ph.D., ’01).

Our Students Present at the 2019 Physics Congress

The 2019 Physics Congress (PhysCon), hosted by Sigma Pi Sigma (∑∏∑), the physics honors society, and the Society of Physics Students (SPS) provided the opportunity for physics students from around the country to raise local SPS chapter issues to the national level, share their experiences as students, and present their research to a larger community. Feedback from the last congress (held in 2016, in San Francisco, CA) guided the efforts of the staff and volunteers of ∑∏∑ and SPS, to seek solutions for these issues, between PhysCon meetings. This active participation of the students is what differentiates this congress from other conferences.

Four Saint Joseph’s University students, Ryan Armbruster (’20, Chemical Biology with a minor in Health Care Ethics), Francis Snyder (’21, Physics), Emily Lehman (’21, dual major Physics & Environmental Science), and Alexander Manduca (’22, Physics with Music minor) presented their research in physics at the congress. The congress allowed the students to meet physics students and SPS faculty advisors from around the country and discuss issues that the students face, to include mental health, post-graduation options, and outreach.

The students attended workshops on a variety of topics, including using astronomy as outreach to the larger university community and the physics of jazz. Plenary sessions included talks by diverse and accomplished scientists, such as Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (pictured with Alex, Francis, and Ryan), the co-discoverer of radio pulsars and 2019 recipient of the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. One highlight for the students was visiting Brown University for social events and physics demonstration sessions, including a demonstration by Dr. Bill Phillips, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics for his contributions to laser cooling.

Transit of Mercury

Along with our Lab Coordinator, Dr. Mark Scafonas ’01, the students of the Department of Physics took time to view transit of Mercury, on November 11, 2019, in which Mercury passed directly between the Earth and the Sun. Samantha O’Connell ’22, Francis Snyder ’21, and Alexander Manduca ’22 are pictured with the department’s Sunspotter solar telescope (designed to safely observe the Sun). The next time this event will be visible from North American will be on May 7, 2049 ( Images of the Mercury and the plane passing on the Sun’s background were taken by Ron Pedelty using a telescope with appropriate filters.

Dedication of a New Confocal Microscope

Ken Young ’72, Gene Mele ’72, John Flanigan ’72, and Bob Sunderland ’72

Dr. Ken Young ’72, Francis Snyder ’21, Emily Lehman ’21, and Mike Jenkins ’19

Dr. Richard Kelly ’59, Bonnie McGroddy, and Dr. Jim McGroddy ’58

Emily Lehman ’21, Francis Snyder ’21, and Jordan Butt ’21.

A ceremony that dedicated a new fast scanning confocal microscope, which was purchased through the generosity of Dr. Ken Young ’72, was an opportunity for some 1972 classmates to visit the Department of Physics. This event, along with Prof. Gene Mele’s ’72 seminar, attracted several of our alumni including Dr. Jim McGroddy ’58, who sponsors The McGroddy Frontiers in Science Seminar Series, his wife Bonnie, Dr. Richard Kelly ’59, Sebastian Hurtado Parra ’15, and others. It was a great opportunity for our current majors to interact and chat with our alumni.

Our student will use the confocal microscope in their upper level physics courses and research. Laser scanning confocal microscopy is an essential tool in biological, biochemical, and biomedical sciences. It plays a similar role to scanning electron microscopy in materials science. Moreover, confocal microscopes can be used to perform pseudo-infinite depth of field imaging without the need for a vacuum system, topographic imaging, luminescence imaging, and Raman spectroscopic imaging, just to name a few applications. These and other capabilities make confocal microscopy a versatile addition to the Concentration in Materials Science curriculum as a novel technique of materials science characterization toolkit.

Prof. Eugene Mele, SJU class of 1972 (Physics), visits SJU

On March 20th Prof. Eugene Mele, SJU class of 1972 (Physics), was a speaker for the McGroddy Frontiers in Science Seminar Series and delivered a talk entitled “Topological Insulators: Mind the Gap”. The seminar addressed questions such as: What is a topological insulator? What is its relation to the iconic warning posted on the London tube? And how about Brexit? Prof. Mele’s talk gave an introduction to topological quantum states of matter, explained why they are important and offered at least a guess at how they might be used.

Prof. Mele is the 2019 recipient of the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics along with his colleague Prof. Charlie Kane, both of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University of Pennsylvania.

Students Inducted into the Scientific Research Honor Society

Three of our students, Rui Zhang ’18, Miranda Mazzio ’18, and Thomas Buerkert ’18, were inducted into Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society.  Sigma Xi is a research honor society for scientists and engineers founded in 1886 at Cornell University by a junior faculty member along with a few graduate students.  Members are elected on basis of their research achievements.  Congratulations!

Miranda Receives the Nicholas and Susan Nicolaides Research Fellowship

Miranda collecting data with a confocal microscope.

Congratulations to Miranda Mazzio!  Miranda received the Nicholas and Susan Nicolaides Research Fellowship.  Dr. Nicholas Nicolaides is a 1987 graduate of Saint Joseph’s University and the CEO of Morphotek.  Nicholas and Susan Nicolaides have been long-time supporters of the SJU Summer Scholars Program.  This fellowship entitles Miranda to receive research supplies and travel funds to present at a scientific conference.  Miranda is working with Dr. Piotr Habdas conducting research on the particle dynamics of dense colloidal suspensions with varying inter-particle potential using confocal microscopy.

Students Present at the 19th Mid-Atlantic Soft Matter Workshop

Miranda Mazzio ’18, Rui Zhang ’18, and Michael Jenkins ’19 (left to right) visited University of Maryland in February where they attended the 19th Mid-Atlantic Soft Matter Workshop.  All of them gave oral presentations on their research. Miranda talked about her 3D studies of particle dynamics in dense colloidal suspensions with varying interparticle attraction.  Rui presented preliminary results of studies on motion of a probe particle through dilute colloidal suspensions.  Finally, Mike presented his most recent attempts in applying machine learning to “live” tracking of colloidal particles.

Zachery Brown ’17

Zachery BrownI worked in the laboratory of Piotr Habdas studying properties of dense colloidal suspensions.  Using various microscopy techniques I studied dynamics of colloidal particles with varying inter-particle attraction strength.  Currently, I am pursuing a doctorate degree at the Department of Physics at the University of Rochester.  I am interested in condensed matter possibly conducting research in quantum devices.