In this edition of the Friday Newsletter, we learn about how to get technology support for your research, look at recycling in the introductory lab course revamp, and enjoy a lovely photo of the moon from a night of sky observing at SMU.
CHAIR’S WEEKLY MESSAGE
I will keep this short. This is our last newsletter for two weeks, as SMU is on spring break next week. What does that mean? Since teaching is paused for a week, I hope it means people who have been (a) teaching or (b) taking courses try to get some rest. The research mission does not pause; in fact, I expect people will take advantage of the pause in teaching to do some catching up on research. Our hard-working staff, of course, continue to work hard next week.
I wish all of you a great break. Maybe that means catching up on homework. Maybe that means working on the assignment due right after the break. Maybe that means more sleep, which is very good for the brain. Maybe it means a deep dive into the lab, or travel, or all-of-the-above.
I will close out my message with the words passed on to me by my teacher and mentor, Prof. Randy Durand, at University of Wisconsin-Madison: “Use vacations to refresh your creativity.” This was paraphrased from and attributed to the mathematician J. E. Littlewood.
Of course, he also told us this at the same time: “Vacations are for undergrads,” attributed to Robert Jastrow. Make of that what you will.
In this issue of the Friday Physics Department Newsletter, we learn about how to get technology support for your research, look at recycling in the introductory lab course revamp, and enjoy a lovely photo of the moon from a night of sky observing at SMU.
Stephen Jacob Sekula
Chair, Department of Physics
Getting Support for Research Technology Needs
by Faye Walter, Academic Technology Service Director for Dedman College
The Office of Information Research and Data Science Services team has grown in recent months and we want to be sure you are aware of the support available to you. This team, consisting of 5 individuals, provides consultations and project support for faculty and students in high performance computing, artificial intelligence (AI), data sciences, digital humanities, the Internet of Things (IOT), and many more. If you are interested in advancing the technology used for your research or teaching, whether you have a fully formed idea or simply the beginning of a thought, this team is available to assist. To set up a consultation, please contact Faye Walter (email@example.com | 214-768-1141).
Learn More about Research Support at SMU: https://www.smu.edu/OIT/Research
When the Old is New Again: Introductory Laboratory Revamp Benefits from the Past
by Rick Guarino (Physics Lab Manager) and Stephen Sekula (Department Chair)
Although the emphasis in the recent introductory lab reforms has been on “if it can be bought, buy it,” nevertheless recycling of old equipment has played a key role in the process. Here is one example.
Professor Jingbo Ye and one of the authors (Rick Guarino) have made some improvements to the Ohm’s Law and DC Circuits Lab Module using some old, unused equipment that has been sitting atop the cabinets in Fondren Science 32A (the storage room attached to the laboratory space) for at least 12 years.
They began by retiring the 10 meter nichrome wire boards. They then refurbished the old equipment with round Kanthal resistance wire. They used 3 different gauges of wire to re-string the boards after first cleaning and repairing them.
Students now explore the resistance of the wire as a function of length, cross section and resistivity. This allows them to probe the microscopic Ohm’s Law and its implications for the macroscopic Ohm’s Law. The students are provided with label information from the wire and must use their research skills to find wire diameter and its resistivity from the internet.
They also use breadboards, a direct current (DC) power supply, jumpers and 2 digital multimeters to measure the current vs. voltage characteristic of metal film resistors and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
As always, members of the department who want to see revamped laboratory activities, equipment, or procedures are invited to drop by Lab 32 or Lab 26 to see the action!
REMINDER: Possible Power Outages Due to Electrical Work Upcoming on March 12
February 26th’s planned work seems to have had no noticeable impact on our building, but remember that electrical work will continue for two more Saturdays. Oncor will be conducting work at the Greenville electrical station on three upcoming Saturdays. The work may lead to short outages or power glitches in Fondren Science Building around 8am on any of Feb. 26, March 5, or March 12. Everyone is recommended to do the following:
- For a non-essential computer, make sure it’s powered off when you leave on the Friday preceding each day.
- For an essential computer, make sure it is plugged into a battery backup and that the battery backup is in good working order. If you cannot plug it into a battery backup system (e.g. a UPS), make sure it is plugged into a surge protector to prevent electrical energy spikes from damaging the equipment. This would also apply to any other sensitive equipment.
For more information, please contact the Dedman College Facilities Manager, Scot Montague.
If you have something to share please feel free to send it along. Stories of your activities in research, the classroom, and beyond are very welcome!
The department staff continue to work on behalf of Research Operations (Michele Hill) and Academic Operations (Benisha Young). They can be contacted for assistance, or to make appointments for input and help, through the Department Main Office (FOSC 102).
If you have something to share please feel free to send it along. Stories of students in research, the classroom, internships or fellowships, awards, etc. are very welcome!
Students Enjoy Sky Views and Hot Chocolate for SCI-4301
The SCI-4301 course being piloted this term (“Astro-eXtraordinary: the Universe Beyond Earth”) has so far covered fundamental building blocks and laws of nature, stellar birth, life, and death, solar system and planetary formation, and the astrochemistry of Saturn’s moon, Titan, both in bench and computational contexts. The weather was finally good enough this week to have some additional fun: sky watching!
PerunaScope, an automated 11-inch Celestron reflecting telescope, was brought out and setup by the Blanton Student Observatory between Heroy and Carr Collins Halls. There were decent views, even with ambient city lights, of the Orion nebula, Betelgeuse, Rigel, some open star clusters, and (of course) the moon. The featured photo this week is from SMU undergraduate Fope Adejumo, and the photos below are from Physics Minor Lauren Horton.
Students enjoyed hot chocolate and got to peek inside the Blanton Student Observatory at the original telescope. If you are interested in organizing a viewing night you can contact the Physics Department Chair for more information. Students who wish to be trained to use PerunaScope can do the same to find out how to do that!
If you are an alum of the doctoral, masters, majors or minor programs in Physics at SMU, or have worked in our program as a post-doctoral researcher, and wish to share news with the community, please send your story to the Physics Department and we’ll work with you to get it included in a future edition.