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2008 Physics & Society Student Fellow
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APSThe American Physical Society Forum on Physics and Society (FPS), in partnership with the Society of Physics Students and the APS Forum on Graduate Student Affairs, proudly announce the 2008 recipient of the Student Fellowship in Physics and Society.

Erin S. Owen, Eastern Michigan University
Erin Owen completed her undergraduate physics degree at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in 2003 and returned to EMU as a graduate student in Fall 2006. Erin's Fellowship project will focus on research related to the potential energy savings that can be realized when light pipes are integrated into building designs, allowing natural sunlight to provide interior lighting.

Light Pipes Energy Savings Calculator
Lighting our living and working spaces makes up a significant percentage of total energy use. If artificial lighting were supplemented with natural day lighting, the amount of energy expended in lighting spaces would be appreciably reduced. Light pipes provide a pathway to transmit sunlight through the roof or side of a building, allowing sunlight to illuminate interior spaces. Standard light pipe designs are made up of a collector on the roof, a tube that transmits light by reflection through the ceiling, wall, or attic space, and an emitter that is usually fitted with a diffuser to improve the light quality. New light pipe designs allow more flexibility in installation, making implementation possible in buildings with multiple stories, along with being increasingly more efficient in less than optimal or diffuse sunlight conditions.

I will create an interactive online program, accessible from Eastern Michigan University's Department of Physics and Astronomy website, which will calculate the potential energy savings that can be realized by installing light pipes. Additionally, the program will determine how many light pipes need to be installed in order to achieve a desired level of illumination. The program will also calculate payback time if the user provides estimates for the cost of installation.

The primary goal of the Student Fellowship in Physics and Society is to provide research and project opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in physics and society, and to raise the awareness of applying physics to problems in society as a career and as an important undertaking by members of the physics community. 

There are three objectives of the program. 

  • First, some students who are exposed to issues where physics impacts societal issues will choose to make careers in this area.  These students will provide a badly needed younger generation of technically literate policy researchers, analysts, and leaders. 
  • Second, there are many more technical issues on the interface between physics and society than there are physicists working on them.  Putting talented young people to work on these problems will help society and the physics community. 
  • Finally, students involved in projects applying physics to social issues will communicate their excitement to fellow students and faculty members in their institutions and nationally, thus raising the awareness of the entire physics community.

The Fellowships are open to undergraduate or graduate students in physics who will be awarded up to $4,000 each to support a project that applies physics to a societal issue.

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