Programs & Awards  
2008 Sigma Pi Sigma Undergraduate Research Awards

Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor societyThe following six Society of Physics Students (SPS) chapters have received Sigma Pi Sigma Undergraduate Research Awards to fund chapter research projects. The awards provide calendar year grants to support local chapter activities that are deemed imaginative and likely to contribute to the strengthening of the SPS program. The program is funded through income from the Sigma Pi Sigma Trust Endowment Fund.
Recipients: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 & Previous

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  CSU Chico

Left to right: Tiara Norris, Justin Dhooghe, Dr.
Eric Ayars (kneeling) and Nicholas Sanabria.

California State University-Chico, Chico, CA

Investigation of Viscosity Transitions in Non-Newtonian Fluids

Interim Project Report | Final Project Report

We will build a sensitive variable-speed coaxial-cylinder viscometer, then use the viscometer to characterize the transition between liquid and solid behavior or dilatant non-Newtonian fluids. Previous work in this department has indicated that the transition has interesting "discontinuous" characteristics not predicted by simple descriptions of dilatant fluids.

Principal Proposers: Justin Dhooghe and Tiara Norris
SPS Advisor: Dr. David Kagan
Research Advisor: Dr. Eric Ayars


Left to right: Sara Goldman, C. Travis Hunter, Hoshang Almemar, Robert Webber, Evangelos Economou, and James Vedral.

University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, CO

Ferroelectric Nanoparticles Suspended in Liquid Crystals

Interim Project Report | Final Project Report

From wristwatches to the most advanced computer systems on earth, liquid crystals have made their way into every aspect of our lives. Since liquid crystals have been introduced to the industry there has been a great demand to reduce their energy consumption. That is the great problem, making a stable liquid crystal display that uses less energy. There is a possible solution, mixing liquid crystals with material that posses a higher sensitivity to electric fields. There are preliminary results which suggest the feasibility of creating such materials.

Although this solution may sound simple, there are major problems that need to be overcome in order to make this not only "a lab sample," but a practical reality. Through the support of the SPS and the use of the UCSS Liquid Crystal Research Lab, we look forward to becoming engaged in this project. Particularly, by creating a stable "liquid crystal enriched with ferroelectric nanoparticles" we will have successfully lowered the energy consumption of all liquid crystal devices. This would not only mean longer battery life for cell phones and laptops, it would mean a great leap in the science of liquid crystals and a new frontier in the industry.

Principal Proposers: James Vedral, Evangelos Economou, C. Travis Hunter, Christopher Bull, Hoshang Almemar, Sara Goldman and Robert Webber
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Anatoliy Glushchenko

  Rhodes College
  Back row, left to right: Ben Rice '09, Brad Atkins '10, Gavin Franks '09. Front row, left to right: Chase Sliger '10, Lulu Li '11, Joshua Fuchs '11
Rhodes College, Memphis, TN

Binary Orbital Motion of Electrically Charged Spheres

Interim Project Report | Final Project Report

Coulomb's Law of Electrostatics and Newton's Law of Gravitation suggest that two oppositely charged spheres should be able to move in binary orbit about their center of mass using only the electric force as the force of attraction. The Rhodes College Chapter of SPS will attempt to achieve a binary orbit between oppositely charged graphite coated styrofoam spheres in a near-zero gravity environment as part of NASA's Microgravity University.

Principal Proposers: Brad Atkins, Gavin Franks, Josh Fuchs, Lulu Li, Chase Sliger and Jennifer Thompson
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Brent K. Hoffmeister

  Back Row: Neal Criddle, Matt Wolfsfeld, Ethan Lindstrom, Ryan Hoffmann, Alex Chanson, Brett Bostrum, and Tamara Jeppson. Middle Row: Dan Arnfield, Mark Glade, Sydney Chamberlin, Jodie Tvedtnes, and Megan Lindstrom. Front Row: Joe Slansky, Tom Apedaile, Jennifer Albretsen, Kalila Tvedtnes (our group's youngest student).
Utah State University, Logan UT

Investigating the Effects of Atmospheric Composition on Sound Emitted by a Telsa Coil Speaker

Interim Project Report | Final Project Report

Plasma speakers (a.k.a. tesla coil speakers) have gained popularity over the past few years, but little scientific work has been performed on them as most are built by hobbyists. The USU Chapter of the Society of Physics Students will build a small tesla coil modeled after the coronaphone developed at Villanova University. Chapter members will record the sound propagating through four gases: Nitrogen (N2), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), and Argon (Ar). These spectra will be compared with one another and with data taken in air, to see if changes in sonic spectra refl ect properties of the gases.

Principal Proposers: Jennifer Albretsen and Christian Wohlwend
Chapter Advisor: Dr. David Peak


Left to right: Nat Steinsultz, Prashant Sharma, James Porter and Nicholas Hennigar.

Suffolk University, Boston, MA

Scanning Probe Study of Viral Nanowire

Interim Project Report | Final Project Report

Viruses that coat themselves in selected inorganic substances can self-assemble into various devices including nanowires. We propose a Scanning Tunneling Microscope study of the electronic structure of such an array of nanowires formed by coating gold nanoparticles on M13 virus.

Principal Proposers: Nat Steinsultz, James Porter and Nick Hennigar
Faculty Advisor: Prashant Sharma


Left to right: Anna Petrone, Jerome Mlack,Sajjan Mehta and Alexander Bolesta.

Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

Variable Star Observation and Search

Interim Project Report | Final Project Report

The purpose of this project is to locate, observe, and classify variable stars.  Variable stars are stars that vary in their light output.  The Drexel SPS chapter will use the observatory facility on campus, as well as supplies purchased with the grant money, to observe and collect data on these stars.

Principal Proposers: Alexander Bolesta, Sajjan Singh Mehta, Jerome Mlack and Anna Petrone
Faculty Advisor: Roberto Ramos


Left to right: Staff electronic specialist Joe Magner; students Troy Ansell, Christopher Holmes-Parker, Elizabeth Nystrom, Joshua Russell and Daniel Schwartz; Prof. William Hetherington. Not pictured: Kenneth Lett and Guy Cutting.

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

Developing Reduced Noise Electronics for a Gigahertz Radio Telescope and Implementing a Real Time Web Interface

There exists, at Oregon State University, a continuing undergraduate research project which is attempting to construct and operate a radio telescope. The proposed research program will improve this telescope to scientific standards and integrate it with a web interface, which would allow students and the public to view the status of the telescope in real time.

Principal Proposer: Daniel Schwartz
Faculty Advisor: William Hetherington


Left to right—Front row: Michael Davis ( navy blue), Panagiotis Koliais (brown), Brian Eney (Light blue). Back row: John Vitucci (white) , Josh Giltinan (with glasses).

Towson University, Towson, MD

Ground Effect Vehicles: Exploring the Possibilities of Wing Design to Maximize Vehicle Lift

Interim Project Report | Final Project Report

We will identify the characteristics that maximize the efficiency of ground effect aircraft. We will explore the effects of airfoil shape, wing classification, and wing planform design on aircraft lift. We will then produce a model that combines the most favorable wing characteristics in order to maximize vehicle lift.

Principal Proposers: Michael Davis and Amanda Haapala
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rajeswari Kolagani

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