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2012 SPS Outstanding Student Awards for Undergraduate Research

Recipients: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | About the Award
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2008 ICPSThe 2012 SPS Outstanding Students Award recipients represented the United States and SPS and presented their research at the 2012 International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS), August 4-10, 2012, in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Expenses for transportation, room, board, and meeting registration were paid by SPS and it's parent organization, the American Institute of Physics.

The recipients also received a $500 honorarium and a $500 award for their SPS Chapter. In addition, they will be invited to give their research presentation at a SPS Research Session at a national meeting in 2012-2013.


Anya Burkart

Chris Frye
University of Central Florida

Feature Article: International Conference of Physics Students 2012

Identifying Collisions in the Compact Muon Solenoid at the LHC


The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) is a detector in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN which utilizes a superconducting magnet as well as a tracking system and various calorimeters to measure the energies and momenta of the products of collisions that occur in its barrel. The Forward Hadron Calorimeter (HF) lies in the pseudorapidity region just around the beam and receives an extremely high dosage of radiation from the collisions. For this reason, HF is not covered by the inner tracking system, and we can rely only on the shapes of showers that hit the detector to determine whether they are due to electromagnetic particles or jets. Distinguishing these two shower types is critical in measuring the rapidity of the Z-boson to electron-positron reaction as well as in the search for the Higgs boson through its decay into two Z-bosons. We review the HF hit reconstruction algorithms and the current method of distinguishing jets from electromagnetic showers which work well for the current LHC setup. We then expose a drawback in this procedure that will become present as the luminosity of the LHC increases and creates a need for tighter shower-shape cuts. We provide a method to correct this drawback, and we analyze the effectiveness of our new method at isolating signal from background. We utilize data from proton-proton collisions collected at CMS as well as Monte Carlo simulations to aid in the analysis. By comparing the agreement of spring 2011 and summer 2011 simulations with LHC data, we also comment on the effectiveness of the simulation production software GFlash which CMS adopted in summer 2011.

Daniel Glass

Rachel Ward
Utah State University

Feature Article: ICPS Netherlands 2012


In April 2007, NASA launched the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite, upon which is mounted the Cloud Imaging and Particle Size (CIPS) UV imager. Each year, thousands of images of polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs) are captured by CIPS over a range of about 65-85 degrees latitude in the northern and southern summer polar regions, in which PMCs are known to form. Gravity waves which propagate from the troposphere are known to influence these mesospheric regions, but their precise effects on atmospheric dynamics are not well measured. Thus far, seven seasons of PMC data have been collected by CIPS; in this presentation the first two seasons (NH 2007 and SH 2007/2008) will be discussed. About 4000 distinct gravity wave occurrences have been measured during these seasons, allowing us to compile both a statistical baseline against which future data will be compared, as well as several significant results about the characteristics of gravity waves in each hemisphere.

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