Department News

Imaging the Beginning of Time from the Bottom of the World: Detection of B-mode Polarization with the BICEP2 Telescope at the South Pole

Posted by Physics
Vieregg - Bicep2 talk

The Physics Department at Wheaton College presents a lecture by Abigail Vieregg at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 25. The lecture is titled "Imaging the Beginning of Time from the Bottom of the World: Detection of B-mode Polarization with the BICEP2 Telescope at the South Pole."

Abigail Vieregg, assistant professor of physics at the Enrico Fermi Institute of the University of Chicago, will speak on the latest observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation from the South Pole and the recent detection of B-mode polarization in this radiation as a possible signature of gravitational waves.

Abstract:  The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is the oldest observable light in the universe, and has proven to be an extremely important tool in modern observational cosmology.  Inflation, the superluminal expansion of the universe during the first moments after the Big Bang, predicts a Cosmic Gravitational-Wave Background, which in turn imprints a faint but unique signature of “B-mode” polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) at degree angular scales.  Detection of the B-mode signature from inflation would constitute strong evidence for inflation and a test of inflationary models at the scale of grand unified theories.  BICEP2, which observed from the South Pole during 2010-2012, is a polarization-sensitive microwave telescope that observes the CMB at degree angular scales and is specifically designed to search for this signature of inflation.  BICEP2 is the second experiment in a four-stage line of degree-scale polarimeters at the South Pole.  I will discuss the recent detection of B-mode polarization at degree angular scales with BICEP2, and the promise for follow-up to this measurement with the Keck Array (currently observing) and BICEP3 (deploying this year).

Free and open to the public, this lecture takes place in room 145 of the Meyer Science Center, located at 430 Howard Street in Wheaton. For more information, contact the Physics Department at 630.752.5007.

What Are Our Students Doing This Summer?

Posted by Physics
Summer Research

Every summer students from the Physics and Engineering department engage in a variety of research projects. Some of them stay here at Wheaton College and are part of the Wheaton Summer Research Program. Others get accepted into an REU program, which stands for Research Experience for Undergraduates, and participate in collaborative research often at a large state university or a national laboratory. While not exhaustive, the list below gives a glimpse of the research that our students are engaged in this summer.

 

Alex Armstrong (Physics ’15, Philosophy ’15)

Accepted into an REU at Kansas State University
“I will be doing research in High Energy Particle Physics. I am excited to get involved with the larger scientific community, practice my programming skills, and do a more in-depth look at a particular area of physics.”

Maddie Baltzer (Physics ’16)

Accepted into the Summer Research Program at Wheaton College
"This summer I will be working with Dr. Darren Craig to make localized velocity measurements of plasma. We will calibrate the Charge Exchange Recombination Spectroscopy (CHERS) system in order to find the absolute velocity of plasmas in the Madison Symmetric Torus (MST)."

Jonathan Cuthbertson (Physics ’15)

Accepted into an REU program at the University of South Florida
"I will be working on a project in Biophysics or Medical Engineering (I have not be assigned a specific project yet). Since I am currently planning on attending graduate school, this opportunity will present a sample of the kind of work I would be doing in the future. Also, who wouldn't like getting paid to have fun with physics?!"

Patrick Farley (Physics ’15)

Accepted into an internship at IBM at the Watson Research Center, Yorktown, NY
“I'll be working in a micro-fabrication lab building circuits and other hardware components. These will be special requests from various research teams. The lab is a kind of micro-business within the research center, with researchers as clients. I'm excited because I'll be able to work closely with experts in a variety of fields in science and technology. The Watson Research Center is comprised of many small specialized teams, and often teams reach across their fields of study to gain answers and solutions from each other. There's a lot of collaboration, and this results in more groundbreaking work being done.”

John Ginn (Physics ’15)

Accepted into the Summer Research Program at Wheaton College
“Dr. Heather Whitney and I will be looking into the evidence for radiation damping in magnetization transfer experiments. This is a phenomenon that disrupts the correct measurement of the exchange of magnetization between the free water and macromolecular pools in a semisolid. We will investigate this by both direct experimentation and through the building various models to describe the experiment. We hope to demonstrate through our investigations that radiation damping does affect these measurements and propose a method to compensate for this phenomena."

Spencer Hills (Chemical Physics ’16)

Accepted into the Summer Research Program at Wheaton College
"I will study with Dr. AJ Poelarends how stars behave near the end of their lives, specifically which stars become supernovae and which stars become white dwarfs. I am excited because I get to do research, learn how to use complex models and explore an exciting new field of physics."

David Martin (Physics ’15)

Accepted into a 10 week internship at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Denver, Colorado.
"My project investigates how electron transport affects the performance of thin film photovoltaic systems, potentially looking into energy storage. I am excited to work at NREL because it will teach me valuable laboratory skills for my future career, and exposes me to the renewable energy field about which I am passionate. I'm glad and blessed to have this opportunity and look forward to applying what I have learned at Wheaton, and learning more at NREL."

Michael Morken (Physics ’15)

Accepted into the Summer Research Program at Wheaton College
“I will be working on technical improvements to the Wheaton Impulsive Reconnection eXperiment (WIRX) under supervision of Dr. Darren Craig. I am excited about it because it will give me the chance to get exposure to an experiment in the design phase. I hope that I will be able to stay on the project long enough to see how the technical improvements lead to better data collection.”

Justin Provencher (Civil Engineering '16)

Accepted into an internship at LAN Associates, Midland Park, NJ
"I will be working on the creation and modification of AutoCAD drawings and plans, storm water and land calculations, on site construction administration, and any other aid to the civil engineering department. I'm excited to be immersed in the engineering field full time and to experience the different responsibilities of civil engineers both in and out of the office."

James Tarka (Physics ’15, Mathematics ’15)

Accepted into an REU at Louisiana State University Dept. of Physics & Astronomy
“I’ll be working on Loop Quantum Cosmology. I look forward to honing my programming skills and learning more about computational research in a field that it interesting, but is not really covered in undergraduate physics courses. I'm also excited to contribute to work on a significant project in physics, namely the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Finally, I'm excited to discover what professional research is like at a large state institution."

Meryl Vannoy (Chemical Engineering ’17)

Accepted into an REU project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Chemistry Department.
"I will be doing a project with functional hybrid materials and the shape change in thermoplastics used in 3D printing. I am most excited to be able to learn about an area of research that I’m not familiar with and to experience working in a lab for the first time.”

Josh Winchell (Physics ’14)

Accepted into an REU at the Texas A&M Cyclotron Institute.
"I don't have a specific project yet, but it would probably be something related to nuclear physics. I'm excited to gain some real-world experience and see how I perform on a single weeks-long task, as opposed to working on a bunch of rather unrelated homework at once.”

Two Physics Majors awarded the Alumni Association Senior Scholarship

Posted by Physics
Alumni Award 2014

Congratulations to Alexander Armstrong (Physics '15, Philosophy '15) and David Martin (Physics '15) for winning the Senior Scholarship awarded by the Wheaton College Alumni Association. Alex and David are two of the six students campus wide who received the award, based on their excellent campus and community involvement, academic interests and achievements, spiritual growth and insights, and future plans and goals. Both of them have been very involved in the department on various levels, including as a Teaching Assistant, summer researcher (Alex with Dr. Bishop and David with Dr. Craig), and in the Society of Physics Students. This summer Alex will do research at Kansas State University in High Energy Particle Physics, and David will do research at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Denver on photovoltaic systems. Congrats Alex and David!

Five New Members Inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma (Physics Honor Society)

Posted by Physics
Sigma Pi Sigma Spring 2014

On April 8, 2014 five new members were inducted in Sigma Pi Sigma, the Physics Honor Society. To be inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma, students need to attain high standards of general scholarship and outstanding achievements in physics. Criteria for induction in the Wheaton Sigma Pi Sigma Chapter include not only numerical standards for grade and class rank, but also a record of active participation in, and service to the department, through research and teaching assistant positions, as well as being active in the Society of Physics Students. 

This year's inductees, Alex Armstrong, David Martin, Michael Morken and James Tarka, all demonstrated this high level of commitment to physics by their involvement in summer research, high standards of scholarship, and excellent performance as teaching assistants in the department. In addition, also Dr. Robert Bishop was inducted as a member of Sigma Pi Sigma.

Wheaton College is home to one of the oldest chapters of Sigma Pi Sigma. Only ten years after the first chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma was founded in 1921 at Davidson College, the Wheaton College Chapter was chartered as the Upsilon (20th) Chapter. Since the beginning in 1931, 324 people have been inducted into the Wheaton College chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma. This represents many generations of experience and wisdom that can be brought to bear on matters of physics and common interest to all members.

Open Positions for Guest Instructors (Fall 2014)

Posted by Physics

The Physics Department at Wheaton College seeks instructors to teach introductory level lab sections for the Fall 2014 semester. Instructors are sought for both the algebra-based and calculus-based courses covering primarily Newtonian mechanics. A Masters or PhD  degree in physics or a closely related field is required. Previous physics teaching experience is desirable. Job duties include being present at all lab sessions, interacting with students during lab on a one-on-one level, occasionally delivering a mini-lecture, overseeing an undergraduate student teaching assistant, and attending lab practice sessions once a week with other instructors and student teaching assistants.
Wheaton College is an evangelical Christian liberal arts college whose faculty and staff affirm a Statement of Faith and adhere to lifestyle expectations. The College complies with federal and state guidelines of nondiscrimination in employment. Women and minority applicants are strongly encouraged to apply.  A letter of interest and a CV should be sent to Dr. Darren Craig, Chair of Physics, 501 College Ave., Wheaton, IL  60187 or emailed to darren.craig@wheaton.edu. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the positions are filled.

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