Undergraduate who wants to be a neurosurgeon working to develop a new magnetometer with a thin resistive film

FSU undergraduate Daniel Suarez wants to be a neurosurgeon who also performs research.  So why is he developing a new magnetometer using a thin piezoresistive film? (Piezoresistive means the film’s electrical resistance changes when there is strain on the film)


I’ll leave it to Daniel to explain:

So my plan is to go to grad school and go through an MD PhD program. I haven’t decided whether I want the PhD in biomathematics, or biophysics. I eventually would like to be a neurosurgeon that also does research, but for the research I really want to combine neuroscience with math and physics. I think it’s really profound that complex impulses can lead to consciousness (even though trying to come up with the physics behind that is most likely impossible, but its just interesting to think about.) I figured that learning about conductivity through condensed matter studies would be a nice place to start the process of combining the fields.


Daniel is a graduate of Miami’s Christopher Columbus High School.

Daniel is presently funded on NSF-DMR 1309146 as an undergraduate
researcher under the supervision of Prof. J. Brooks


FSU undergraduate researcher who studied exotic geometries that occur in biological systems now in graduate school at Lehigh

The range of natural phenomena addressed by physicists can be simply breathtaking.  Physicists study the biggest possible system (the universe), and the smallest (quarks).  Cutting edge technological advances like quantum computing depend on physicists.  And physicists study living beings at the most fundamental level.

If you want to couple the deepest possible mathematics to living cells, you can’t be any more poetic than Harvard physicist Luca Giomi, who said this in the introduction to a 2012 paper in the premier physics journal, Physical Review Letters: “Fluid interfaces also bear a great potential for designing surfaces with special or tunable geometric properties.  Soap films, droplets, vesicles, micelles, and membranes are examples of this potential as well as of the intrinsic beauty of these fragile objects.”

Jesse Raffield, now a graduate student at Lehigh, plunged into the study of these biological geometries while an undergraduate physics major at FSU, where he graduated in 2013.  His contribution to this subfield has been published in the journal Procedia with research advisor and Physics Professor Per Arne Rikvold and two physicists from Marshall University, FSU alum Howard Richards (Ph.D. 1996) and James Molchanoff.

You can take a look at Raffied’s paper here:

J_Raffield_Hyperbolic_PP2014 (1)

What do physics majors do after graduation? FSU Physics alum Mandy Morland (B.S. ’11) is heading to DreamWorks this week

As a physics professor, I am often asked “What can physics majors do after graduation?”  I’ve tried to use the FPF web site to illustrate some of those options – law school, engineering, and information technology in addition to pursuing a Ph.D. in physics or a related field.  

Here is something a little different:  Mandy Morland, FSU Physics B.S. ’11, is a student in Clemson University’s Master’s program in Digital Production Arts.  This week, she is heading to DreamWorks in California after being chosen in the DreamWorks Effects Challenge 2014 Competition.  

I’ll let the Clemson public relations people tell the rest of the story below.  The picture is from Clemson – Mandy is on the left.

You can see Mandy’s master’s thesis demo, “Particle System Interaction with Motion Captured Mesh,” here.


Three Clemson Digital Production Arts students, Mandy Morland, Zhaoxin Ye, and Anuradha Pinisetty, were selected this year by DreamWorks Animation SKG in their worldwide DreamWorks Effects Challenge 2014 competition. This is a highly competitive program, typically selecting only five or six students from around the world. This is a record for Clemson. The DPA program regularly has students admitted to the FX Challenge, but the previous high in one year was two. The FX Challenge is a six month paid training program that is the fast track to a career in Visual Effects within DreamWorks, one of the top animation companies in the world.

Amanda “Mandy” Morland, Zhaoxin Ye, and Anuradha Pinisetty will head to Redwood City, California to begin their training on July 14 at DreamWork’s PDI Division. After six months, assuming successful completion of the program, Mandy and Zhaoxin will be placed in positions in either the Redwood City or Glendale, California studios. Anuradha is slated to be located in DreamWorks’ newest studio in Bangalore, India. All three recently completed their thesis work in key areas of Effects. Mandy developed an approach to integrating real-time particle system simulation with motion captured human motion, Zhaoxin investigated techniques for volumetric rendering and animation of clouds, and Anuradha worked on digitally recreating, animating and simulating costumes from a stage production. Their outstanding thesis work provided key elements for their visual portfolios submitted to DreamWorks for the selection process.

The DreamWorks website states that the FX Challenge is an intensive six month training program, it is designed to give recent graduates a firm knowledge base in the concepts critical to the design and animation of Visual FX in CG feature animation. The program covers programming, drawing, rendering, compositing, animation, simulation, and the fine art of taking direction. Critical to success is not only the commitment to learning new and potentially foreign concepts, but also the ability to work within a production team environment and seek advice from experts. We are looking for recent graduates in the fields of computer science or the visual arts who can demonstrate significant work in both fields; essentially programmers who create works of art or artists who can write their own programs. We’re looking for people who can imagine cool new ideas by combining disparate forms and approaches and then build beautiful images from them. 

FSU Physics major prepares for engineering career with materials research

Most new bachelor’s degree graduates in physics immediately move on to graduate school, but many pursue their graduate work in fields other than physics.  One-fifth of the physics majors continuing on to graduate school pursue graduate studies in engineering.

That’s the path that FSU physics major Michael Woods is intending to pursue.  This year, he’ll be applying for Fall 2015 admission to graduate programs in nuclear engineering.

Michael’s application will be particularly strong because of his research at the National High Magnetic Field laboratory.  Michael studies the dynamics of conduction electrons in metals under conditions of high pressure, high magnetic field and low temperature.


Michael’s role in the research is to prepare metal samples by cutting, etching, and polishing single crystals to the precise specifications needed for experiments.

According to the American Institute of Physics, 62% of physics bachelor’s graduates who pursue masters’ degrees in engineering obtain financial support for their graduate work through research assistantships, teaching assistantships, fellowships or scholarships.

Michael is a member of Dr. Stan Tozer’s group at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.  Amelia Estry and Linsey Rodenbach are also members of Tozer’s group.  The three of them are shown below.


Who would you choose to build a better Vibrating Sample Magnetometer? The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory chose a rising 2nd year undergraduate physics major

A vibrating sample magnetometer is a device for studying the magnetic properties of materials that was invented at MIT in 1955 (according to Wikipedia).  Such devices, which magnetize samples of materials and then shake them typically sixty times per second, are available from various high tech companies.

But none of the commercially available devices can operate at extremely cold temperatures – like one degree Kelvin – and very high magnetic fields – like 18 Tesla.  That’s what the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory needed, so they had to find someone to design and build such a device.  And the person they gave the job to was Linsey Rodenbach, a 2013 graduate of Tallahassee’s Chiles High School who will be a 2nd year physics major this fall.


Linsey is working on the project with Dr. Stan Tozer, a research faculty member at the Laboratory.  The Tozer group also includes two other undergraduate physics majors, Amelia Estry and Michael Woods.


Want to major in engineering or physics? What to look for when you are selecting a university

For a future engineer or physicist, learning the basic physics and mathematics is an important step.  But you learn to be a professional in the research laboratory, working with a group on the cutting edge.  As you can tell from some of our recent posts, we believe research participation is an indispensable core component of learning to be an engineer or physicist.  And you shouldn’t have to wait until your senior year to be involved in research – many of our students are able to get involved during the summer following the first year.

But you have to learn the basic science – and learn it with deep understanding – to become a strong professional engineer or physicist.  So when selecting a university at which to study engineering or physics, look for one where the Physics Department and other academic departments in which you’ll be involved have adopted teaching models that give students the best opportunity to learn well.

The Studio Physics Program at FSU is an example of such a model.  FSU Physics faculty adopted the SCALE-UP instructional model developed originally by physicists at North Carolina State University.  The model deemphasizes lectures and focuses on collaborative laboratory and problem-solving exercises.  The FSU Studio Physics Program serves about 200 students each semester in its two specialized classrooms, one of which is shown below.

Class PanoramaFortunately for Florida students, the state’s public university system is a national leader in adopting this sort of advanced pedagogy in physics.  Florida A&M University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida State University, the University of Central Florida and the University of West Florida all offer highly interactive introductory physics courses.

From high school to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in one short year

A year ago, Amelia Estry was addressing the Deltona High School Class of 2013 as its valedictorian and looking forward to beginning her studies as a physics major at Florida State University.

What a difference a year makes.  This summer, Amelia is a member of a research group at FSU’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, where she is studying antiferromagnetic materials that exhibit unique superconductive properties.

amelia3Producing the material in which she is interested, which includes the elements cerium and indium, requires 30 days of baking in a furnace at the laboratory.

In addition to her work in Tallahassee, Amelia’s summer agenda includes a working visit to New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she will continue her work on materials science.