The FSU Physics Department welcomes Presidential Scholar Gregory Seel, a graduate of Winter Park High School. Here is what Gregory has to say about why he chose physics:
Ever since I was just a few years old, I always asked questions to myself about the world, and wondered and imagined how and why things happened. I always did well in math because the logic of it just came naturally to me, and I enjoyed the sciences too. But I never considered that the two could ever be very close, aside from the numbers and figures one might obtain from an experiment. They always seemed like two separate worlds.
In high school, I tried biology and chemistry, but neither really excited me or caught my attention. Then, without having any idea of what was to come, I took physics in eleventh grade. My teacher was Ms. Gayle Hodges, a former NASA employee. And it shook my understanding of math and science; finally, a grand uniting of the two realms I loved but could not bring together on my own! I had no idea that science could be so heavily math-based. However, the math component only helped me understand this new subject even more thoroughly, and I found myself captivated by every new field I was exposed to.
I did not know it at the time, but it was exactly what I was looking to do in college and my career, which is why I came to a school with such strong programs in both physics and research! I cannot yet pick one field among all of them as my favorite, or as the one I want to work in the most. I want to work in all of them before I can make that decision. But I can’t put into words how excited I am to actually be here and to have the opportunity to do so.
Gregory is a member of Florida State University’s first class of 25 Presidential Scholars, all first year students who arrived this fall.
According to FSU’s news office, they will benefit from unprecedented support and educational experiences through the university’s new premier undergraduate merit scholarship program.The Presidential Scholars Program provides four years of support to critical and innovative thinkers who use their talents to make meaningful contributions to society. The scholars receive additional funding for educational enrichment opportunities including international experiences, research and creative projects, service learning projects or public service, internships and entrepreneurial development.
In addition, the scholars will benefit from faculty mentoring, leadership training and regular group meetings. The students also will be among the first to use the new Honors, Scholars and Fellows House, a learning center for the best and brightest students.
Among the many remaining puzzles about how elements are produced in stars is the mystery of aluminum-26, a radioactive isotope with an isomeric state that has a half-life of 700,000 years, which is actually fairly short compared to cosmological timescales. In certain meteorite samples, there is a surprisingly large amount of this isotope compared to the stable aluminum isotopes, aluminum-27.
FSU graduate student Jess Baker is working to untangle this mystery.
Jess, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Clark University in Massachusetts, is working at FSU’s John D. Fox Superconducting Linear Accelerator Laboratory using the lab’s RESOLUT facility for producing beams of short-lived radioactive nuclei. The radioactive isotope that Jess uses to induce the reactions she is studying is aluminum-25, which has a life-life of only seven seconds.
Jess’ dissertation work under Ph.D. advisor Ingo Wiedenhoever has involved the commissioning of a detector for neutrons produced in her reaction. The detector (a segment of which is shown above) has been christened RESONEUT.
The Fox Lab has received two large grants from the National Science Foundation in recent weeks. One was for $4.5 million to fund lab operations for the next three years. The other, for $200,000, is to install a 50-ton magnetic spectrometer at the laboratory. The spectrometer will provide further opportunities for expanding the lab’s astrophysics studies.
The Fox Lab has been continuously funded by the federal government for more than 50 years and is one of the nation’s leading producers of Ph.D.’s in nuclear science.
From the American Physical Society:
Susan Blessing, a Professor of Physics at Florida State University (FSU), has done almost everything an educator can do to encourage undergraduate women to pursue science and engineering careers.
Blessing is the Director of Florida State University’s Women in Math, Science and Engineering (WIMSE) Program, which is a living-learning community for science and engineering majors. She is also the Director of the Physics Department’s Undergraduate Program. Dr. Blessing was the 2013 Chair of the American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and served as the organizer for one of the APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics sites, which was held at FSU in January, 2014. In addition to all this, she has created an innovative course for physics majors to ease the often wrenching transition from introductory to upper division courses.
Dr. Blessing encourages her WIMSE students to join FSU research groups early in their time here. She also encourages the students to venture out into the bigger world during the summers, joining undergraduate research programs around the globe. One WIMSE physics major spent the summer of 2012 at CERN and was in the CERN seminar room when the Higgs announcement and history were made.