Centre College professor and student teach experimental sessions in Italy

Posted by Centre News in News, Physics, Research 11 Apr 2017

Italy ResearchAlong with students, Centre College faculty are given opportunities to travel abroad and share their expertise in their field of study, and one professor and student will have a special opportunity to share their collaborative research during a two-week program in Italy.

Assistant Professor of Physics Bruce Rodenborn has been invited to be a member of the faculty at the Hands-On Research in Complex Systems School in Trieste, Italy, this summer.

“I look forward to being a senior faculty member and leading my own sessions,” he said.

Rodenborn explained how his experimental session will be using a fluid system that consists of concentric rotating cylinders with fluid in a small gap between the two cylinders. This particular system has a history of being used to study fluid dynamics, nonlinear dynamics and was the first system that was quantitatively shown to exhibit chaotic behavior.

“We will recreate parts of that seminal experiment with our simple fluid system, a webcam and scientific software for analysis,” he said.

This is the same research that junior Tyree Wilmoth had the opportunity to work with Rodenborn last summer and she was asked to join him and assist in teaching the sessions. Wilmoth will help teach a single seminar on how to use the same webcam as a spectrometer by fitting a piece of a DVD across the lens, which acts as a grating, Rodenborn said.

“I am honored to participate in such a phenomenal experience, and I am certain that it will help shape my future goals, as I wish to pursue a life of global service,” Wilmoth said.

Along with teaching the experimental sessions, Rodenborn will also give a talk about his research at Centre and the difference between the liberal arts faculty experience versus the research university faculty role.

Rodenborn is not new to the Hands-On Research School, as he has been invited to participate in several other school locations over the years.

“I was first invited to participate in 2007 by my Ph.D. advisor Harry Swinney, who along with two other colleagues created the school that year,” he said. “I was Swinney’s assistant for schools held in Gandhinagar, India; Sao Paolo, Brazil; Buea, Cameroon; and Shanghai, China.”

Funded by UNESCO and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, the school is based on the concept that modern electronics make it possible to conduct physics experiments using low-cost consumer instruments, Rodenborn explained.

Faculty from a variety of universities demonstrate experimental techniques that can be used in the home countries of the school location. Rodenborn said faculty also teach professional development sessions about how to write journal articles, write grants, give scientific presentations, make effective posters and get a tenure track teaching job.

“The Hands-On Research in Complex Systems School has had a large impact on my career as a researcher and on the lives of many of the participants who have been exposed to a different way of approaching experimental science,” Rodenborn said. “The school showed that I can teach at a liberal arts college and conduct scientific research with a smaller budget, while still contributing to the body of scientific literature.”

by Kerry Steinhofer
April 11, 2017

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