|Student does advanced research with professor
RELEASED: July 10, 2003
DANVILLE, KYCentre senior John Burke is in his second summer of collaborative research on optical pumping with physics professor Marshall Wilt.
They're trying to see if it's possible to measure the relation between an electron's spinning motion and its magnetic properties. This depends on a constant called the gyro-magnetic ratio, using an optical pumping technique. Optical pumping is a technique for producing spin alignment in a gas of suitable atoms.
"I became interested in this research as a way to learn about optics and atomic physics and also to learn about general methods of conducting modern physics research," said Burke, a physics major from Paris, Ky.
An added bonus has been that he's learned a lot about electronics because of the repairs and adjustments that are made to the hand-built equipment.
"I've learned a lot from (Dr. Wilt) that I don't think I would have otherwise. He's very interesting and methodical, and he'll stop what he's doing to explain something," Burke said.
One of the reasons Wilt chose this complex research is because he believed it was a good subject for undergraduate collaboration. The project is in its fourth year, and Wilt predicts it may take another two to complete. If successful, he hopes to publish the findings in the American Journal of Physics.
Burke said that he's a "science kid" from way back, but his high school didn't offer many classes in the field and his interest waned. He came to Centre thinking he would focus his studies on computers.
"Then I took a physics class here with Dr. (Phil) Lockett (associate professor of physics) and I thought, 'Oh yeah, I like science!' "
Burke, who proves you can take the kid out of science but not the science out of the kid, plans to go to graduate school in the area of nuclear, particle or astronomical physics.
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