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Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences builds momentum with two new labs

Photo Illustration by Kayla Stroud/THE SPECTATOR

Written by Michaela Leung, Staff Writer

The Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences Department now has a Plasma Lab and Geochemistry Lab on campus.

The department put in the request to convert classroom 30151 in Nevins Hall into two small labs. Construction for the labs began in the summer of 2013 and the grand opening was November 2015.

Students can choose to concentrate in plasma-surface effects for different types of anodized and un-adonized metals, optical emission spectroscopy of plasma during etching, effects of surface preparation on the plasma etching process, or the effect of RF frequency on the plasma properties.

“Back in high school science class, you learned about the four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas and plasma,” said Dr. Dereth Drake, assistant professor of physics. “Our lab is dedicated to characterizing this fourth state. Of course this should not be confused with blood plasma, which is actually a liquid.”

The lab is already starting to produce great rewards for students. In November, Ashley Hardy and Christina Epperson attended the 57th Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Plasma Physics where they both competed in the undergraduate poster competition.

Epperson’s poster won the award for Outstanding Undergraduate Poster. Hardy has also recently been chosen to be featured in the booklet “Physics in Your Future” which highlights women in different stages of their Physics careers.

“The lab’s focus is on plasma etching, but the lab also looks to provide students with hands-on research experience using high quality equipment,” Dr. Drake said.

The Plasma Research Laboratory can only be used by juniors and seniors in the department.

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