Friday, 18 of April of 2014

Category » Senior Projects

Natural Sciences Students Present Research at Central Regional American Chemical Society Meeting

Newly graduated LTU students Natalia Porcek (Molecular and Cell Biology 2012) and Justin Vail (Chemical Biology 2012) presented senior project research conducted under the supervision of Dr. Shannon Timmons at the Central Regional American Chemical Society meeting in Dearborn, MI.  Natalia’s project involved the development of a new organic chemistry laboratory experiment based on the popular drug warfarin, while Justin’s research involved the organic synthesis of novel carbohydrate-based drug candidates.  Both Natalia and Justin will be entering PhD programs this fall at Michigan State and Notre Dame, respectively.  Congratulations, Natalia and Justin!

Natalia Porcek and Dr. Shannon Timmons

Dr. Shannon Timmons and Justin Vail

Creation of Physics activities in an Outdoor Education Camp – Bradley McCarthy – Current

Bradley McCarthy (Current Physics major) is working on a project where he is adding physics activities to an outdoor recreational summer camp.  As part of the project he evaluated the needs of camp and available resources (including a zipline, climbing tower, high ropes, low ropes, water front, etc.).  Brad also researched the State of Michigan Benchmark standards for elementary and middle school, and wrote guidelines for camp activities (passive and active).  Advisor: Dr. Changgong Zhou (

Galaxy morphology classification – Levente (Levi) Dojcsak – Current

Levi Dojcsak (Current dual Physics and Mathematics major) is working (with Dr. Lior Shamir from MCS) on a galaxy morphology classification project.  He is using a software program (written by Dr. Shamir) that quantitatively estimates and compares the spirality of face-on elliptical galaxies. There are a large number of classified galaxy images available with measured redshifts through the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and the Galaxy Zoo Project. The initial tests of the Ganalyzer program suggest that there are features in the galaxies that cannot be seen by naked eye, such as bars and spirals. These features are quantifiable using computer analysis tools that can do rigorous measurement of light intensities.  Advisor: Dr. Lior Shamir (, and Dr. Scott Schneider (

Computational Visualization of Abstract Concepts in Educational Environments – Scott Bakkila – current

Scott Bakkila (current Physics/CS major) is working on an interactive computational graphic environment to represent selected physics models in the classroom.  Solutions of complex physics problems could be presented and interacted with, from simple models of the range formula to elaborate models involving second order solutions of objects accelerating through a fluid. By extending the learning environment into interactive visual space, students will be better prepared to apply abstract methods to real world situations.  The focus of this project is to create an expandable unified interactive 3D environment using the Microsoft DirectX® interface that can be applied to nearly any subject that involves science or mathematics. Initial development will involve topics covered in introductory physics courses such as the equations of motion. These will be expanded to allow students to see a glimpse of how these approximations behave in real-world situations. For instance, the equations of motion will be shown to be approximations of solutions involving air resistance, wind, and even positional corrections for the earth’s rotation.  Advisor: Dr. Scott Schneider (

Dynamically stabilized biped robot – Will Liska – 2011

Will Liska (2011 Physics Graduate, Minor Mathematics) worked on the computer model of a dynamically stabilized biped robot.  Physics concepts of linear and angular momentum, moment of inertia, and torques were incorporated into a computer model to simulate the stability of a bipedal balanced object.  “Shoves” could be given to the robot and the program attempted to keep the robot stable (and graphically illustrated the action).  Various complexities in the model and the calculations limited the extent of the development of the model.  Advisor: Dr. William Madden (

NSTX Heat Flux Analysis – Nathan Gardner – 2011

Nathan Gardner (2011 Physics graduate) spent a summer at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and worked on some calculations involving heat fluxes in the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX).  .  The NSTX is an experimental fusion reactor at PPPL; spherical torus refers to the shape of the fusion reaction chamber, a shape which allows for a lower input power than any other tested shape for starting fusion reactions.  The heat fluxes need to be studied for a better understanding of how the plasma interacts with and affects the inner parts of the device so future reactors can better control the heat fluxes and utilize more resistant materials in the device.  Nathan’s work involved calibrating the IR cameras used, and analyzing the real world data and compare to simulations for future predictive power.   Advisor: Dr. Valentina Tobos (

Laser optical trap – Jason Miller – 2011

Jason Miller (2011 Physics graduate) constructed, calibrated, and utilized an optical trap in order to observe micro-scale phenomena.  This type of system is also known as ‘optical tweezers’ for its capability to hold and move micro- and nano- sized objects.  Optical tweezers are created by focusing a laser through a high numerical aperture objective, forming a ‘trap’ at the focal point of the objective.  The result is a ‘cage’ that can hold nano- and micro- sized particles and can be used for a large number of applications in physics, chemistry and biology.  Advisor: Dr. Changgong Zhou (

High speed video analysis of Lacrosse shooters – Jae Choi – in progress

Jae Choi (current Physics major) is working on a high speed video analysis project involving analyzing the common varieties of Lacrosse swings.  A high speed video camera (capable of 240 or 480 frames per second) will be used along with some tracking software.  Jae is working with a local Lacrosse team to record “expert” swings, and he will analyze the physical concepts involved (linear momentum, angular momentum, power, and energy) in order to compare and contrast the efficiencies of the different swings.   Advisor: Dr. Scott Schneider (

Light Orbit paths around a black hole – Anthony Mitchell – 2010

Anthony Mitchell (2010 Masters graduate in Computer Science) performed calculations in General Relativity as a part of a graduate research project in physics.  Using the Schwartzschild metric describing the curvature of space and time around a black hole, Anthony performed some high precision calculations to seek a “boomarang” orbit around a black hole.  The computer program iterates from different starting positions to calculate the proper starting angle to have the beam of light circle the black hole a specified number of times before returning to the starting location.  This involved converting some existing theoretical calculations into computer code, and generating the converging routines to allow for the iterative calculations.  The final orbits were then graphically shown, and data tables were generated.  Advisor: Dr. Scott Schneider (

Earth orbit distance increase to avoid Sun red giant phase – and tilt of the rotational axis of Venus – Charles Frank – 2011

Charles Frank (2011 graduate in Physics and Biophysics, minor in Chemistry and Biology) performed two major astronomy calculations for his senior project.  The first involved analyzing a theoretical (hypothetical) plan to use a long-period asteroid to nudge the Earth into a steadily larger orbit, with the goal to move away from the Sun as the Sun expands in its red giant phase.  He analyzed the parameters necessary and also discussed factors that would influence how unrealistic this plan would be in practice.  Chuck also performed numerous calculations involving the tilt of the rotational axis of Venus.  He started with the supposition that an object collided with a Venus that had a more Earth-like “upward” rotation, and resulted in the “upside down” tilt of the axis (by analyzing the linear and angular momentum calculations involved with a collision in orbit).  Advisor: Dr. Scott Schneider (