Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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Department of Physics
Student Research Opportunities
Employers and graduate schools alike are looking for students who have experience using advanced equipment that you do not find in your typical classes. The ability to collect, interpret, and present data in a clear and concise manner is not just a principle of the scientific method, but an expectation in a global economy. Students in the WIU physics department have coauthored several papers and been co-presenters at dozens of state, national, and international conferences in recent years.
Atomic Force Microscope/Magnetic Force Microscopy
The AFM/MFM (pictured above) has been an important tool in furthering our understanding of magenetoelastic torque sensors. In MFM mode, we can locate and measure the thickness and intensity of a magnetic domain wall on the sensor. In AFM mode, we can observe the surface of an integrated circuit. Work done with the AFM/MFM serves as the basis of both a Master's thesis and an undergraduate honors thesis this year.
The discovery of the superconducting properties of magnesium diboride in the last two years has been a hot new area of research nationally and an area of interest in our own spectroscopy lab here at WIU. Following a colloquim by Dr. Canfield of Ames Laboratory at WIU (the discoverer of MgB2's properties), interested students started adding to the body of research in this field by performing Raman scattering experiments on magnesium diboride samples to provide additional insights regarding the crystalline structure of the superconducting sample.
Employers expect more than scientific reasoning and proficient computers skills from today's graduates, they also expect graduates to be comfortable and familiar with advanced scientific instrumentation and the tools that are needed to perform research in an industrial, goverment, or academic setting. Students in the superconductivity research group not only utilize the spectrometer to analyze the structure of the samples under study, but also must use tools such as super-magnets, current supplies, and volt-meters to determine critical current densities and critical temperatures of the superconducting samples.
While not as glamourous or high tech as the AFM or a laser spectrometer, the use of a lathe or a drill press is equally important to the researcher who must construct their own equipment or samples for study. The WIU physics department is fortunate to have a fully functional machine shop in-house. Students without much experience are matched up with highly-skilled students so that those skills can be passed down as students move through the program, graduate, and leave. Skills in the machine shop are especially valuable, if not required, for those who wish to pursue a career in the industrial sector. (previous | next)