Two UNK Physics Majors Receive Prestigious National Science Foundation Research Grants

Dr. Jose Mena-Werth
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Two physics majors at the University of Nebraska at Kearney have been awarded prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grants.

Richard Garrelts, Amherst, will be working in optics with Dr. Peter Persans at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Physics in Troy, N. Y.

“Dr. Persan’s research is particularly concerned with optical and electro-optical properties of nanocrystalline and quantum dot materials,” Garrelts said. “This will be my second REU experience.  Last summer, I worked for Caltech as part of the LIGO project to detect gravitational radiation.”

Eric Watson, Kearney, will conduct research at Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., and Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., through the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy. He will work with Dr. Brad Meyer of the Clemson University Department of Physics and Astronomy “conducting research in theoretical stellar astrophysics that will involve some computational aspects as well as some simple Web-based programming.”

“I applied for this REU, because I wanted to gain some experience with conducting scientific research,” Watson said. “I choose to spend my summer this way, because summer is usually one of the best times of year to observe the sky.”

“The students wrote the grant applications themselves with encouragement from the UNK physics faculty,” said Dr. Jose Mena-Werth, physics department chair. “This experience will help them [Garrelts and Watson] decide if scientific research is what they want to pursue as a career.”

According to information from the National Science Foundation, REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specially designed for the purpose.