Grant will aid plasma physics research at Troy University

Posted: Monday, 06 October 2008

TROY – Troy University’s Plasma Physics Research Laboratory will increase its studies of shock wave plasma dynamics thanks to a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

The $132,000 grant will be used for the purchase of a high-resolution monochromator-CCD system for high temporal and spectral resolution spectroscopy.

“This will allow us to be more precise in looking at the properties of a propagating shock wave in plasma,” said Dr. Nirmol Podder, assistant professor of physics who heads the research lab.

Dr. Podder and his students are researching methods and mechanisms that can be used in cutting down some of the effects of shock waves created by various means – such as shock created by a supersonic airplane when breaking the sound barrier. The monochromator will allow him and his students to analyze atomic processes in the shock wave disturbances in nanosecond increments.

The lab was established with support from a Department of Energy (DOE) grant and undergraduate students from the Math and Physics Department, some of whom have already gone to pursue graduate studies, have been participating in the research projects.

“I’m thankful for the experience of working in this lab,” said Will McCurdy, a senior math major from Jack, AL. “This is something that will help me get into graduate school and a lot of that work is research-based. Being able to work with this equipment gives me a step ahead.”

Aaron LoCascio, a senior math major with a physics minor from Troy, is in his second year of the research program and has developed a refereed paper for a national journal and is currently developing a presentation for the American Physical Society Conference.

“There’s really no better way to learn than to see things in the lab first hand,” he said.

Dr. Podder echoed LoCascio’s proposition that first-hand experience makes connections often lost in textbook pages.

“The research each student undertakes leads not only to scientific discovery in the field of plasma physics, but it also provides students an invaluable experience that will enrich and enhance their appreciation of the value of scientific research,” he said. “It demonstrates the importance of hands-on research and the transfer of knowledge in society, and thus our students are better prepared for the next step in their careers.”

Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Troy University’s Plasma Physics Research Laboratory will get a boost from a $132,000 National Science Foundation Grant for additional equipment. The grant will help students study shockwave dynamics. Current researchers include, left to right, Will McCurdy, a senior math major from Jack, Dr. Nimrol Podder, the professor who directs the lab, Casey Hall, a freshman pre-engineering major from Reeltown, and Aaron LoCascio, a senor math major from Troy. (TROY photo/Clif Lusk)