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College of Arts and Sciences Physics and Astronomy

Dark sky advocate

Night sky outside Stanley, Idaho (via WS Magazine)For billions of years, Earthly life has flourished in a reassuring 24-hour cycle of light and darkness. Over the past century, however, urban skies have grown increasingly clouded with light pollution. The excess light disrupts circadian rhythms, poses safety and health risks, wastes energy, and exacts a sad aesthetic toll as well.

For humans, the stars have long provided a primal connection to the cosmos, inspiring the imagination of artists, philosophers, and scientists throughout history. Today, residents of the Pacific Northwest remain among the few who » More …

CAS seniors prioritize knowledge, service to others

Devon Holze, Gavin Pielow, and Trevor Foote.Devon Holze said she “hated math” until she took a class in calculus and discovered she loved it. Around the same time, she also grew passionate about political science, and now believes in the power of combining knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with the ability to communicate that knowledge to other people.

Holze is among 25 students named Outstanding Seniors of 2019 in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). The recognition is based on » More …

Annual awards honor faculty, staff, student achievement

group photo on the stageSixteen faculty, six staff, and six graduate students were honored for outstanding achievement at the 2019 College of Arts and Sciences Appreciation and Recognition Social earlier this month.

Professor Mechthild Tegedar, an international leader in plant biology, and Gary Collins, a pioneer in the study of material defects, received the top two faculty awards. Chuck Cody and Paul Wheeler, both in » More …

Doctoral students pack years of research into three minutes

11 faces and 3MT logoFrom creating voice-responsive materials, to enabling regrowth of lost fingers and limbs, to reducing stress on caregivers of autistic children, to unearthing cultural history in Puget Sound, a wide range of high-impact research topics were expeditiously explained in the recent CAS Three Minute Thesis contest.

Eleven Pullman-based doctoral students competed for valuable fellowship prizes by presenting their years of dissertation work in three minutes or less, using just one visual slide, and in language anyone could understand. » More …

New federal grants support energy research

Kevin Lynn.Kelvin Lynn, Regents Professor with a dual appointment in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has received a $200,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office to advance solar research and development.

Lynn, who is also the Boeing Chair for Advanced Materials, and his group are working to improve cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar technology. Silicon solar cells represent 90 percent of the solar cell market, but CdTe solar cells offer a low‑cost alternative. They have the lowest carbon footprint in solar technology and » More …

The physics of fall

A pumpkin exploding as it collides with the earthWith murmurs and pointing, the crowd watches as a face and then hands—holding a large object—appear in the twelfth-story window of WSU’s Webster Physical Sciences Building.

On the ground, Butch T. Cougar begins a countdown: five, four, three, two… At one, the hands release a 10-pound, half-frozen pumpkin that rockets to the courtyard, exploding in a confetti-bomb of cheers, screams, and a thousand gooey fragments. So begins that nerdy-fun Dad’s Weekend tradition—the Pumpkin Drop. » More …

WSU startup receives NSF research grant

Klar logo imageA startup company launched by WSU physicist Matthew McCluskey received a $740,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase-II grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue the research and development of a new affordable and easy-to-use microscope.

Klar Scientific designs and manufactures an innovative spectroscopic confocal optical profile (COP) microscope, which collects » More …

Scholarships for faculty-mentored research

College of Arts and SciencesSeven students and six faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences are among this year’s 27 recipients of two selective scholarships offered by the WSU Office of Undergraduate Research for students pursuing mentored research, scholarly activity or creative projects at WSU.

“Our ability to support students in their research is made possible thanks to generous donors who envision the contributions these students will make in the future to Washington, the United States, and » More …

Physics research heads to International Space Station

Rocket on lauchpad in the distance, seen against setting sunWSU physicists have a new laboratory in outer space. On May 20, the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), a remotely operated research platform, blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) where it will be used by researchers to probe quantum phenomena that would be impossible to observe on Earth.

Professor Peter Engels and graduate student Maren Mossman will use CAL remotely » More …

North America’s first electron microscope

Composite image of the restored microscope and the researchers' notebookEarly in the 20th century, a five-foot-tall golden microscope on the Washington State University campus was the most powerful imaging device on the continent. Despite its scientific significance, it has been largely lost from the pages of history.

“Europe’s first electron microscope earned its inventors a Nobel prize and is on display at the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of science and technology, while nobody really knows about our instrument.” said Michael Knoblauch, biology professor and director of WSU’s Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center. “Something of this significance should be in the Smithsonian.” » More …