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College of Arts and Sciences Physics and Astronomy

Dr. Universe: Why does the moon have phases?

Dr. UniverseWhen astronomers looked at the night sky long ago, they also wondered about questions just like this one. You know, I was also curious about why the moon looks so different at different times of the month.

I visited with my friend Jose Vazquez, an astronomer at WSU Vancouver, to learn more about it. He said that the way the moon looks to us has to do with two other objects in » More …

Physics and Astronomy celebrates centennial with year of public events

collage of imagesFrom critical early developments in television technology to recent detection of cosmic phenomena in faraway galaxies, WSU physicists have been at the forefront of scientific education, innovation, and discovery for 100 years. This fall, the Department of Physics and Astronomy (P&A) will launch a yearlong series of free, public events to celebrate its long history of achievement and strong foundation for future success. » More …

Dr. Universe: What are shooting stars made of?

Dr. UniverseIf you are anything like me, you probably like watching for shooting stars in the night sky. A shooting star, or a meteor, is usually a small rock that falls into Earth’s atmosphere.

When I went to visit my friend Michael Allen, a senior instructor of astronomy and physics at WSU, he told me a lot of shooting stars are no bigger than a pencil eraser.

“The earth is going to pass a random pebble once in a while and that will make a streak in the sky,” he said. » More …

Four CAS faculty elected to state Academy of Sciences

College of Arts and Sciences, Washington State UniversityIn September, four CAS faculty will join the ranks of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, an organization that advances science in the state and informs public policy.

“It’s a great honor that so many WSU scientists have been recognized by the Washington State Academy of Sciences,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “They’ll be contributing their expertise to some of the most important issues we face in Washington. It’s another way » More …

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 …