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James' Forthcoming Book Included in Johns Hopkins University Press Fall Catalog

A new book by Professor Renee James will be featured in the fall catalog of the prestigious Johns Hopkins University Press. Dr. James' book, Science Unshackled, explains the sometimes unexpected impact of basic science research on modern life. As the catalog notes, "With a novelistic style, C. Renee James reveals how obscure studies of natural phenomena--including curved space-time, poisonous cone snails, exploding black holes, and the precise chemical makeup of the sun--led unexpectedly to WiFi, GPS, genetic sequencing, pain medications, and cancer treatments."

A description and capsule review of the book can be found on page 8 of the catalog. A digital version of the catalog can be viewed here.


Walker Awarded 2014 Enhancement Research Grant

Associate Professor Joel Walker has been awarded a competitive “2014 Enhancement Research Grant” by the Sam Houston State University Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for a proposal entitled “Dynamically Determining Stable Local Minima in No-Scale Supergravity”. This funding affords Dr. Walker valuable summer research time to investigate specific mechanisms by which physical parameters such as the mass of the Dark Matter particle might be naturally predicted.

Additionally, a research assistantship will be funded for two SHSU undergraduate physics students, Jesse Cantu and Trenton Voth, working on optimization of search strategies applicable to related models of physics at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

With cooperative support from the Department of Physics, the College of Sciences, and the SHSU Society of Physics Students, Dr. Walker will also represent Sam Houston State at a planning conference for a next-generation 100 TeV Particle Collider (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center), a conference on high energy physics Phenomenology (University of Pittsburgh - accompanied by Jesse Cantu and recent SHSU graduate William Ellsworth), a workshop on Dark Matter and Collider Physics (Texas A&M University), a workshop on creation of particles in the early universe (Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics), and a conference on Particle Physics and Cosmology (University of Guanajuato, Leon, Mexico).

Dr. Walker will present research findings at each of the latter four meetings on topics to include the no-scale F-SU(5) grand unified theory (with Dimitri Nanopoulos, Tianjun Li and James Maxin), enhancement of supersymmetric particle decay signatures using boosted event topologies (with Bhaskar Dutta and Kuver Sinha), and applications of his computer program AEACuS to the projection of current LHC data refinement strategies onto simulated particle collisions (with Jesse Cantu and William Ellsworth).


Fang Contributes to Groundbreaking Research on Nanoparticle Cobalt Oxide Photocatalyst

Dr. Hui Fang, faculty member in the Department of Physics, participated in a breakthrough research led by Dr. Jiming Bao from University of Houston on nanoparticle cobalt oxide photocatalyst. This research was the first to use cobalt oxide and the first to use neutral water under visible light at high energy conversion efficiency without co-catalysts or sacrificial chemicals. Cobalt oxide nanoparticles were prepared in two ways, using femtosecond laser ablation and through mechanical ball milling. Once the nanoparticles are added and light applied, the water separates into hydrogen and oxygen almost immediately, producing twice as much hydrogen as oxygen. The research demonstrated the potential of using cobalt oxide nanoparticles as a source of renewable fuel. The results of this research were published in Nature Nanotechnology under the title, “Efficient solar water-splitting using a nanocrystalline CoO photocatalyst”.


Pooley Awarded Grant from Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Dr. David Pooley, faculty member in the Department of Physics, has received the Cottrell College Science Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA). As RCSA describes the award: "The Cottrell College Science Award (CCSA) program, RCSA's oldest initiative, was created in the early 1970s to promote basic research as a vital component of undergraduate education at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs). Program initiatives are aimed at helping early career faculty to start active research programs targeting complex scientific problems. Because most modern problems in science require teamwork and often cross-disciplinary approaches, CCSA encourages collaborative work."

Dr. Pooley's research supported by this grant will focus on understanding the late stages of evolution in the lives of massive stars. As stars age, they lose a portion of their mass in the form of a wind. The amount of material lost in this wind is not well known, and it can vary as the star goes through different stages before finally dying in a violent explosion known as a supernova. The timescales for these stages are thousands to millions of years, so it is impossible to study this in real time. However, certain types of emissions, such as X-rays and emission lines from hydrogen, are produced as a fast-moving shock wave from the supernova races through the material that was shed earlier in the life of the star. X-ray observations and hydrogen emission observations therefore act like a time machine, tracing the mass-loss history of the progenitor star. With this grant, Dr. Pooley will perform a search of existing X-ray satellite observations, and will also equip the SHSU Observatory to perform systematic observations of the hydrogen emission lines from supernovae.


Students Present Posters at American Astronomical Society Meeting in Washington, DC

Two students in Sam Houston State University’s Department of Physics, Anna Kareva and Cale Lewis, joined the department’s Assistant Professor Scott Miller at the recent semi-annual American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Washington, DC on January 5-9, 2014. At this nationally prominent four-day meeting, astronomers and students from every specialty field within the discipline provide presentations on their work. See full story at the College of Sciences website.


Walker Named KITP Scholar

Dr. Joel Walker was named a 2013-2015 KITP Scholar by the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with two weeks of travel to the institute funded for three consecutive years.


 

Astronomy Faculty Members Bringing an Important ASSET to Area Secondary Educators

Dr. Scott Miller and Dr. C. Renee James of Sam Houston State University's Department of Physics are almost ready to provide an ASSET to regional science teachers. A two-week, on-campus workshop for secondary educators whose courses include an astronomy component, ASSET (Astronomy Summer School of East Texas) will be held from July 15 through July 26, 2013, and then again in the summer of 2014. Dr. Miller and Dr. James were awarded over $200,000, through NASA's Education and Public Outreach in Earth and Space Science arm, to offer educators a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in astronomy as they learn engaging, student-centered activities. With over 25 years' combined experience in astronomical research and astronomy education research, Dr. Miller and Dr. James will be drawing upon the abundant resources from decades of NASA missions.

According to Dr. Miller, "In this workshop we will help teachers incorporate real NASA data in their lesson plans, so they can teach their students HOW we know what we know about astronomy, rather than simply learning it as a bunch of random facts."

The teachers themselves will get to play the role of the student for the first week, as they "test-drive" various astronomy activities that address the required TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) and the Next Generation Science Standards with research-backed astronomy education techniques. During the second week, teachers will get to incorporate what they've learned into their own curricula, personalizing it for the students they encounter daily.

"One problem with many workshops is that you get all these ideas, but you don't have time to figure out how to incorporate them into your classes," James said. "By the time the semester starts, you revert to the old methods because changing things is too much effort. But with ASSET, participants will get the chance to show us and the other teachers how they will implement these ideas, and they will provide feedback to each other. They'll make the changes at the workshop, so that they're ready when the school year starts back up."


Distinguished Texas A&M Professor Suntzeff Speaks on “Our Dark Universe” at SHSU

Nicholas B. Suntzeff, a Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor and holder of the Mitchell/Heep/Munnerlyn Chair of Astronomy in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Texas A&M, was a guest lecturer at a public talk presented by the Department of Physics on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, at 7:30 p.m., in Room AB4, Olson Auditorium, on the Sam Houston State University campus. See full story at the College of Sciences website.


During 2008 Dr. Renee James won the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society's Popular Writing Award for her piece in Sky & Telescope, was an invited speaker for the first "Let's Talk!" program that raised money for the Honors Program, and was asked to participate in "Scout Day at Sam" that helped two dozen girl scouts with their astronomy requirements. In addition, Dr. James was nominated for the SHSU Excellence in Teaching Award and won the SPS Physics Professor of the Year Award.


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