University of Evansville

Physics Alumni E-Newsletter

July 2013

In this edition

Faculty Profile: Angela Reisetter
Written by Chelsea Modglin

Having only been with UE for a year, Dr. Angela Reisetter is a relatively new addition to the physics department. But her passion for physics and teaching promises that she will be a valuable addition to both the department and the university.

"I probably have been interested in [physics] for a long time, but the first time I knew what I wanted to do was when I took my first astronomy class in high school," she said. "I became interested in physics because I'm fascinated with knowing the deep down workings of things, what causes things to behave the way they do. The connections made by the laws of physics, for instance, the fact that it's the same basic phenomenon of wave behavior that explains how I hear things and how the ocean moves and why the stars look red or blue, that really excites me."

When Reisetter accepted the job to teach at the University of Evansville nearly a year ago, she knew exactly what kind of school would accommodate her love for exploration and her desire to encourage others to explore as well.

"I was looking for a quality small private school with a commitment to [both] teaching and research as teaching," she said. And she found it at UE.

While Reisetter finds all areas of physics to be intellectually stimulating, no other area is more exciting to her than dark matter.

"I try to figure out what the universe is made of," she said. "Specifically, I work on an experiment that's trying to directly detect dark matter. Whatever it is, it makes up the vast majority of the matter in the universe. We just don't know what it is. That seems like a pretty big hole in our knowledge of the universe."

In order to detect and study dark matter, Reisetter and her fellow researchers use an underground detector located in northern Minnesota. It is made of small germanium held at a temperature of 0.042 degrees above zero Kelvin (-460 degrees Fahrenheit; -273 degrees Celsius).

"We're hoping that a dark matter particle will bump into our incredibly sensitive detector and that we'll notice it," she said. "This should happen a couple times a year or so. I work on studying the backgrounds-everything else that happens in that year to our detectors, so we can identify a signal when and if it comes along."

Although Reisetter cares very much for her research, she says that the academic success of her students will always be a top priority for her. Reisetter teaches many of the introductory courses, which include semesters in electricity and magnetism, along with computational physics. As her career develops, she plans to teach courses in particle physics, astrophysics, and electronics. No matter what she's teaching, Reisetter hopes to instill in her students the one thing that they must all have to succeed in their chosen field: a love and curiosity for nature's mysteries.

"My highest goal as a teacher here," she said, "is to inspire and prepare our physics majors for successful careers in teasing out the secrets of the universe."

Student Profile: Alex Schmitt
Written by Chelsea Modglin

Alex Schmitt

Physics major Alex Schmitt is one of those people who just does things a little differently. Although he is a freshman, he earned enough credits in high school through dual-credit AP courses to technically qualify as a sophomore. The most amazing part: he simultaneously worked four different jobs, putting in close to 30 hours every week.

"I had to pay for college," he said. "I've always enjoyed working; it's kind of a release. Depending on where I was working, it was rather monotonous, so it was kind of relaxing. It got stressful at times, but it was a way to get money and see different people. In school you're around your peers constantly, but whenever you work you start seeing more middle-aged or older people, and you just see what life is really about."

Schmitt visited UE multiple times before deciding that the strengths of UE's liberal arts education was where he wanted to spend his hard-earned money. Along with a private visit, Schmitt attended an open house, Road Trip, and the Linguapalooza Scholarship Day.

"All the times I was here, I just loved the atmosphere," he said. "Everyone was friendly and...for the most part I still see people here that are happy and friendly, always willing to talk to each other and help people out. I think it's because we're all in the same boat; we can relate to each other pretty easily."

While here, Schmitt will be working with Dr. Angela Reisetter on studies concerning the detection and analysis of dark matter. He names this opportunity as one of the most helpful things about the UE physics department thus far, along with helping him to set up his four-year plan.

Schmitt also plans to spend his available free time by getting involved with as many campus activities as he believes to be humanly possible. So far, he has involved himself in Venturing Crew, Ace Advocates, Circle K, the International Club, the Spanish Club, Student Activities Board, and the Honors Program Student Advisory Board, as well as serving as an Admission Ambassador, a student caller for the Office of Admissions, and president of Powell Hall Council. He is also a member of the Society of Physics Students and the National Society for Collegiate Scholars. Additionally, he plans to be an RA next year.

"I was working 25 to 30 hours in high school, and then I had seven classes," he said. "I was going to school longer in high school and I had more homework, and I was still working. So this is actually easier than high school. All the clubs basically replaced work."

Although the clubs "replaced" work, Schmitt sees his participation in student organizations as anything but work.

Despite our small campus Alex notes "there are still a whole bunch of clubs for [UE's] size," he said. "You meet a lot of different people through organizations and clubs, so it's a way to find friends."

Luckily for him, his experience with physics in high school has enabled him to do well in his classes without having to read the textbooks. He knows though that this will probably change his junior and senior years, and he admits that he will have to spend more time in his studies and less time in his extracurricular activities. However, since he loves physics, he doesn't anticipate that being too much of a problem.

There is a popular notion that freshmen are disadvantaged by their lack of experience. But Schmitt has demonstrated a solid work ethic and stellar ability to plan for the future. UE is lucky to have him as a student.

"Life in general is about new experiences," he said. "If you don't have new experiences-if you're not willing to take that leap and see what happens-you don't really get anywhere in life... You've got to have a little adventure every now and then."

Departmental News

  • Congratulations to Mallory (Walker) Traxler, who completed her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan this spring.

  • Former student and physics major Carrie Shindler is in the final stages of her Ph.D. at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. She visited the physics department in April, when she presented a lecture to interested students and faculty about her research in material science.

  • Former student David Shelton is the president and CEO of Plasmonics in Orlando, FL. His company manufactures high-tech optical coatings.

  • Former student Anna Mandir Helms is completing her residency in emergency medicine at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.

  • Dr. Jeffrey Braun attended a three-day workshop at Colgate University that developed procedures for performing quantum experiments with correlated and entangled photons. These experiments are now being developed for inclusion in our Optics, Quantum Mechanics, and Advanced Lab courses

  • Dr. Angela Reisetter and her fellow scientists of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) collaboration have results from their experiments! Recently, their experimental apparatus detected three disturbances that Reisetter and her research colleagues say could have been dark matter. Although they are not certain that's what these events were, the results were encouraging. More details on their discovery can be found at www.skyandtelescope.com under "Homing in on Dark Matter," where a link to the actual research report published in Physical Review Letters is provided.

  • Dr. Ben Riley is enjoying his retirement in Tennessee, now living closer to his farm and family.

FaceBook The UE Physics Department has a Facebook page! Like us at "University of Evansville Department of Physics," and stay current on the latest departmental news!

If you have information about yourself you'd like to share with other UE Physics alumni, please get in touch with us through our Facebook page, or send an e-mail to Dr. Braun at jb53@evansville.edu. We'd love to hear what you've been up to.

A note from the Editor

Thanks for reading the University of Evansville Physics Alumni newsletter. Our communication intern (and Biology major) Chelsea Modglin and I are excited to get the word out to you about the great accomplishments of our alumni, faculty, and most importantly - students. We'd love to hear from you as well. Please keep in touch and feel free to contact us with news and notes, both personal and professional.

Sincerely,

Noah Gordon, PhD
ng62@evansville.edu

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