Physics graduate student Carly Fengel shows a Timber Ridge Elementary School student the beautiful spectral lines of hydrogen, helium, argon and neon lamps. When viewed through diffraction grating glasses, the various wavelengths of light are split apart, revealing a unique signature for each gas. “So we could tell what stars are made of!” remarked the student.

Family Science Nights have been a yearly staple in Corvallis schools for more than a decade, but May 16 was only the second one for Timber Ridge School, a combined middle and elementary school serving a rural area on the northern edge of Albany. About 200 students of all ages attended the event, with middle-school students acting as guides and selling snacks as a fundraiser.

In addition to volunteers from the physics department, OSU was represented by other departments, including the College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Non-departmental groups also showed up, such as the Dairy Club, Geology Club, and Fisheries and Wildlife Club. For the first time, nursing students from Linn-Benton Community College made an appearance, rounding out the science offerings with tables focusing on exercise, vital signs, CPR, and hand-washing.

Other physics demos included classics like levitating ping-pong balls with a hair dryer and the ever-popular hovercraft. As usual, the line for the hovercraft rarely dropped below a dozen students, continuing to draw a crowd to the end of the hall throughout the evening. Many were eager to learn how the hovercraft worked and several times kids remarked: “I want to make one!”

(Prof. Ethan Minot explains the design of the hovercraft)

As the last Family Science Night of the school year, this event ended the semester on a high note, with several new groups and a new physics demonstration. Both volunteers and families will be looking forward to next year’s school outreach events.

A big thank you to the physics student volunteers Evan Peters, Garrett Jepson, and Carly Fengel.

Story by Monica Bennett.

Story by Monica Bennett

Physics was one of nearly a dozen departments and groups that came together to create the attention-grabbing, educational smorgasbord of OSU Discovery Days.

The event is coordinated by Prof. Margaret Haak of the Department of Chemistry, who took over in 2003 and expanded the program from its predecessor, “Museum Days”. Prof. Haak estimates that about 1,800 children flooded into LaSells over the course of two days, enjoying science demonstrations and trivia games from science departments and other groups, including the sorority Sigma Delta Omega, the Physics 111 course, and local business Brad’s World Reptiles.

The Department of Physics claimed the majority of one of the rooms in the LaSells center, mostly for the sake of the rotating chair that sat in the center of the room. Here students lined up to take a spin, using hand weights to test how concentrating their center of mass increased their speed of rotation, while extending their hands slowed it.

Having discovered some principles of angular momentum, the dizzy students then staggered over to the tables, which contained more physics demonstrations. The demos, all hands-on to some extent, included ping-pong balls supported by a hair dryer, as well as a large tank of water in which students tested their predictions on the relative buoyancy of regular vs. diet soda and cucumbers vs. grapes. A particular favorite was the table of vacuum experiments, featuring not only a chamber that demonstrated the effect of vacuum on balloons and bubble wrap, but also a steel ball that students tried to pull open, discovering the pressure difference when the air inside was evacuated by the vacuum pump.

Physics demos were on display from other groups as well—a contingent from Physics 111 (taught by Prof. Emily van Zee) showed off their skills as future teachers with an array of optics demonstrations, showing students how refraction changes the apparent location of an object submerged in water and how reflectivity varies in different materials. Elsewhere, students watched a Geiger counter detecting uranium in old Fiestaware and observed changes in surface tension with soap and water, being introduced to a variety of physics concepts in addition to the department’s own offerings.

Prof. Haak’s hope for Discovery Days is for students to feel involved, seeing that “science is something you do, not just something you read about.” She believes that major outreach events are valuable to the volunteers as well as the visitors, stressing the importance of communicating science well and encouraging hands-on exploration. With these guiding values and contributions from the fields of physics, biochemistry, botany, herpetology, and more, the spring 2017 Discovery Days were a delight for students and scientists alike.

A big thank you to the physics students who volunteered their time: Ikaika McKeague-McFadden, Willis Rogers, Kelby Petersonm, Zach Colbert, Abe Teklu, Isaac Hodges, Tymothy Mangan, Ian Goode, Ryan Bailey Crandell, Katy Chase, James Haggerty, Carly Fengel, David Rivella, and Nikita Rozanov.

Fourth year graduate student Nicole Quist has been chosen as a member of the United States Delegation for the sixth International Conference on Women in Physics. As a member of the delegation, she is involved in writing the conference proceedings paper for the United States and creating the national poster which focus on the statu

Nicole Quist

s of women in physics in the United States and the problems that women in physics experience. The delegation will also be completing a project that will provide tools to aid women in physics, and Nicole will contribute to this as well. Although she will not be part of the subset of the group that will travel to the conference itself, her contributions will. This is an exciting opportunity for Nicole to work with women around the country to focus on encouraging diversity in physics.

A paper just published in Nature Communications by the Single-Molecule Biophysics Laboratory of Assistant Professor Weihong Qiu reports an unexpected mechanical property of a “motor” protein that offers new insights into how motor proteins help build and maintain the mitotic spindle, the American football-shaped macromolecular structures that animal and fungi cells depend on to ensure accurate chromosome segregation during cell division. Located inside cells, motor proteins are tiny molecular machines that convert chemical energy into mechanical work. They interact with train-track-like structures called microtubules to transport cargos or exert forces.

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The motor protein KlpA moves in one direction on a single microtubule track and switches to the opposite direction between a pair of microtubules. Illustration credit: Kuo-Fu Tseng, Oregon State University.
[click on image to see the motion] The motor protein KlpA moves in one direction on a single microtubule track and switches to the opposite direction between a pair of microtubules. Illustration credit: Kuo-Fu Tseng, Oregon State University.
In this study, Qiu and colleagues focused on a particular motor protein called KlpA, and used a high-sensitivity microscopy method to directly visualize the motion of individual KlpA molecules on microtubules. The Qiu team shows that, while all other KlpA-like motor proteins are believed to move in only one direction on the microtubule track, KlpA has a “reverse” gear that allows it to go in different directions. This enables KlpA to behave differently in when it is operating at different locations within the mitotic spindle. This research may open the door to understand the similar KlpA-like motor proteins in mammals that are implicated in cancer cell proliferation. Understanding the design principle underlying the bidirectional motion of KlpA may also guide the engineering of motor protein-based molecular devices for targeting drug delivery in a controllable manner.

Oksana Ostraverkhova has won the Milton Harris Award in Basic Research!!!

She was honored (and surprised!) at a ceremony on October 17 at the Horizon Room.

In her ten years at OSU, Oksana has built a successful program demonstrating creative and productive basic research in the study of photophysics in organic semiconductors.  She has  also collaborated with Prof. Sujaya Rao (entomology) to study bee color vision. This interdisciplinary collaboration has led to while new insights in the basic science field of bee color vision.

Oksana also won the Harris Graduate Teaching award this year and has supervised dozens of undergraduates and graduate students in her lab.

About the award:

This award was endowed by G. Milton Harris, a Portland native who received his bachelor’s degree in 1926 from OSU and his PhD from Yale. He was a pioneer in polymer, fiber and textile science and was founder and for many years president of Harris Research laboratories which later became part of Gillette. His distinguished career in chemistry included service with the National Bureau of Standards and five years as the chair of the American Chemical Society.

The purpose of the Harris award is to recognize exceptional achievement in basic research by honoring an outstanding faculty member in the College of Science. Special consideration is given to recent research that was carried out at OSU and that will have a significant impact on its field. The recipient of the Harris award not only receives a monetary award, but also is given the opportunity to present a public lecture that highlights his or her research.


Andrew Stickel wearing a Swedish Doctoral hat.
Andrew Stickel wearing a Swedish Doctoral hat.

On University day, our own Andrew Stickel will receive the University wide Herbert F. Frolander Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant!

University Day is Monday, September 19th and there will be an awards ceremony at the LaSells Center.

Andrew recently defended his dissertation “Terahertz Induced Non-linear Electron Dynamics in Nanoantenna Coated Semiconductors at the Sub-picosecond Timescale”. Please congratulate him on both of these accomplishments!

We just heard that Corinne Manogue is the APS Woman of the Month

August 2016 Woman of the Month: Corinne Manogue, Oregon State University 

Corrine Manogue
Corrine Manogue

Corinne Manogue obtained her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1984. She studied black holes with Denis Sciama and field theory in curved spacetime with Bryce DeWitt, and joined the physics faculty at Oregon State University (OSU) in 1988 after postdoctoral positions at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the University of Durham in England, and as an Indo-American Fellow of the Comparative and International Education Society. Professor Manogue played a key role in the early work relating division algebras and supersymmetry. In her infinite free time, she continues explore how to use the octonions to describe the symmetries of high-energy particle physics.

Since its inception in 1996, Professor Manogue has been the driving force behind the Paradigms in Physics project at OSU, a complete redesign of the physics major. This redesign involved both a rearrangement of the content to better reflect the way professional physicists think about the field and also the use of a number of interactive pedagogies that place responsibility for learning more firmly in the hands of students.

Her curriculum development/research interests are in helping students make the difficult transition from lower-division to upper-division physics. Professor Manogue is the recipient of a number of teaching awards, among them the 2008 David Halliday and Robert Resnick Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the American Association of Physics Teachers.  She was voted a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2005 and named a Fellow of the American Association of Physics Teachers in 2014. After more than three decades in her career, she continues to be amazed to find herself a physicist.