Reposted from impact.science.oregonstate.edu

A senior’s gut decision in high school to major in physics holds steady four years later

Looking back on his gut decision in high school to major in physics after taking a class in it, graduating senior Abe Teklu remains somewhat mystified. “I guess I was just really confident,” he laughs.
Abe grew up around numbers and changing locations, moving from Ethiopia to Arizona at age six when his father got an engineering job at Intel, and then moving to Colorado before his family settled outside of Portland when he was 12.
His family is mathematically inclined. His mom is an accountant and his dad, who not so secretly yearned to be a mathematician, is an engineer who reads calculus books and earned a master’s degree in fluid dynamics. This home field advantage explains some of Abe’s youthful confidence (he “loved math” even as a child) but since then Abe has carried the ball all on his own.
At Oregon State as an Honors physics student, Abe has remained confident – at least most of the time – as well as comfortable with numbers and shifting contexts. He has had three research internships. The first was the summer after his sophomore year when he had a paid internship at Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) in Evanston, Illinois, in a rather niche but fascinating area of speculative research called astrobiology. There Abe analyzed mathematical models of theoretical predator-prey systems not limited to planet Earth.
The summer before his junior year, Abe headed down to San Diego for another paid internship, this time at the U.S. Department of Energy’s DIII-D National Fusion Facility. The facilty consists of a tokamak, a magnetic fusion device which Abe describes as “a big metal donut spinning plasma to get fusion energy.” Abe used magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) theory to model plasma confinement, with the goal of understanding which conditions better spread heat flux in the divertor region.
In his third research experience, Abe spent more than two years working in physics department head Heidi Schellman’s Particle Physics Research Group, analyzing neutrino-antineutrino data as part of the MINERvA, a major international research effort exploring matter-antimatter differences in neutrino physics. This involved aiming a beam of neutrinos from Illinois to South Dakota. Specifically, Abe worked on the recoil energies recorded when the rare neutrino-antineutrino reactions hit parallel strips of the scintillator, each of which is connected to a photomultiplier tube that determines how much energy is deposited in a strip.
Abe’s research experiences beyond the classroom gave him many advantages. For one, the DIII-D fusion internship formed the basis for his senior thesis. He also learned valuable lessons about the nature of scientific work.
“Unlike class, where there is always an answer, research is open-ended. It was difficult for me at first, but I came to appreciate that even if you don’t solve a problem, you are contributing to a much larger research effort with scientists around the world that will one day lead to a solution.”
Throughout his four years at OSU, community and relationships were key to Abe’s success, a sentiment reflected in his two top pieces of advice for new students.
“Have as much fun as you can freshman year. Talk toeveryone. You will have the most free time this year and so it’s a great time to meet new people and make friends. It gets harder after that.”
As an Honors College freshman, Abe enjoyed meeting friends in his dorm, Cauthorne, and also hung out in West so often that he was mistaken as a resident. He was and is “surprised by the amount of really smart people here. So many amazing people – and it’s so cool now to see all of my friends going off to exciting new destinations next year, from MIT to Brown to AI research!”
His second piece of advice?
“Talk to professors. Go to office hours. Not just to talk about academics, but just to talk about life. It’s helped me out a lot.”
Some of his favorite professors to hang out with are physicists Corinne Monogue, who he calls a “great teacher and person to talk to about anything at all” and Heidi Schellman. Abe suggests another good reason to talk with professors:  It’s a “great way to start research sooner.”
To wit, when Abe visited to Schellman during her office hours, she began describing her research and Abe just jumped in and asked if he could help.
“That day she gave me a key to her lab and I started doing research!” Two years later, Abe still has a coveted seat in Schellman’s Lab and is currently mentoring a new student to take his place after graduation.
Despite his success at OSU, Abe has faced his share of rejection and challenging times. Before joining the Schellman Lab, he was turned down as a freshman for research positions. The fall of his senior year was a really difficult time. After an intense summer working at the fusion facility DIII-D in San Diego, he returned to campus for a nonstop term which on top of his usual demanding coursework included studying for the Physics GRE, applying to graduate schools, writing his senior thesis and dealing with the inevitable “personal stuff.”
“I was overwhelmed and my confidence was shaken. Was I good enough? I had imposter syndrome. The only thing that got me out of it,” Abe reflects, “was just to endure. I just kept going step by step, every single day. I had to keep going and I did and it finally got better.”
It certainly did. Abe was accepted into the physics Ph.D. program at Stonybrook University in Long Island, New York, remarking with great enthusiasm upon the fact that there are no less than “60-70 physics researchers there!” Not wasting any time, he will jumpstart his graduate research this summer at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, working on a yet-to-be-defined research project with his graduate advisor.
Abe is grateful for the science education he has received at Oregon State and was not surprised when he heard that the Department of Physics recently received a national award for improving undergraduate physics education.
“All of my professors were great,” he said. The junior-year Paradigms in Physics series in particular, which was redesigned to include interactive pedagogies and real-world applications to better reflect how professional physicists think, was a real game-changer for Abe.
“[The junior-year Paradigms in Physics] was hard, but it was great and everyone in the class bonded together. We came out feeling that we could do anything!”
Abe’s gratitude extends to the many scholarships he received that helped cement his choice to go to Oregon State. He received the university’s four-year Academic Achievement award as well as a freshman year Honors College scholarship, a Kenneth S. Krane Scholarship in Physics and a David B. Nicodemus Scholarship in Physics.

The Ostroverkhova group’s work on bee vision had attracted a lot of attention!

Ostroverkhova et al examined responses of wild bees to traps designed to selectively stimulate either the blue or the green photoreceptor using sunlight-induced fluorescence in the 420-480 nm or 510-540 nm region. Image credit: Rebekka D.

KATU has an interview with Oksana Ostroverkhova at: https://katu.com/news/local/wild-bees-are-attracted-to-blue-fluorescent-light-oregon-state-university-research-finds

Sci-news has an article http://www.sci-news.com/biology/bees-blue-fluorescent-light-06121.html

and there is a press release to go with their recent paper in Journal of Comparative Physiology A. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00359-018-1269-x

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have learned that a specific wavelength range of blue fluorescent light set bees abuzz.

The research is important because bees have a nearly $15 billion dollar impact on the U.S. economy – almost 100 commercial crops would vanish without bees to transfer the pollen grains needed for reproduction.

“The blue fluorescence just triggered a crazy response in the bees, told them they must go to it,” said the study’s corresponding author, Oksana Ostroverkhova. “It’s not just their vision, it’s something behavioral that drives them.”

The findings are a powerful tool for assessing and manipulating bee populations – such as, for example, if a farmer needed to attract large numbers of bees for a couple of weeks to get his or her crop pollinated.

“Blue is broad enough wavelength-wise that we needed to figure out if it mattered to the bees if the light emitted by the sunlight-illuminated trap was more toward the purple end or the green end, and yes, it mattered,” Ostroverkhova said. “What’s also important is now we’ve created traps ourselves using stage lighting filters and fluorescent paint – we’re not just reliant on whatever traps come in a box. We’ve learned how to use commercially available materials to create something that’s very deployable.”

Fluorescent light is what’s seen when a fluorescent substance absorbs ultraviolet rays or some other type of lower-wavelength radiation and then immediately emits it as higher-wavelength visible light – think about a poster whose ink glows when hit by the UV rays of a blacklight.

Like humans, bees have “trichromatic” vision: They have three types of photoreceptors in their eyes.

Both people and bees have blue and green receptors, but the third type for people is red while the third kind for bees is ultraviolet – electromagnetic energy of a lower wavelength that’s just outside the range of human vision.

Flowers’ vibrant colors and patterns – some of them detectable only with UV sight – are a way of helping pollinators like bees find nectar, a sugar-rich fluid produced by plants. Bees get energy from nectar and protein from pollen, and in the process of seeking food they transfer pollen from a flower’s male anther to its female stigma.

Building on her earlier research, Ostroverkhova, a physicist in OSU’s College of Science, set out to determine if green fluorescence, like blue, was attractive to bees. She also wanted to learn whether all wavelengths of blue fluorescence were equally attractive, or if the drawing power tended toward the green or violet edge of the blue range.

In field conditions that provided the opportunity to use wild bees of a variety of species – most bee-vision studies have been done in labs and used captive-reared honeybees – Ostroverkhova designed a collection of bee traps – some non-fluorescent, others fluorescent via sunlight – that her entomology collaborators set up in the field.

Under varying conditions with a diverse set of landscape background colors, blue fluorescent traps proved the most popular by a landslide.

Researchers examined responses to traps designed to selectively stimulate either the blue or the green photoreceptor using sunlight-induced fluorescence with wavelengths of 420 to 480 nanometers and 510 to 540 nanometers, respectively.

They found out that selective excitation of the green photoreceptor type was not attractive, in contrast to that of the blue.

“And when we selectively highlighted the blue photoreceptor type, we learned the bees preferred blue fluorescence in the 430- to 480-nanometer range over that in the 400-420 region,” Ostroverkhova said.

Findings were recently published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A. The Agricultural Research Foundation and OSU supported this research.

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Editor’s note: Images are available at http://bit.ly/2JO7ypl and http://bit.ly/2MA4080

Corrine Manogue

Catalyzing the transformation of science learning at OSU 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

LEARNING INNOVATION CENTER,
ROOM 100
RECEPTION 6:30 PM  •  LECTURE 7:00 PM
Please join us for the  2018 F.A. Gilfillan Memorial Lecture featuring Corinne Manogue, professor of physics, who will present “Catalyzing the transformation of science learning at OSU.”
Dr. Manogue will use her experiences leading a highly successful curriculum redesign of the physics major as a model to explore with the audience the possibilities for learning reform in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the university. This method seeks to change the classroom in order to change the culture of learning.
Learn about the College of Science’s groundbreaking ways of understanding physics and the path to educational transformation. With an interactive approach, Dr. Manogue will lead the audience through an exercise of how physical or external representations can be used to understand concepts in physics.
We welcome you to attend this lecture that explores how OSU is catalyzing the transformation of science learning to prepare the next generation to address pressing problems of the 21st century.
Join us for this engaging talk and a light reception.

Molecular motor mystery solved: Novel protein rounds out plant cells’ machinery

A research team led by Prof. Weihong Qiu and collaborators from University of California, Davis has discovered a novel motor protein that significantly expands current understanding of the evolution and design principle of motor proteins.

White arrowheads indicate the microtubule plus end, and red and yellow arrowheads indicate the leading ends of two different actin filaments.

The findings of the research team, led by of the OSU College of Science and Bo Liu ­of UC Davis, were published today in Nature Communications.

Read the full OSU announcement at: http://today.oregonstate.edu/news/molecular-motor-mystery-solved-novel-protein-rounds-out-plant-cells%E2%80%99-machinery

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The work of OSU physics graduate student Lee Aspitarte was featured as a Scientific Highlight on the American Institute of Physics website. Lee’s recent experiments in Ethan Minot’s lab provide new insights about nanoscale pn-junctions. Nanoscale pn-junctions are a promising technology for maximizing the efficiency of light-to-electricity conversion.

Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium Astronomer- in-Residence and Oregon State University Physics and Honors College Instructor Randy Milstein  has had a busy month speaking about the 2017 Great American Eclipse. The links below highlight some of his presentations and interviews.

Follow this link to his interview with Al Jazeera English (The first independent news channel in the Arab world dedicated to providing comprehensive news and live debate).

He spoke with the OSU Alumni Association in Beaverton, Oregon on August 8.
A link to his presentation is here.

On August 14, he was interviewed by OSU’s KBVR radio station.
You can listen to the interview here.

He was interviewed for the CBS This Morning story,  “Man Bikes Across the US to Educate America About the Solar Eclipse,” that aired on August 19. He isn’t the man on the bike. There wasn’t enough time with all of his other outreach events!
The feature is available here.
His portion of the story is at minute 3:16-3:34.

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