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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Kansas State University Distinguished Professor of Physics Creates a Unique Research Opportunity for Fort Hays State University Professor and Students

  As part of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures Track 2 Grant's Education, Outreach and Diversity Small College Research Initiative, Dr. Itzik Ben-Itzhak, Distinguished Professor of Physics at Kansas State University (KSU), invited  Dr. Jack Maseberg, Associate Professor of Physics at Fort Hays State University (FHSU), to participate in a research collaboration.  The purpose of this initiative is to encourage grant participants to work with small college faculty across the state to advance their career development, strengthen their curriculum and facilitate hands-on research opportunities for their students.
Equipment used in the Collaborative Experiments
  Last April, Dr. Maseberg and some of his students traveled to the KSU campus to conduct unique Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Physics experiments at the KSU James R. Macdonald Laboratory (JMR) with Dr. Ben-Izak's research team. According to Dr. Maseberg, "this research collaboration involved designing and performing an experiment to measure the Doppler-free kinetic energy release spectrum of diatomic molecules dissociated by double ionization (using either ultra-fast laser pulses or bunched charged-particle beams)." This specific project was chosen because it was a relatively simple experiment that could be easily understood by any undergraduate physics student. Dr. Maseberg stated that it was particularly beneficial for his students to be "able to visit the JMR Lab and be involved in experiment design, construction, data collection, and data analysis." In addition, his students were exposed to equipment and tools not available at FHSU, and they were able to participate in AMO research that would normally be outside of the scope and capabilities of the FHSU Physics Department.

Sam Devore, Summer AMO REU student
   As an unexpected favorable outcome of this collaboration, one of Dr. Maseberg's students who visited the lab in the spring, Sam Devore, applied and was accepted to continue work with Dr. Ben-Itzak as a participant in the KSU AMO Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. After his spring visit, Sam gave a 50-minute public talk to the FHSU Physics Department discussing the initial experiments and the preliminary results. This presentation exposed the FHSU student body to the KSU Physics Department's AMO research possibilities, and encouraged FHSU students to explore future undergraduate and graduate research opportunities at KSU.  Sam will be giving another talk summarizing his entire experience just prior to his graduation in the spring of 2017 as part of his FHSU Physics Senior Seminar.
   Dr. Maseberg commented that this outreach initiative was of great benefit to him and his students. Specifically, it taught his students how to collect data on site and then process it remotely at their home campus. In addition, it exposed his students to the culture and benefits of collaborative physics research. As for his benefit from participating in the initiative, Dr. Maseberg he added, the ultimate goal of the collaboration for him "is to eventually publish the joint findings in a peer-reviewed journal article."

Funding for this Collaborative Research Experience was provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The Grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce and prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.