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Monday, August 24, 2015

Fort Hays State University student explores Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics at Kansas State University

     Brett Chrisler found his way to a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) by first exploring the aspects of computer science and graphic design.  He tried these two majors before he discovered the Physics Department “and fell in love with the field.”
Brett Chrisler
     Brett is from Hays, Kansas where he has lived his entire life.  He completed his sophomore year at Fort Hays State University last spring; serves as the secretary for the Fort Hays State University's Physics Club; and has just completed a summer REU in Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Physics at Kansas State University (KSU).
     His interest in pursuing an AMO Physics REU began when the Physics Department at Fort Hayes State distributed information from the KSU AMO Physics group about summer REUs to their students. Brett had never done any research in physics prior to this summer's REU, so he thought this program would be the best mechanism for “discovering what part of the wide field of physics he would be most interested in.”
     Brett worked with Dr. Vinod Kumarappan, Associate Professor of Physics at KSU and a researcher involved with the Nebraska and Kansas NSF EPSCoR Track 2 grant titled "Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures." Brett's project, funded by the educational initiatives embedded in the collaborative grant, involved stabilizing "the carrier-envelope phase from a laser oscillator.” Basically, the experiment “involved the alignment of a laser through optics.”
Brett Chrisler and Dr.Vinod Kumarappan conducting experiments in the James R. Macdonald AMO Physics Lab at Kansas State University
    Two valuable lessons Brett stated he learned from his AMO REU were: first, "research doesn't always go the way you want it to"; and second, “you have to be creative when it comes to solving difficult problems that may arise.”  In addition, to these lessons learned, Brett said he also developed some “amazing friendships that I know will last beyond this program.”  When asked to sum up his summer AMO Physics REU, Brett indicated that he has “gained so much knowledge from Dr. Kumarappan's group and the program’s physics lectures as well as made great social connections that “have bettered me not only as a student, but also as a person."
      As for his future, Brett says he has two more years of undergraduate work to complete and hopes to continue to participate in physics related summer internships at other institutions as well as additional research experiences at his home campus.  Following graduation, he may attend graduate school to study medical physics and then possibly go on to medical school to study radiation oncology.