grad/summer opportunities

For those who may still be looking, here are a couple of late opportunities for grad + summer programs:

Please follow the links above for more information.

April 21, 2015 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

2015 Department Award Winners

Each year the WKU Department of Physics and Astronomy recognizes three students who have excelled in areas of scholarship, research, and service.  The recipients of these awards for the 2014-2015 academic year are Sam White, Mary Spraggs, and Stacy Hicks.  These students will be recognized at the annual Ogden Student Awards ceremony on Sunday, April 19, at 2:00 PM at the Carroll Knicely Center.  Please join me in congratulating these students when you have an opportunity.

Dr. George V. and Sadie Skiles Page Award for Excellence in Scholarship*

Awarded to the graduating Physics major with the highest academic standing.

Samuel Thomas White

Sam White, a senior with majors in Physics and Chemistry, receives the Page Award for Excellence in Scholarship based upon his outstanding academic record while a student at WKU. In addition to excelling in the classroom Sam has been very active in research. Sam’s latest work, under the direction of Dr. Matthew Nee (WKU Chemistry) has been split between building a new Raman spectrometer and an investigation of the mechanisms of adsorption of pollutants on titanium dioxide with potential applications in water purification and treatment. Sam has served as a learning assistant for the past three years in our University Physics Laboratory and was the recipient of the Doug Humphrey Service Award in 2014-15. He is a member of the WKU chapter of the national honor society for physics Sigma Pi Sigma and is active in the WKU Society of Physics Students. After graduation Sam plans to pursue a PhD in applied physics.

Dr. Randall Harper Award for Outstanding Research in Physics and Astronomy*

Awarded to the junior or senior student with research exhibiting significance, effort, originality, and creativity.

Mary Elizabeth Spraggs

Mary Spraggs, a senior physics major with a minor in astronomy, works with Dr. Steven Gibson as an undergraduate research assistant on Galactic radio astronomy.  Mary receives this award for her work on the causes of sudden enhanced electron abundance events in the Earth’s upper atmosphere in collaboration with Larisa Goncharenko at the MIT Haystack Observatory.  The layers of the atmosphere are highly coupled and much more chaotic than is generally understood, and it is important to understand these linkages, both for meteorology and GPS navigation. Mary’s project involved assembling and analyzing a 13-year set of ionospheric electron column data and against stratospheric thermal and wind velocity measurements to look for significant associations of sudden stratospheric warming and equatorial ionization anomalies.  Mary has presented her ionospheric work at the American Geophysical Union, the AIP Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, and in a physics department seminar.  A graduate of the Gatton Academy, she has been an active participant in WKU’s Society of Physics Students, the Hilltopper Astronomy Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and physics tutoring, and she assists regularly with setting up low-frequency radio equipment at WKU’s Bell Observatory to monitor magnetospheric storms around the planet Jupiter.  Mary has accepted an NSF-REU internship this summer at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Dr. Douglas Humphrey Award for Outstanding Service*

Awarded to the junior or senior student with a record of service within the department and to science outreach to the community.

Stacy Hicks

Stacy Hicks, a senior Physics major, receives the Humphrey service award because of the overall good citizenship she portrays in her interactions with faculty and students in the department. She currently serves as the president of the WKU chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and as the technical officer in the Hilltopper Astronomy Club.  As SPS president Stacy has worked to increase student participation in club activities and has arranged club events such as a recent trip to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  In addition to her service activities, Stacy has been very active in research.  She is presently working with Dr. Michael Carini on a project to study variable star systems.  She was recently awarded the Chambliss Award by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) for a presentation of her research at the 2015 AAS meeting in Seatle, WA.  

*Award made through the efforts of the College Heights Foundation.

April 10, 2015 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

Next Generation Physics Teaching Conference

Eastern Kentucky University and the Kentucky Association of Physics Teachers are hosting the Next Generation Physics Teaching Conference at EKU on March 13-14, which is the weekend at the end of Spring Break.  The conference will include plenary talks, opportunities for oral and poster presentations in physics and astronomy, and participants from Kentucky and several other nearby states.  WKU will be sending a contingent and so transportation options are available.  Conference registration includes lunch on Friday and Saturday, plus dinner Friday for those who complete the online registration by March 9th.  Please see the conference website for more details.  To submit an abstract for an oral research presentation, you can either go through this website or use this web form directly.

February 26, 2015 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

Apply now for the 2015 Randall Harper Research Award

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is soliciting applications for the Randall Harper Award for Outstanding Research in Physics or Astronomy.  We encourage all junior or senior students involved in a research project to submit an application.

Details of the award, including a list of past winners and their winning essays, can be found on the Student Resources page of the Physics and Astronomy website.

The deadline for the 2015 competition is Friday, March 20, 2015 at noon. For further information please read the Award Announcement. To apply please download and complete the online application form using Adobe Acrobat Reader (PC) or Preview (Mac).  Applications are to be submitted to Richard Gelderman or Doug Harper.

February 26, 2015 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

Space Industry Opportunity

Students interested in a space-related career in industry may wish to consider Space Tango, a new startup company based in Lexington involved in low-earth-orbit industrial applications, including small satellites, experiments on the International Space Station, and even microgravity medicine.  The company is currently hiring and seeking qualified applicants.  Many thanks to WKU Physics alum Jonathan Newton for this tip!

February 26, 2015 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

Heliophysics REU at UAH

The Heliophysics Research Experience for Undergraduates program (REU) at University of Alabama in Huntsville and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center invites applications for the Summer 2015 program. This NSF funded program brings 10 selected undergraduate students to Huntsville, Alabama for a 10-week research experience. Students will be paired with a UAH or NASA scientist specializing in research from the solar interior to the heliopause. Participants will receive a stipend of $5,000, lodging, and a supplemental meal card. The REU program will also cover travel expenses for participants and provide partial support to attend the Annual American Geophysical Union Meeting in December 2015. Applicants should be full-time, undergraduate students with a GPA of 2.5 or better and majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematical (STEM) fields. Students must be US citizens or green card holders in order to be considered for this program. Rising sophomores, women and minorities, and students from small institutions are encouraged to apply. Applications must be received by Friday, March 13, 2015 for consideration. For more information and application, please visit the program website at

February 21, 2015 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

Nuclear Chemistry and Materials Internships

The Nuclear and Radiochemical Summer School Program, sponsored by the American Chemical Society, is seeking applicants for internship positions at either San Jose State University or SUNY-Stony Brook.  Details are available at  The deadline is March 13.

In addition, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is accepting applications to its NSF-REU program in Interdisciplinary Materials Research.  Details on this program are available at  Review of applications will begin on March 1st.

February 13, 2015 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More


1. A new card reader system has been installed in the sps room so you may now use your wku id to access the sps room. You must have your information added to the database before you can use the system.

2. The Physics and Astronomy Department is looking for volunteers for the Physics Olympics feb 21 and science Olympiad apr 25. Please stop by the Department office or the SPS room if you are interested in volunteering.

3. Attention astronomers: The AAS-KAM conference is coming up. Mar 23 at EKU with TN and Ohio

4. SPS field trip to the Huntsville space center. Details to come soon.

5. The SPS needs volunteers for Public outreach at Franklin Elementary School. No specific date has been set.

6. We have been discussing the possibility of going to Beech Bend as a study of the physics of rollercoasters. We would like to develop a phone app to record data as the coaster is in motion.

7. We also now have an SPS Facebook page so please link to the page.

8. SKySci Fest, the Southcentral Kentucky Science Festival, will have its Expo day at Circus Square Park in downtown Bowling Green on Saturday May 2nd from 9 to 4. The SPS (along with most other science clubs on campus) has been invited to staff a booth with family-friendly interactive activities.
At 7pm on Thursday evening April 30th, as part of SKySci Fest, Dr. Jeffrey Bennett will be presenting a free public talk: “Black Holes Don’t Suck! – An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Relativity Theories and Why They Matter” at the DSU Auditorium.

9. The Next Generation Physics Teaching meeting at EKU is Friday and Saturday, March 13 + 14.
It has been organized by the Kentucky Association of Physics Teachers (KAPT), in cooperation with the Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia sections of the AAPT. The Kentucky astronomers groups is jointly meeting at this regional conference. The website and online registration is at

February 11, 2015 Posted Under: Minutes   Read More

NSF REU Internship Applications Due on February 2

Although summer seems like a long time from now, many summer research internship programs are currently soliciting applications.  The National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program, which  sponsors internships in many different fields at a large number of institutions, has an application deadline of Monday, February 2nd (next week!).  Interested students who have not yet applied to one or more NSF-REU programs are strongly encouraged to do so by this deadline.  Lists of programs and institutions by subject are available on the NSF website at .

January 28, 2015 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

U.S. Navy Visit

James Koper, a U.S. Navy recruiter, is visiting WKU on Tuesday 2 December.  He will be in Engineering & Biological Sciences (EBS) 2134 from 11:00am – 12:30pm to give a presentation and talk with students. The Navy is interested in officer recruiting in nuclear power, aviation, or other science programs.  Food will be provided.

December 1, 2014 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More