Today we had our first SPS meeting of the Fall 2014 semester.

1. Jelly Bean Universe Raffle

At the start of the meeting we announced the winner of our MASTER Plan jelly bean universe raffle. The winner of the raffle was Stefan Stryker.

2. SPS Picnic

We discussed possible dates for this semester’s SPS picnic. So far the most likely date is Saturday September 20, however we may push it to Saturday October 18.

3. Community Outreach

We have been considering the possibility of a community outreach program to help encourage children in the community to pursue their interests in science. Anyone interested in helping with outreach please SPS room to sign up.

4. Zone 8

There is a Zone 8 meeting coming up October 30th and 31st.  Zone 8 will be held at the University of Illinois this year. Anyone interested in attending the Zone 8 meeting should contact one of the SPS officers.

5. Women in Science

The women in science conference will be held in mid January in Indianapolis, IN. If anyone is interested in going please let us know.

September 9, 2014 Posted Under: Minutes   Read More

Physics Employers by State

The Statistical Research Center of the American Institute of Physics has just posted a database of organizations hiring physicists with bachelor degrees for each state in the U.S.:


The SRC website has a number of other interesting reports on trends in employment and training in the field, if you have a little time to explore.

May 1, 2014 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

2014 Departmental 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 2013-2014 academic year are Jamey Yadon, Mary Spraggs, and Sam White.  These students will be recognized at the annual Ogden Student Awards ceremony on Sunday, April 27, 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.

Jamey Lee Yadon

Jamey Yadon receives the Page Award for Excellence in Scholarship based upon his outstanding academic record while a student at WKU.  He will graduate this spring with majors in Physics and Religious Studies and a minor in Mathematics.  Jamey 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 Jamey plans to pursue a graduate degree at the Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.

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 junior 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 properties of interstellar clouds of hydrogen gas that are cooling, condensing, and forming molecules as a first step toward the formation of new stars.  She has measured the temperature, density, and molecular content of clouds in our Galaxy using infrared data from the Planck cosmology satellite and several ground-based radio telescope spectral line surveys.  Mary has presented her work at multiple conferences, including the American Astronomical Society, the Southeast Section of the American Physical Society, and the Kentucky Academy of Science.  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 MIT’s Haystack Observatory.

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.

Samuel Thomas White

Sam White, a senior with majors in Physics and Chemistry, receives the Humphrey service award because of the overall good citizenship he portrays in his interactions with faculty and students in the department.  Most significantly Sam has been an outstanding Learning Assistant in our University Physics Laboratory since we began using student assistants in a revised curriculum a few years ago.  In this role, Sam goes above and beyond his expected duties and is a role model for new Learning Assistants coming into the program.  In addition, Sam has performed research in Chemistry under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Nee.  Sam’s latest work involves measurements of Raman spectra of solutions of nitrate ions.  His work is focused on obtaining a better understanding of the photolysis of the nitrate ion, which has important implications in snow chemistry.

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

April 21, 2014 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More


1) The science olympiad is this saturday. If anyone is interested please contact Dr. Gelderman ASAP at richard [dot] gelderman [at] WKU [dot] edu. We are still in need of assistance for some of the classes, so if you are free please come help out.

2) Ballots are open for the SPS officer election. Please stop by the SPS sometime this week to cast your votes.

3) The SPS Banquet is scheduled for Friday May 9 at 6:00 pm and it will be at Cambridge Market.

4) The SPS will be conducting and outreach program at Lincoln Elementary School. Anyone interested in assisting at Lincoln Elementary should contact Dr. Gibson or one of the SPS officers ASAP.

5) The SPS is considering converting the Randall Harper Award for research in physics and astronomy to an academic scholarship for students that are Physics majors. Scholarship would be $1,000/yr. We will inform all students once we have finalized the conversion so they may begin applying for the scholarship.

April 9, 2014 Posted Under: Minutes   Read More

Outreach at Lincoln Elementary

My neighbor is a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Franklin, KY. Last year two SPS members visited her school to talk about physics to a very enthusiastic group of 3rd and 4th grade students. She is asking if a return visit is possible this spring. They are having break next week (March 31 – Apr 4), but any day afterward is fine. Preferred times for the visit are 1:00-2:45pm any day, but times are more flexible on Fridays. This is an excellent activity for the club, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s a good resume-builder to boot. Please contact me ASAP if you are interested and available, or if you have any questions.

UPDATE: Good visit times have been refined to 1:15-1:55pm on Mon, Tue, Wed, or Thu, or 3:15-4:30 on Mon, Tue, or Thu. Available dates are April 7-10, 14-17, 28-30, May 1, and May 5-8.

Steven Gibson

March 26, 2014 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More


1) We will be holding officer elections soon. Please cast your votes in the SPS room. Please nominate yourself or someone you would like to see as an officer for each officer position. The positions are president elect, Treasurer, and Secretary.

2) The SPS spring picnic is April 5 at Covington Woods park starting at noon. A signup sheet will be available in the physics and astronomy Department office.

3) Any physics or astronomy students doing research should submit an application for the Harper Award.

4) We are planing a Physics Fun Night in the next few weeks. This will be either a game night or movie night, and if anyone has any suggestion

5) This years SPS banquet will be at Cambridge Market at 6:00pm.

March 26, 2014 Posted Under: Minutes   Read More

Zone 8 Meeting

The WKU SPS chapter has not attended an SPS Zone meeting recently, but we have a nearby opportunity next month that sounds very attractive.  The SPS at UT-Knoxville is hosting the Spring Zone 8 meeting on April 11-13.  Planned activities include:

  • talks by UT scientists
  • a Zone-wide Sigma Pi Sigma induction
  • a talk by Daniel Golembek from SPS National, and formerly the Space Telescope Science Institute
  • a tour of Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Our own Dr. Edward Kintzel is planning to be at Oak Ridge at this time and has offered to take some students to the meeting.  For more details on the program, see sps.phys.utk.edu.  Please contact Dr. Kintzel if you wish to coordinate travel with him.

March 17, 2014 Posted Under: Announcement   Read More

Apply for the 2014 Randal Harper Research Award

The WKU Department of Physics and Astronomy is pleased to announce the Randall Harper Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research. Undergraduate students who have been involved in research projects, either on the WKU campus or through summer research experiences elsewhere, may apply for this award. Successful applicants will receive a certificate and $100 at the annual University Awards Ceremony.

The deadline for the 2014 competition is Monday, March 31, 2014 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).

March 7, 2014 Posted Under: Announcement, Research   Read More


Initial semester meeting.

  • Discussions included an introduction of the current officers and the announcement of Stacy Hicks running for the office of president elect. Anyone interested in the spring break trip needs to let us know by our next club meeting.
  • We would also like to know if anyone is interested in devoting time to elementary, middle, and high school out reach.
  • We are going to be taking an email survey to see how everyone feels about having bi monthly meetings instead of just one meeting a month. When you receive the email please select an option and submit it as soon as you can.
  • The Physics Olympics is Saturday the 22nd of February. We need student volunteers to assist with the event. Anyone interested in helping out with the physics olympics please contact Dr. Gelderman in the Physics Department at richard.gelderman at wku.edu.
  • The engineering club will be playing paintball on March 1st. Anyone interested in spending a Saturday being tagged with paintballs should contact Tim Bucklew at timothy.bucklew122 at topper.wku.edu.
January 29, 2014 Posted Under: Minutes   Read More


Officers meeting:

SPS meetings for this semester will be held on the first and third Wednesday of every month at 3:00 pm. This is with a few exceptions. February’s meetings will be switched the second and forth Wednesday of the month, and the March 5th meeting will be at 2:00 pm instead of the usual 3:00 pm meeting.

We have discussed taking a spring break trip with the chemistry club this semester. Possible options for the trip maybe Fermi, Oak Ridge, and Huntsville. Any suggestions for the trip will be considered, so please let us know.  Email the secretary of the SPS Josh Williams joshua.williams209@topper.wku.edu

We will also be holding elections for the position of president elect.  Stacy Hicks is running for president elect, there will be a space for write ins if anyone else wants to run.

We also have again discussed doing outreach to the local elementary, middle, and high schools. Anyone that wishes to help may contact any of the SPS officers.

We will be having a spring picnic this semester on April 5th. (location and time still pending)

The SPS banquet will be held May 9th at Cambridge Market.

Physics Fun Night:

We will be having physics fun nights again this semester, so stay tuned for info on when they will be held.

We have discussed having bi monthly SPS meeting this semester and will definitely be having 2 meetings in February.

January 25, 2014 Posted Under: Minutes   Read More