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, 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.