Grant aims to further undergraduate research

A recent grant will allow TCU to host undergraduate physics and astronomy students from universities across the country to conduct research that could be published in professional journals, said Magnus Rittby, associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering.According to the College of Science and Engineering Web site, the department of physics and astronomy was awarded $112,288 from the National Science Foundation for the Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The grant allows TCU to host four to six students from different universities.

Rittby said the department researched with four students last summer, some of whom had their research published in journals and reported at conferences, and is planning to accept six students this summer.

As part of the REU program, C.A. Quarles, professor of physics, researched with a student from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., for 10 weeks last summer.

“We studied properties of polymers and were able to come up with some new research results,” Quarles said.

The student was able to present the research at the Texas section meeting of the American Physical Society last October, he said.

“When a student can come for 10 weeks and develop new research and then report it at a conference, it is a major accomplishment,” Quarles said.

Students will research in areas such as surface science, atomic and molecular physics, optical and laser physics, and observational astronomy and laboratory astrophysics, according to the College of Science and Engineering Web site.

“We try to match up students that are interested in particular research with a faculty member to mentor the student through the research,” Rittby said.

TCU students can apply this semester for REU programs at other schools across the country.

“It’s an exchange program of sorts for undergraduate research,” Rittby said.

The REU grant provides each student with a summer stipend, housing and travel accommodations to and from TCU. Through the program, the National Science Foundation tries to engage undergraduates in scientific research, Rittby said.

“It’s an investment in the future of the student body of American universities to enhance research capabilities of undergraduate students,” he said.