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APSU students take top two awards at statewide physics meeting

On Saturday, March 27, two Austin Peay students took top honors at a meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Tennessee Section, which was held in Knoxville.

According to Dr. Jaime Taylor, APSU professor of physics and chair of the department of physics and astronomy, he and other faculty took 11 undergraduate physics students to the meeting.

Senior physics majors and Clarksville residents Billy Teets and Ryan Hulgiun took both 1st and 2nd place, respectively, for presentations about their research last summer.
On Saturday, March 27, two Austin Peay students took top honors at a meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Tennessee Section, which was held in Knoxville.

According to Dr. Jaime Taylor, APSU professor of physics and chair of the department of physics and astronomy, he and other faculty took 11 undergraduate physics students to the meeting.

Senior physics majors and Clarksville residents Billy Teets and Ryan Hulgiun took both 1st and 2nd place, respectively, for presentations about their research last summer.

Taylor says, “I am so proud of our physics students. They were competing against students from other Tennessee universities, including graduate students from the University of Tennessee.”

Teets' 1st-place-winning presentation outlined his work with the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy. During the 10-week study with astronomers at East Tennessee State University, Teets calibrated images of stars, extracted information and prepared data for analysis.

The group studied Mira-type variable stars, which are nearing the end of their lives and, thus, make excellent observing program stars because of the wide variations in their brightness.

For his work, Teets earned $3,500, room and board and a trip to Kitts Peak Observatory in Arizona. As a result of the summer experience, he plans to pursue a career in stellar astronomy.

Hulguin was a research assistant to Dr. Pei Xiong-Skiba, associate professor of physics, who was working 10 weeks in Huntsville, Ala., in the NASA Faculty Fellowship Program.

Hulguin's group worked to find a process for producing lighter X-ray mirrors to mount on hot-air balloons. The mirrors are used to study violent phenomena in the universe, such as colliding galaxies and stellar explosions.

To improve the quality of images sent back to earth, NASA plans to launch a balloon with 240 X-ray mirrors. NASA now uses no more than six mirrors because weight is such a concern.

Although Hulguin's job was to research how other scientists have decreased densities of materials, he also contributed in an unexpected way. His group needed something that would create a precise waveform, but there was no electric waveform generator. However, they had access to a computer equipped with Labview Software and appropriate software, so the computer could play the role of the waveform generator.

As it turned out, Hulguin was the only person involved in the research who knew how to program in Labview. As a result, the group was able to develop a lightweight sample with no signs of a drastic decrease in its physical properties.

For his work, NASA paid Hulguin $5,000, plus $800 to relocate to Huntsville for the summer.

Currently, APSU has more physics majors than any other Tennessee university, including UT-Knoxville, and the number is comparable to that at major research universities nationwide.
—Dennie Burke