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2 physics students to go overseas for summer research

4/17/2007
Two Austin Peay State University students, both pursuing degrees in physics, will participate in summer research programs, allowing them the opportunity to travel and work overseas.

Bryan Gaither, a junior from Clarksville, will attend NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for the third consecutive summer, this time as a team lead for Goddard's Robotics Academy. His work in robotics has generated interest from a mining company in Australia, and efforts are under way for Gaither to travel there to share his work.

Angela Mason, a sophomore from Dover, will join Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., in her first summer program to study ferroelectric materials, which are used in electronic and optical devices such as barcode readers in supermarkets. A nontraditional student, she will spend two weeks in Germany to perform some of her research.

Both Gaither and Mason will receive stipends for their summer research. Gaither will earn $5,000, with his travel expenses to Australia covered. Mason will receive $4,200 and an all-expense paid trip to Germany.

“The fact these two individuals are going to get paid to essentially study abroad is interesting,” Dr. Jaime Taylor, chair and professor of the APSU Department of Physics and Astronomy, said.

With NASA, Gaither and his team will continue their work on the modeling of tetrahedral-based robotics structures as part of the Tetrahedral Walker Project. The development is important in the field of space robotics, Gaither said.

“This is a pilot program, but it has many implications for the future,” said Gaither, who plans to pursue a career in space robotics with a focus in human-robotic interaction.

Mason will be part of an international team funded by a three-year, $1.2 million Materials World Network grant, led by Lehigh University. In the project, Nanoscale Structure and Shaping of Ferroelectric Domains, Mason will be among researchers conducting lab experiments and computer simulations to study the properties of ferroelectric domain walls in ferroelectric materials. This area of science is used in optical communication, providing a way for researchers to convert light from one wavelength to another and the ability to steer light.

“I hope to gain great experience from this,” said Mason, who was accepted to two other research programs this summer but chose Lehigh University. “I know I want to go into engineering when I graduate but am unsure of exactly what I want to do. This program will help me to establish a career interest.”

For more information about APSU physics students participating in summer research programs, contact Taylor by telephone at (931) 221-6361 or by e-mail at taylorjr@apsu.edu. -- Melony Leazer