CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The art world, it turns out, can use a good physicist. When it comes to restoring priceless works, identifying forgeries or discovering long lost masterpieces painted over centuries ago, curators at the world’s top museums and galleries turn to their colleagues in the sciences for help.
This summer, officials at the Louvre Museum in Paris might look to Austin Peay State University physics student Drew Kerr to assist them in making discoveries about the famed works in their collection.
“The focus of their research is on studying art restoration and analyzing things for authenticity, looking for damage and things of that sort,” Kerr said.
He’ll be traveling to France this summer with faculty from the University of Michigan as part of the prestigious Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program “Modern Optics in the City of Lights.” Specific research projects have not yet been assigned, but one of the opportunities includes working with Louvre officials.
The REU program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, provides grant money for undergraduate students to participate in innovative new research. Thousands of college students apply each year in different disciplines, with only a select few receiving the coveted REU Awards.
For the last several years, the APSU Department of Physics has actively pushed for its students to apply for the program. Dr. Alex King, department chair, said the experiences students receive through this program will help them with their future career choices.
“We do computational physics and some observational astronomy research here (at Austin Peay), and we’re building a focus in experimental and computational materials science,” King said. “If the students don’t want to do one of those things, the idea is they should find what they might be interested in doing for graduate school or for a career, find a school that does exactly that thing and go try it for the summer.”
That’s exactly what interested Kerr about the opportunity in France.
“It was important for me to look for an opportunity that isn’t as readily available at Austin Peay,” he said. “That isn’t to say that our department is lacking in any way. It’s just the nature of this opportunity in Paris, a different type of research.”
Kerr will be one of only 13 undergraduate students from across the country going to Paris this summer to perform research at places such as the Louvre using ultrafast lasers. According to the University of Michigan’s website, “Students in this program will experience strong collaborative science that is currently taking place between University of Michigan (UM) Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS), Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Nationale de Techniques Avancées (ENSTA), Université Paris-Sud 11 Orsay, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan, the Louvre, and l’Institut d' Optique Graduate School.”
“What’s really important about these REUs, is that it takes us out of the classroom and shows us that what we’re learning is used,” he said. “But what it’s really showing me is what types of things are focused on in the world, as far as physics is concerned.”
In addition to his involvement with the physics program, Kerr is a member of the APSU President's Emerging Leaders Program, known as PELP, and the men's tennis team.
For more information on Kerr or his REU experience, contact the APSU physics department at 221-6116.
PHOTO CUTLINE: APSU student Drew Kerr working with a Raman Spectrometer in the APSU Sundquist Science Complex’s laser lab. (Photo by Beth Liggett/APSU staff)