Past physics news
News of 2010
Calvin names asteroid for Benjamin Banneker - asteroid discovered by physics and astronomy's Larry Molnar is named after first African-American scientist. (February 2010)
News of 2009
Light solutions - astronomy students (now alumni) partner with Calvin administration to reduce light pollution on campus, improve star-gazing conditions. (October 2009)
The Goldwater Five - two physics majors receive prestigious Goldwater Scholarships for undergraduate research. (April 2009)
The winter 2009 Calvin Spark (the magazine for alumni and friends of Calvin College) included an Alumni Profile for Matt Vanderhill ('69).
In August 2009, new light fixtures were installed on the Commons Lawn, in response to the proposal from the Astr384 class. This greatly reduces the light pollution on the Observatory Deck, making the stars easier to see and increasing the light levels on sidewalks. Read about it in the Chimes (story by our own Melissa Haegert) and the Calvin press release.
Professor David Van Baak has been a collaborator with TeachSpin, Inc. since 2001, and spent most of summer 2009 at their Buffalo, NY facility. His contributions are mentioned in a recent Physics World article concerning tools for undergraduate labs.
In March, sophomore Luke Leisman won a Goldwater Scholarship , a prestigous national award for undergraduate research. Luke (far right on photo) will work with Prof. Deb Haarsma to study clusters of galaxies, in particular the puzzling interaction of galaxies and gas at the center. More. (This continues a string of such awards: In 2008, Melissa Haegert (leftmost on photo) received a Goldwater Scholarship to pursue research with Prof. Larry Molnar, in 2006 Chris Beaumont received a Goldwater Honorable Mention, and in 2001 Mason Klein won a Goldwater Scholarship to pursue his research with Prof. Matt Walhout. )
Prof. Stan Haan's work with students Zach Smith, Katie Shomsky, and Peter Plantinga was highlighted in the January-February issue of Europhysics News, the news magazine of the European Physial Society. Their work on electron recollision in the ionization of Helium atoms was published last fall in Journal of Physics B.
A Trojan asteroid, discovered at Calvin in 2006, was recently given its official name by the International Astronomical Union. Rhipeus was "the single most just man among the Trojans and the best preserver of fairness". Read the interesting account of the naming of Rhipeus. Calvin also did a press release. This is the 5th asteroid discovered at Calvin to be officially named.
The Calvin news office is doing a series of faculty profiles and in June featured our own Prof. Jim Jadrich.
The Honorable Vern Ehlers, class of '56 and former professor in our department, was the first physicist to become a member of the United States Congress, in 1993. He was joined by Rush Holt D-NJ in 1998 and now Bill Foster D-IL. All three were featured in a June 10, 2008 New York Times article, joking that, at this rate, physicists will be a majority in congress by mid-century!
In April, students graduating with honors were celebrated at Honors Convocation. 10% of those graduating with honors were from our department! From left to right: physics majors Kathy Hoogeboom, John Van Dyke, Jessie Taylor, astronomy minor John VanderHeide, and physics major Ross Norman. Not shown: physics major (and music major) Armin Karim.
In March, sophomore Melissa Haegert won a Goldwater Scholarship , a prestigous national award for undergraduate research. Melissa will work with Prof. Larry Molnar to study an ancient collision in the asteroid belt that resulted in the Flora family of asteroids. Read the Calvin press release. (In 2006, Chris Beaumont received a Goldwater Honorable Mention, and in 2001 Mason Klein won a Goldwater Scholarship to pursue his research with Prof. Matt Walhout. )
The total lunar eclipse on February 20 brought over 100 people to the Calvin Observatory, and was featured in a photo essay in Chimes.
Back in 2003, Andrew Vanden Heuvel ('04) was the first Calvin student to discover an asteroid, subsequently named 128177 Griffioen. He now teaches astronomy at Prairie High School in Racine, Wisconsin and is leading his students through the same process of discovery. Using data from the Calvin-Rehoboth Observatory, the high school students found an asteroid in January 2008. The story was covered by Racine station WISN (article and video - Andrew as "Mr. Van"), by Grand Rapids station WZZM (article), and the Calvin Chimes (article - Andrew as "Golden Boy"). It was later covered in the alumni magazine (article).
In December, alum Tom Van Baak ('80, brother of Prof David Van Baak) had his home laboratory of atomic clocks featured in an article in Wired Magazine. He recently involved his kids in perhaps the first homemade relativity experiment, reported in a letter to Physics Today.
Calvin produced a short televsion spot to promote the sciences, featuring the Observatory and Matt Walhout's research lab. View it here or here, or on the Grand Rapids PBS station before Nova and other programs.
In October 2007, Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution by professors Deborah B. and Loren D. Haarsma was published by Faith Alive Christian Resources. Read more in the Calvin press release for the book.
Names were assigned by the International Astronomical Union in April to two more asteroids. Rehoboth is named after Rehoboth Christian School in New Mexico, the site of our remote observatory. De Young is named after Mike De Young who teaches at Rehoboth and provides crucial assistance for the operation of the observatory. As of April 2007, Calvin students and faculty have discovered 124 asteroids, four of which now have names.
In April 2007, Loren Haarsma and biology professor John Ubels received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to pursue interdisciplinary research on the human eye. Loren will study the production of potassium in tear duct cells and whether potassium in tears protects the cornea from damage by UV radiation.
Alum Marv Bolt '84 spoke on April 12, 2007 about "Opening Scientific Doors with Art and History". The audience included physicists, historians, artists, and members of the press - and all enjoyed it immensely! Columnist Tom Rademacher wrote a nice column on it in the Grand Rapids Press.
In April 2007, Stan Haan received a National Science Foundation grant to continue his research on the double ionization of atoms by intense laser light. Stan's work has been supported by NSF for over 20 years, leading to a long list of student researchers and many papers, including a recent paper in the premier journal Physical Review Letters. For more information on this work, see Stan's web page.
The spring 2007 asteroid hunt by students in Phys134, Astr110, and Astr111 eclipsed the previous record. Eighteen
asteroids were discovered in one week and twenty-three discovered altogether. The table of Calvin asteroid discoveries includes links to a NASA site that plots an asteroid's orbit.
- The fall asteroid hunt set a college record, with the Astronomy 110 students receiving credit for the discovery of 14 new asteroids in images from a single pair of nights (September 18 & 19). Our unique asteroid discovery laboratory received notice this summer by the Chronicle for Higher Education (Volume 52, Issue 47, Page A4) and the Toronto Globe and Mail (August 7).
- Prof. Loren Haarsma started a new electrophysiology laboratory with a
grant from the NSF in October 2005 (see press release). He is working on research projects in collaboration with professors from the Biology and Psychology Departments. In summer 2006, he and student researcher David Will recorded electrical activity from over 200 cells in a project to study how stem cells change into nerve cells.
- Names were assigned by the International Astronomical Union in June to two of Calvin College's first asteroid discoveries: Spoelhof and Griffioen. The honorees were selected for their role in establishing astronomy as an observational science at Calvin in the 1960s. This marks the successful conclusion of a multiyear effort to establish the precise orbits of the asteroids.
- Congratulations to Dr. Gerald Gabrielse, a 1973 alum of our department, who has been named a recipient of the 2006 Calvin College Distinguished Alumni Award for his world class research in atomic physics. Over the years, several graduates of our department have received the elite Distinguished Alumni Award, including Paul Vanden Bout, Vernon Ehlers, and Alex Dragt. We're very proud!
- On October 4, the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics was announced, and our own David Van Baak was particularly pleased to hear that John Hall was one of the recipients. John Hall was David Van Baak's post-doctoral mentor in 1979-80 at JILA in Boulder, Colorado. (A few years ago our department had a similar brush with fame: Matt Walhout's Ph.D. thesis adviser, Bill Phillips, won a share of the Nobel Prize in 1997.)
- On September 29 and 30, 2005, we hosted special lectures on Einstein to celebrate the World Year of Physics. See the press release for details.
- A July 2, 2005 article in the Gallup Independent featured our robotic telescope in New Mexico and student discoveries of asteroids.
- A new screensaver features images from the Calvin Observatory.
- The class of 2005 is one of our largest ever.
- On April 28, 2005, seniors graduating with honors were recognized at Honors Convocation. Of the 54 seniors from across campus, 8 majored in physics! Congrats to Llian Breen, Elise Crull, Jon Dent, Shannon Fogwell, Andrew Jordan, Lee Miller, John VanderWeide, and Matt Voorman.
- On February 18, 2005, our own Prof. Jim Jadrich received theCalvin Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching. You can read all about it on the college press release and the Sparc alumni magazine. We're very proud of Jim - what a worthy recipient!
- Prof. Paul Harper received tenure in February 2005. Congratulations!
- In January 2005, Stan Haan gave an invited presentation "Three-Dimensional Classical-Ensemble Modeling of Non-Sequential Double Ionization," at the Heraus Seminar on High-Field Attosecond Physics in Obergurgl, Austria. Since 2003 he has given similar invited presentations at international conferences in Hamburg Germany, Dallas TX, and Trieste Italy.
- The 2005 January Series included lectures by two physicists: Brian Greene spoke on string theory, and our alum Tom Ackerman '70 spoke on global warming.
- The Calvin-Rehoboth Robotic Observatory was used by students in six astronomy classes in 2004. View student work, and a poster presented to the American Astronomical Society meeting in January 2005.
- In Fall 2004, 11 freshmen have indicated their plans to major in physics, one of the larger classes in recent years. Six of them entered with scholarships from the science division and the department.
- Congratulations to David Van Baak, who has been awarded a Calvin College Externship to spend summer and fall of 2004 with TeachSpin, developing cool experiments for upper level physics students, such as "Two Slit Interference, One Photon at a Time" .
- In summer 2004, about 12 students are on campus doing research with professors in our department.
- The Calvin Observatory hosted viewings of the transit of Venus on June 8, 2004. Over a dozen people came out to view the sunrise event from the Observatory deck, and could see the black dot of Venus crossing a deep red sun at the horizon.
- NCATE has given a favorable review of the secondary education program! Our program for training future physics teachers was praised as "carefully thought out and well-rounded", and reviewers commented that "the design and open-ended components of the laboratory courses are a particular strength". Some additional paperwork is required before the program's accreditation is officially renewed.
- On Monday, May 12, 2004, senior Andrew Vanden Heuvel was interviewed for 30 minutes on the WGVU television program Newsmakers about recent discoveries at the Calvin Observatory. He did a great job!
- In April 2004
Prof. Stan Haan learned of the renewal of his National
Science Foundation Grant "RUI: Photoionization and Photorecombination
Processes in Atomic Theory," through April 2007. The grant includes money
for student researchers each summer. Professor Haan has maintained
continuous NSF funding since 1987.
- Congratulations to senior Phil Ammar, a member of the Calvin team who won the first place trophy at the 2004 World Quest competition, sponsored by West Michigan World Affairs Councl. Phil's experience living in the Middle East and knowledge of current international events served the team well!
- On April 17, 2004, Calvin hosted the annual meeting of the Michigan section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (MIAAPT). U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers spoke, and department faculty and students gave presentations and tours of our facilities.
- In March 2004, Loren and Deborah Haarsma were invited to Baylor University to give several talks on science and Christian faith as ASA/Templeton Series Lecturers.
- In November 2003, the 16" telescope was installed at the new Calvin-Rehoboth Robotic Observatory near Gallup, NM (see pictures). We will operate this telescope remotely over the internet, so that students in Grand Rapids can take advantage of those crisp, clear New Mexico skies!
- In the Fall 2003 semester, we had record enrollment in an upper-level theory course: 16 students in Classical Mechanics! It's great to have a large number of majors around the department.
- On September 5 and 6, 2003, senior Andrew Vanden Heuvel discovered a new asteroid in the solar system! This is the first (but hopefully not the last!) asteroid discovered at Calvin. After he tracks it for a few years, he gets to choose its official name. You can read all about it on the Observatory web page as well as in the Calvin press release (the Grand Rapids Press covered it as well). Andrew was also interviewed on local television and radio stations, and the story was picked up in Pennsylvania (where Optical Guidance Systems, (the maker of our telescope, is based), and in several other web sites and media outlets around the country.
- In Fall 2003, Matt Walhout gave a series of seminars on laser cooling of atoms and Bose-Einstein condensates, following a sabbatical year with Cohen-Tannoudji's group in Paris.
- On August 27, 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years. We had 300-350 (!) people visit our regular Wednesday public night at the Observatory, and they all had a chance to view the polar ice cap and light and dark markings on the surface. Check out the photo we took August 17.
- In July 2003, Professors Deborah Haarsma, Loren Haarsma, and Larry Molnar attended the annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation. This year's theme was Astronomy, and Deb gave the opening plenary talk "A Universe of Wonder," Loren spoke on evolution and morality, and Larry on the dynamics of the Oort comet cloud. We ran into Don DeGraaf '48 (one of the first graduates of our department), who has been an ASA member for over 50 years!
- In May 2003, Paul Vanden Bout '61 received the Calvin Distinguished Alumni Award for his leadership of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (see the Spark story from last year).
- In April 2003, the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers awarded Prof. David Van Baak with the Physics Education Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of his dedication and significant contributions to physics education. Read the Calvin press release. Congrats!
- The new telescope is installed in the Calvin Observatory on March 6, 2003. Read the Calvin press release or the Chimes article (written for the student newspaper by physics major Phil Ammar). The story was also covered in the local media (interview with Prof. Larry Molnar in the Grand Rapids Press, interviews with Prof. Debbie Haarsma on WOOD TV8 and Fox News 17).
- Calvin Observatory images of Venus and Jupiter were used in a Nova special "Galileo's Battle for the Heavens", broadcast October 29, 2002
- Paul Vanden Bout '61 is featured in a Fall 2002 Spark article describing his 17 years of service as head of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Note also the sidebar article the astronomy program.
For less recent news, we invite you to peruse past issues of our departmental newsletter, SCOPE (in pdf format):