UNA STUDENT PRESENTS RESEARCH AT NATIONAL MEETING OF AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY
April 17, 2008
By Rebecca Walker
UNA Student Writer
FLORENCE, Ala. — The University of North Alabama was represented at last week’s April meeting of the American Physical Society in St. Louis, Mo. Lisa Williams, a physics major at UNA, shared research that she and UNA associate physics professor Dr. Brian Thompson have participated in since last June. According to Williams, only 90 of the 1,500 attendees were undergraduates. She was one of 20 students presenting research.
While at the conference, Williams also attended educational workshops dealing with job search strategies, women in physics and recruiting students to physics.
“The only reason I’m getting such an amazing opportunity is through the [UNA] faculty’s dedication to research,” Williams said.
In March, Thompson nominated Williams for the Society of Physics Students Outstanding Student Award for Undergraduate Research. If chosen, she will be given an opportunity to travel to Poland to present the research at the International Association of Physics Students’ annual meeting.
The joint research between Thompson and Williams, titled “Whispering-Gallery-Mode Resonances in Florescent Microspheres,” focuses on light produced in microscopic particles.
The grants for research are provided by the Research Corporation and the UNA Academic Affairs Grant.
The pair took the research to the Alabama Academy of Science on March 20 for the academy’s 85th annual student competition. Williams won first place in the math and physics category.
“Most of the students were graduate students. I was one of the few undergrads there,” Williams said.
“Lisa has been a joy to work with in the lab,” Thompson said. “She has a great combination of intelligence and personality, but I am always surprised by her strong motivation. I shouldn’t be; anyone with three nearly grown children who returns to school to study physics must feel very strong motivation.”
Williams also serves as vice president for the UNA chapter of the Society of Physics Students. The group travels to local fourth-grade classrooms to show students basic physics experiments in a fun and interesting way.
“Currently, there are fewer than 3,000 undergraduate physics majors who graduate yearly in the U.S.,” Williams said. “We need to get more students interested in the field.”
Williams, who will graduate in May, is making plans for life after this initial research. She is currently interning at GH Systems, a physics and engineering research firm in Huntsville.
“I was actually chosen by GH Systems because they had heard of my research at UNA. They came to campus to find out more about it, and that’s how I started working for them,” Williams said.
She has not yet decided whether to immediately pursue a job in physics or to continue her education through graduate school.
“For this field, you’re going to find the cutting-edge technology in North Alabama because of NASA,” she said. “The country needs research because we can’t grow technologically without it. People like Dr. Thompson and the UNA faculty make that research possible.”
For more information about the Department of Physics and Earth Science at UNA, call 256-765-4334.