Kristina Dungan '15
Our research is mainly experimental, however we do work with various theoretical groups across the world to help us know what to expect with our experiments.
A negative ion is an atom with one extra electron, giving it a negative charge. In the lab, we use infrared lasers at variable energy levels to photodetach one or more electrons from a negative ion. In short, we are shooting photons at these negative ions within an interaction region and counting how many neutral atoms are left at the end of the experiment. These neutral atoms represent the number of electrons that were successfully detached from the original negative ion. The energy levels at which the electrons become detached from a specific atom help us better understand the properties of the element.
A normal day for a student working in the lab varies depending on the success of the experiment. There are many different responsibilities in the lab such as going through the multiple hour long process of turning on and warming up the experimental apparatus and the infrared laser, tuning the optics, organizing the lab, taking data (actually doing the experiment), and analyzing data. Another fun perk of this research group is the weeklong trip to the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in Berkeley, CA that we normally take each summer. This is the highlight of the summer because it gives students a chance to experience working at a national lab.
I became interested in this research through the Principle of Physics I (Quarks and Cosmos) course my first semester of my freshman year. In this course we study modern physics at both a micro (atomic) and macro (space) level, and I found myself more intrigued by the physics happening at an atomic level. Through both the help of my physics academic advisor, Dr. Dan Gibson, and the annual research meeting hosted by the department, I was able to successfully complete my first research experience at Denison during the summer of my freshman year.
Summer research at Denison is a unique experience that truly complements students’ work within the classroom. I would highly recommend it to any student interested in studying Physics at Denison University.