Physics Students Have Productive Summers with Internships

Posted on July 24th, 2012 by

Gustavus junior Jenna Legatt works in the Physical Measurement Lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technologies in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

In today’s competitive job market, the importance of obtaining and successfully completing a summer internship has grown for college students as they look to enhance their resume in order to entice future employers. Gustavus students are stationed all over the world this summer completing a variety of diverse and prominent internships.

One of the leading academic departments on campus when it comes to summer research and internships is the Physics Department. Here is a summary of what 15 physics majors are up to this summer:

Jenna Legatt ’14 is interning this summer at the National Institute of Standards and Technologies in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Legatt is working in the Physical Measurement Lab at this large federal research lab for the sciences.

“My project involves set-up of a device called a spatial light modulator (SLM),” Legatt said. “My job is to work with my advisor to prepare the optics and software to get this tool working. One application in my specific project is to create a striped or grid pattern with the SLM, project it onto an object, and analyze the pattern’s deformalities to reconstruct the object in 3D.”

Laura Dahl ’13 is spending the summer working at Bosch Security Systems, Inc., as a Loudspeaker Engineering Intern in the Pro Sound Division. Dahl is working alongside loudspeaker engineers to create, design, and test Electro-Voice loudspeakers.

“My main project consists of working in MATLAB to try to optimize line array elements for different event venues including Target Center and several outdoor stadiums,” Dahl said. “Multiple factors need to be taken into consideration from the design of the array box to the stadium dimensions and set up. The ideal goal of the program is for sound engineers on tour to be able to set up the sound system quick and efficiently with the use of this program.”

Kellan Euerle ’14 is completing a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Penn State University. Euerle is working on an existing project of Dr. J.D. Maynard’s that involves compiling data for the making of a computer program which calculates specific heat, thermal expansion coefficients, elastic constants, thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity, and piezoelectric coefficients of basic elements, compounds, and engineering materials over a complete temperature range.

“I will be helping to compile data for certain materials at a range of temperatures, and experimentally finding values for properties that are not already available,” Euerle said. “Specifically I will be helping to construct an apparatus that is proven to correctly find elastic and piezoelectric coefficients at room temperature which can also be used in a low temperature setup.”

Grant Fitzgerald ’15 is working this summer on campus with Assistant Professor of Physics Jesse Petricka thanks to funds the College received through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“I am working with Professor Petricka on his Time of Flight Drift Tube attached to his Linear Quadrupole Ion Trap to study how ions reform into atoms and molecules after being created,” Fitzgerald said. “Once the Time of Flight is connected, we hope to begin exploring the volume and stability of ion trapping, and to understand what we are actually trapping.”

Senior David Buckley operates an $80,000 field spectrometer during his eight-week internship with the NASA Student Airborne Research Program.

David Buckley ’13 is spending this summer with the NASA Student Airborne Research Program in California. The eight-week venture involves flying on the P-3B NASA research aircraft and developing and implementing a research project.

“The project I am working on involves implementing a model for evapotranspiration that has the potential to improve the accuracy and precision of evapotranspiration estimations done by satellites on a large scale,” Buckley said. “My hope is that my work will help validate the model’s use and efficacy so that the model will ultimately provide farmers with a greater understanding of their water use.”

Mara Johnson-Groh ’14 is completing an NSF-REU in the Astronomy Department at the University of Wyoming this summer. Johnson-Groh is working with a group of four other undergraduate students on a project to characterize the properties of supermassive black holes in distant galaxies.

“This involves taking images of active galaxies with the university’s 2.3 meter and .6 meter telescopes and analyzing the resultant data to determine the size of the black holes based on fluctuations in the galaxies’ luminosities,” Johnson-Groh said. “Through this program we are learning observational techniques, data reduction methods, and scientific programming among other things.”

Peter Crady ’14, is completing an NSF-REU at the University of Utah’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Crady’s specific project involves making microscope tips for scanning probe microscopy.

“I am doing this by tipping a small tungsten wire into a solution of sodium hydroxide and running a current through the wire and the solution,” Crady said. “This causes an electrochemical reaction which etches the tip into a very small point. Scanning probe microscopy is used to image surfaces by taking a very small tip and placing it on a tuning fork. You then vibrate the tuning fork and bring it very close to a sample. The tuning fork and the sample then interact quantum mechanically and the frequency of vibration changes. The change in frequency allows you to image a surface with a resolution such that you can see individual atoms.”

Lucas Seewald ’13 is Gustavus Professor of Physics Tom Huber’s intern in vibrational analysis this summer. Seewald and Huber are using a vibrometer to find the natural frequencies at which different objects vibrate and how the surfaces of those objects look while they are vibrating. They are using ultrasound transducers to excite a microcantilever and find its natural modes of vibration.

James Trevathan ’14 is completing a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic where he is working in the CT Clinical Innovations Center – an interdisciplinary collaboration between clinical investigators, research scientists, and industry partners with the mission of “facilitating high-impact imaging innovations that will translate into patient care.”

“This has given me a great opportunity to see basic science research in the field of medical physics and to be a part of translating this research into clinical practice,” Trevathan said. “I have been involved in two projects during my time at the Mayo Clinic. The first is focused on improving and testing an algorithm to differentiate two common types of Kidney Stones based on their Surface Morphology. My other project relates to Polycystic Kidney Disease and involves the development of an algorithm to segment and quantify calcifications within the kidney as well as build a corresponding user interface for validation by a radiologist.”

Michael Patton working on a console in the Mission Director’s Center.

Michael Patton ’13 is spending this summer at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, interning with a company called QinetiQ North America, which is a contractor that works alongside NASA to run the launch vehicle stage of space missions. Patton is stationed at Hangar AE where they monitor and record all of the telemetry data such as component temperatures, circuit voltages, internal gas pressures, launch speed and trajectory information for the launch vehicles during the launch.

“Since I have been here I have taken part in several launches. I supported the Pegasus rocket “NuStar” that went up on June 13 from the pacific island of Kwajalein,” Patton said. “I have also supported the Atlas V “NROL-38” on June 18 and the Delta IV type rocket named “NROL-15” on June 28.”

Patton has also spent time in the telemetry department where he worked on a console as a Missions Operations Director to control the incoming and outgoing voice over internet protocol, rocket data, and rocket video.

Ed Kluender ’14 is spending this summer conducting research at Purdue University’s Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering  through the Grand Challenges REU program, which was created by the National Academy of Engineering and consists of 14 problems facing humanity.

“I am working with Dr. John Sutherland and Dr. Fu Zhao on calculating the total water footprint of steel manufacturing, from iron ore to raw steel. This involves breaking down the entire process and finding every instance in which water is used,” Kluender said. “The total energy used also needs to be added up because of the strong correlation between energy production and water usage. Because this is a mechanical engineering based research, the majority of my work is done using a database with a large amount of data on many mechanical processes. While this program has not been very lab intensive, it has given me a better look into the research process and how a large research-based institution works.”

Other physics majors completing internships this summer include:

Anna Caruso ’13, NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Utah’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Program.

Troy Seberson ’14, NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates at Idaho State University’s Nuclear Physics, Radiobiology, and Nuclear Engineering Summer Program.

Marah Sobczak ’14, Civil Engineering Internship with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Samuel Weiers ’13, NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates at Iowa State University’s Microscale Sensing Actuation and Imaging Program.

The Physics Department at Gustavus is nationally recognized for its high graduation rate of physics majors and the subsequent success of those students going on and earning Ph.D.’s in physics or related fields. To learn more about what is happening in the department, or to contact a faculty member if you are interested in majoring in physics, go online to


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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