Physics and Astronomy Colloquium Series
Fall 2011


Talks are scheduled for Thursdays at 12:40 PM in Room N304 of the Science and Engineering Building, unless otherwise indicated. Pizza and beverages are served at 12:20PM.

All are welcome!



8 September

No Colloquium

15 September

Summer Student Poster Day

The department hallways will be decorated by posters by Union College physics majors who participated in summer research this year. The authors will stand by their posters to discuss their work and answer our questions while we all enjoy lunch during our first official colloquium of the new academic year.

22 September


29 September

Novel Applications of Molecular Spectroscopy to Cultural Heritage and Biomedical Fields of Study

Tom Tague
Bruker Optics, Inc

Recent technological advances in key components used in spectroscopic analysis have allowed the application of spectroscopy to samples smaller in size and concentrations than previously possible. About ten years ago Focal Plane Array (FPA) detectors were declassified for infrared spectroscopic use. The use of FPA's eliminated the largest source of increased noise when measuring small samples via infrared microanalysis, the field aperture. Subsequently, the spatial resolution of infrared microscopic analysis was limited only by diffraction. The more recent application of point spread deconvolution mathematics to resultant FPA images has resulted in data collection to 2-3x better than the wavelength of light. Lastly, the incorporation of ultra-bright sources, such as synchrotron light sources and quantum cascade lasers (QCL) has provided further access to samples in water or are highly scattering. Tissue and art samples have been analyzed utilizing these new tools to demonstrate the ability to chemically characterize samples beyond the diffraction limit.

For Raman analysis, surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) has become an important tool for facilitating the transition of spectroscopy to the biomedical and heritage communities. Current western blot and ELISA method analysis techniques have been shown to be inferior with respect to multiplexed analysis and sensitivity when compared to the newly implemented resonance SERS methods. Results will be shown demonstrating the benefit to using polymeric membrane based substrates to further enhance the SERS effect. A new SERS delivery device had also been developed for depositing silver and gold nanoparticles onto art samples to suppress fluorescence and greatly enhance the Raman signal. The nanoparticles are typically deposited in low picoliter quantities that would be nearly impossible to detect after the analysis was complete. Examples of the SERS analysis of documents and statues will be shown.

6 October


"Life After Union Physics; Stories by Alumni About Non-Grad School Options"

Holly Burnside, Anna Hurst, Colin Fletcher, Justin King, and Bob Marvel.

A panel of Union physics alumni who pursued career paths different from going straight to physics graduate school will discuss their career experiences.
Holly Burnside (class of 2001) entered a master's degree program in science communication at Drexel University which led to a full-time position there. She is now program manager in the office of the Dean of Engineering in which she provides support for grant proposals and outreach activities and promotes major research awards and successes.
Anna Hurst Schmitt (class of 2002) works at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco, where she is the lead educator for "Astronomy from the Ground Up", a national program for museum educators and park interpreters to bring more astronomy to their audiences. This program includes offering workshops around the country and online.
Colin Fletcher (class of 2003) took a job as an applications engineer with Zygo Corporation, a company that makes precision interferometric position sensors. Last year he moved to Bose Corporation, becoming a project manager in the home entertainment division.
Justin King (class of 2006) entered the MAT program at SUNY Stony Brook, leading to a position teaching high school physics at a public school on Long Island.
Bob Marvel (class of 2007) worked for 1.5 years as a materials engineer at StarFire System, a local company specializing in the design and manufacture of innovative materials. The majority of his time was devoted to characterizing new polymer composites, developing processing techniques, and providing customers with samples. After Starfire he was a graduate research assistant at RPI, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at U. Mass, and since, Aug 2010, is now a graduate studunt in materials science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

13 October

A Sound Way to Measure Nanostructures: Ultrafast Optics and Picosecond Ultrasonics

Brian Daly
Vassar College

We can take it for granted that progress in nanoscale science and technology in the coming decades will depend heavily on imaging and sensing methods with nanometer resolution. A number of established techniques can provide us with this resolution (e.g. electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy) but these are restricted to objects on or very near the surface of a sample. A wide range of nanostructures are currently under development across the spectrum of the sciences, and in many cases these structures come in the form of multi-layered stacks. As such, a method for the study of buried nanostructures and films is required.

One solution to this problem is to use ultrasound, which has been successful in medical and industrial fields for imaging with optimum resolution in the range of 10's to 100's of micrometers. In order to obtain nanometer scale resolution, we must use waves that have a much shorter wavelength (higher frequency) than traditional ultrasound. To do this, we use one of the most versatile tools of the quantum mechanical age, the ultrafast laser. An ultrafast laser produces pulses of light that are shorter than 1 picosecond, and when these pulses are absorbed by a solid layer, they generate extremely high frequency sound waves: what we like to call "Picosecond Ultrasonics."

In this presentation I will give an overview of the way in which we use light to generate and detect high-frequency ultrasound in solid samples. I will also describe a companion technique for measuring thermal properties of nanoscale films known as Time-Domain Thermoreflectance

20 October

The Early History of Entanglement: EPR before 1935

Lousa Gilder
author The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn, one of only five science books on the New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2009.

Heisenberg said that "science is rooted in conversations." If the conversations aren't clear, the science can suffer. This is what happened to the foundations of quantum mechanics in the early 1930s--mis-communication derailed progress. I will talk about two examples.

1) At Solvay in 1930, five years before the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paper and Bohr's response to it, Einstein first presented to Bohr the EPR idea. Ehrenfest repeated it to Bohr again by letter in 1931. Bohr seems to have mis-heard both times.

2) In von Neumann's 1932 Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik (as an aside) he offered a proof that hidden variables cannot complete quantum mechanics. In early 1935, after long conversations with Heisenberg, mathematician Grete Hermann published a paper in which (also as an aside) she showed that von Neumann's proof is based on a faulty assumption. But the proof remained unquestioned by most people until Bell's final unmasking of it, over thirty years after it was first published.

27 October


3 November


10 November

Department Pot Luck

Schedule for Winter Term 2012

 Back to Physics and Astronomy Department Homepage

Last Updated: 6 October 2010