On the morning of May 19th, 2016 the Department of Physics celebrated the graduation of 29 majors (our second largest class ever). Many of the new B.S. holders are going to graduate and professional schools in physics, atmospheric science, optics, economics, medicine, medical physics and biomedical sciences. Others already have landed jobs, including five as secondary school physics teachers. We congratulate them all and wish them all the best in all their endeavors. Class of 2016, keep in touch!
On May 10th the TCNJ Physics Department held its annual spring picnic at Rosedale Park in Pennington. Bad weather the previous week forced a postponement and there was some drizzle that day as well, but those who came enjoyed games, food and conversation. The turnout by first year students was particularly high.
In last year’s Mayo Business Plan Competition, the Solar Divide team had a great idea, but they didn’t have the business acumen to back it up—and it cost them. They didn’t advance beyond the first round.
This year, like a phoenix rising, team members Nic Freschi and his business partner Cody Combs breathed new life into their existing concept and created a solid business plan that took home the biggest first-place prize pot in the competition’s five-year history: $30,000.
Freschi and Combs, both senior physics majors, along with 2015 finance and physics grad Christian Balevski, make up Solar Divide, LLC. Though they’re keeping a tight lid on the specs behind their technology while they work on patents, they’re calling it a new way to “do” solar. By devising a way to separate [read: divide] different wavelengths of sunlight, each can be put to work at its optimal efficiency thereby turning otherwise wasted heat energy into electricity. And the best part? They’re confident that their innovation can be easily retrofitted to existing solar farms to double their output.
Their ultimate goal—to approach big energy companies with their intellectual property and sell their ideas—is what won them the competition this year. The judges were impressed by their shift from a manufacturing model the previous year to a licensing model this year, mentioning that it showed solid knowledge of the market and how to get their foot in the door.
“We want to be a part of this transition away from fossil fuels and into clean energy,” says Balevski. “And after we succeed with this, we’ll keep moving forward,” he says.
For Freschi, who is majoring in philosophy along with physics, the win gives him the confidence to purse a childhood dream. “I’ve always wanted to be an inventor, but I never thought I was that type of person,” he says. “I want to create impact and do something that will be important on a global scale, and this is the best of both worlds.”
Combined with the winnings from the Mayo Business Plan Competition, Solar Divide has deals in place to raise nearly half of their $250,000 goal. With the funding, they’re working to secure an attorney and start the final patent process, and build a scaled-up prototype of their rethought solar panel so that potential investors—and buyers—can see it at work alongside a traditional solar field.
Combs stressed the impact the competition had on him. “The Mayo Business Plan Competition teaches you how to do it,” he says, referring to crafting an achievable plan. “If I want to start another start-up, I know what it takes. You think it’s impossible to do, but it’s literally just doing it. Just work at it.”
About the Mayo Business Plan Competition
The Mayo Business Plan Competition is designed to increase student appreciation for the challenge of developing a viable business. Through an iterative process the MBPC recognizes those students best able to articulate a plan that addresses these challenges. In recognition of both the time involved and difficulty of the task, the competition provides a substantial reward for the successful teams.
TCNJ students from all majors are welcome to participate. Students with ideas that translate into viable business products or services can come from virtually any school and major. Each team must be comprised of no less than two and no more than four current TCNJ students.
On Wednesday, April 6th, the TCNJ Physics Department inducted our newest members to the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society. In the photographs are Manesha Bandamede, Katie Boaggio, CarriEve Horner, Tim Osborn, Brianna Santangelo, Shreyas Shirodkar, Tyler Viducic, and Shannon Wesley. Benjamin Campos and Krishna Sheth were also elected but were unable to attend. Prof. AJ Richards gave a brief talk about the messages we have sent to possible extra-solar civilizations. As a TCNJ alumnus (class of 2007) and fellow Sigma Pi Sigma member, he also conducted the formal induction ceremony after welcoming remarks by Prof. Paul Wiita, a member of Sigma Pi Sigma for 44 years. As the number of majors has grown we have now switched from biannual to annual ceremonies to honor the highest achievers among our junior and senior classes (some of the latter were also inducted last year).
Mitchell Revalski, class of 2014, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in Astronomy. This three-year fellowship will support his work on outflows from Active Galactic Nuclei with Prof. D. Michael Crenshaw at Georgia State University. While still at TCNJ, Mitch was co-author on two papers with Dr. Wiita and several other students.
TCNJ Physics Majors, Brianna Santangelo and Shannon Wesley, did some outreach at the Young Women’s Conference in STEM at Princeton University. The conference is a chance for middle school and high school girls to discover more about careers in STEM fields, and many STEM employers and academic institutions set up booths to expose the attendees to some of the possibilities. The students and their faculty mentors, Dr. AJ Richards and Dr. Angela Capece, set up demonstrations to showcase the TCNJ physics program.
The Physics Department is excited to announce the arrival of a new Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). The AFM is the Bruker Dimension Edge, a state of the art research tool for investigating nanoscale features in a variety of condensed matter systems. The system will be housed temporarily on the 3rd floor of the physics department, and will be used by students and faculty in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
Kelly O’Connor, senior physics major, won a 2016 Education Committee Travel Award to present her abstract at the Biophysical Society’s 60th Annual Meeting, which was held February 27 – March 1 in Los Angeles, California. She was honored at the Education, Inclusion and Diversity, and Professional Opportunities for Women Committees Travel Awardee Reception on Saturday, February 27. Her paper title is “Mapping Neuronal Connectivity Using Laser Photostimulation and Calcium Imaging.” Her faculty mentor is Dr. Tuan Nguyen.
On March 8th, Uni Gupta, Kristen Miner, Ian Reed, Brianna Santangelo and Shannon Wesley visited a Girl Scout troop at Lawrenceville High School. They enjoyed working together with the scouts to conduct experiments in optics, waves and mechanics together. More photos are here.
TCNJ physics majors Kellie Olear, Cody Combs, Ben Campos, and Ed Witkowski will be presenting their research at the 2016 March meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore, MD. The meeting will bring together nearly 10,000 physicists, scientists, and students from all over the world to share research from industry, universities, and major labs. The work to be presented was performed under the mentorship of Dr. David McGee, and is focused on the novel optical properties of organic thin films.