The Summer Engineering and Research for Community College Students (SERCCS) program, PREM (Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials), Summer Undergraduate Research in Science and Engineering (SUnRiSE), and the NSF-funded REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) are programs that run concurrently through the summer.
Students in the SERCCS/SUnRiSE program arrived Tuesday, May 28, to start their summer at Cornell's Laboratory for the Accelerator-based Sciences and Education (CLASSE). CLASSE is one of only five facilities in the world with a high energy particle accelerator, called CESR. This devoted lightsource produces high energy x-rays for fields of research such as material science and structural biology at CHESS, and is a major draw for students looking to pursue a career in physics.
Especially for students like Emma Huckestein, Center College '20, participating in REU at CLASSE is a unique opportunity to experience the forefront of physics research at a large university like Cornell.
"These types of programs pull me out of my comfort zone," said Emma.
Along with other summer program students, Emma is spending her first week planning for her project. Preparation includes a lot of background reading and learning the skills necessary for data collection and analysis.
"I enjoyed the challenge and intrigue of physics, and just the creativity of it," she added.
Students in each program have a mentor who guides the project. From high-pressure biology to telescope optics, each research topic requires different skills as well as different instruments within the accelerator lab.
"Everything happening in the lab is a potential research topic," said PI of the REU program, Professor Ivan Bazarov.
"We choose who to work with, what projects, and find Ph.D. and graduate students willing to mentor students."
Bazarov also expounded on the uniqueness of Cornell's laboratory facility. The electron storage ring at Cornell attracts scientists and students from all fields of study to use for their experiments.
For example, Cody Cummings is a chemistry major from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He will spend the summer studying the structures of biomolecules in high-pressure situations. Similar to many other students, he was drawn to the SRCCS program because of the resources offered through the lab.
When asked about his goals for the summer, Cody rattles off a list: to learn more about particle/light physics as well as improve his skills in designing the analytic tools for instruments, to be able to collect high-quality data for his presentation, and to master operating the x-ray synchrotron.
This summers’ projects are just as varied as the overall research performed at CHESS and CLASSE. Students’ projects investigate telescope optics, protein crystallography, and superconducting RF cavities, among other topics.
Between studying and working in the lab, students also enjoy seminars and lectures, volunteering opportunities through the Ithaca Physics Bus, and campus events on Cornell's beautiful summer campus.
Professor Carl Franck, one of the mentors in the SERCCS program, highlighted the importance of physics outreach education like Physics Bus, as well as his appreciation of the many faculty and staff that make the CHESS/CLASSE programs possible.
"It's really the people who work in the lab that are the best resources. Every one of our students gets to embedded in their own special part of this," said Franck.
Whether local Ithacan or overseas newcomer, every student is passionate about physics and ready to explore new questions alongside faculty mentors. Good luck in your future endeavors, summer CLASSE of 2019!