Student Research Projects and Ideas
Please feel free to view our list of actual
projects. When possible, the final report is provided. Below is a list of ideas proposed by alumni and friends.
If you would like to volunteer
to review proposals and provide advice (or financial support)
any of the projects listed, or if you have an idea for a student
email any physics faculty.
Completion of the
senior research project is required for the physics degree. Any project starts with 1-hour "proposal" course, during which students
how the project would work, followed by a 2-hour "project" course,
which students actually carry out the proposal.
Projects are subject to funding.
|Increased efficiency of tungsten lamps. Much heat energy is
through thermal radiation. Consider coupling a thoria gas mantle to
filament. As is well known, the thorium salt, when heated, becomes a
emitter in the visible spectrum while remaining white in the IR. The
association between the filament and the thoria must be such that the
thermal radiation to the environment is reduced to improve lamp
There is a patent possibility here.
|Estimate the thickness of the earth's atmosphere by measuring
light scattering from small thicknesses of the earth's atmosphere.
cell of known thickness could be the light scattered in the path to
barn door (black background) located at a distance of say a 100
the few millimeter sized cross over of the rays from a convex lens
imaging the sun. The challenge here is probably relating the
scattering in the cell to that of the sky. I wonder if early
done this study?
|Build a moving vane (Crookes) radiometer in which the centers of
vanes have been removed, observe the increased speed of rotation,
predict the speed. I myself made some assumptions on a
conventional radiometer and predicted within a factor of two of the
speed. (It is well known the driving force to the radiometer blades
comes only from a region near the edges of the blades, thus with the
removed, the speed should increase significantly).
Hint: viscous damping can be measured by the spin-down time of the
radiometer in the dark. I can provide references.
|Verify the equations and construct a sun dial where the
direction of North
need not be known to get the time. It is said that shepherds used crude
sundials of this sort up to a hundred years ago. It is called a pillar
One gets a significant appreciation of the geometry of the sun and earth
verifying the equations. Excel works nicely in laying out the dial.
|Fuse the nuclei of atoms using inertial electrostatic
confinement with the
concomitant production of neutrons. (Farnsworth, a television
a patent of this technology). Devise a way to avoid the energy loss at
electrodes so that the efficiency is increased.
|Build a Hilch vortex tube and try to explain its operation.
No one has
explained its operation to my satisfaction. The one I built can make
the cold side. Can such a device be used for isotope separation?
|Build a gold leaf electrometer, explain how it operates, and
divergence of the leafs vs. voltage. Like charges repel, right? But
charges on the outsides of the closed leafs? And don't the electrically
conducting leafs shield the charges from one another so that no force
posed this question to a number of my Ph.D. friends, but they couldn't
close. I think I know the answer, but haven't seen it written up.
|Compute the requirements of a pinhole lens that would be capable
the transit of venus across the sun. Verify that the optics would work
placing a simulated target in the direction of the sun. As an option,
picture of the resulting image. Go through the calculations that led
astronomers to compute the scale of the solar system by measuring
at different latitudes. (Clocks at that time could only measure
|Construct a loaded string, measure the eigen frequencies,
compute them, and
compare the results. This I did as an undergraduate. It is a good math
that can lead to some understanding of quantum mechanical calculations. |