Thermal Analysis Laboratory
There is no full university experience without scientific research. It is very enriching for the understanding of Physics. It also enriches students' CVs greatly. Students' research at this lab has international reach. Cooperation with many renowned researchers from European universities opens doors to participate in 5-weeks Summer Research Semester there, publish papers in respected international journals and gain professional experience highly valued in the job market. Many graduates have reached out to express their experience with this respect: Thermal Analysis Laboratory at UHD was the key factor that landed them jobs and won them graduate schools.
1. WHAT DO WE DO?
Thermal Analysis Laboratory is directed by Dr. Janusz Grebowicz, an experimental physicist specializing in applied thermodynamics for material science. Equipped with a Netzsch STA 409 CD simultaneous thermal analyzer/quadrupole mass spectrometer (STA-QMS) and a stage-mounted calorimeter with transmitted/reflected-light microscope, the lab plays an essential role in the polymer chemistry, physics, and geochemistry research programs. The main physical properties characterized are crystallinity, temperatures, and heats of transitions, coefficient of thermal expansion, Young modulus (in static and dynamic modes), evolving gas analysis during decomposition. The research is directed toward material science and includes three main areas:
- low molecular weight chemicals
- geological materials
The main beneficiaries of the lab activity are UHD's undergraduate students. In addition to getting hands-on experience with top-class technology, the broad range of issues cooperative works bring to the lab gives them invaluable lessons in working on finding solutions for real-life technical problems.
The lab serves also as a center for education. Dr. Grebowicz has developed upper division course 3402 Thermophysical Properties of Materials Lecture and Lab, designated also as a “W" course. The course combines the basic instruction on Thermal Analysis with the rigor the physics research demands. The experimental work is also performed within 3300 Physics Research course.
Today students participating in his research represent majors across all CST: NS, Engineering, and Math departments. To date, students presented 37 posters individually or as small groups in conferences at UHD and outside. Several undergraduate students have earned co-authorship of peer-reviewed papers.
Thermal Analysis Laboratory attracts international cooperation. Several universities in Poland are exchanging students with NS for summer research. UHD students have also the opportunity to study in Germany (Karlsruhe) and Sweden (KTH Royal Institute of Technology's summer school on the repositioning of nuclear-spent fuel in Oskarshamn).
In 2004, Dr. Grebowicz joined UHD as Visiting Professor and was asked to teach College Physics, a subject based solely on experimental science. As a strong believer that to be effective as a teacher he must engage the students in research, he immediately started organizing the research lab. (At that time there was no research facility in the Physics Program at UHD, one old X-ray diffractometer needed to be dismantled as obsolete.) His efforts found strong support from his colleagues and the chair. The biggest challenge he faced was the fact that there is no Physics major at UHD and he had to organize his research in such a way that he would attract students from a variety of majors.
The initial nucleus of the lab was the three calorimeters and polarizing optical microscope donated to UHD by Shell. Shortly a grant proposal was submitted to NSF for funds to purchase the Skimmer, the instrument combining calorimetry, thermogravimetry, and mass spectrometry. This is a unique technology product on the market and UHD is one of the very few schools in the US in possession of such an instrument. With some other acquisitions and instrument donations, the lab became one of the strongest in the country and we are frequently invited to cooperate with scientists representing different areas of science and technology in both academia and industry. Such a strong position is instrumental in obtaining research and education grants from a variety of sources.