Graduate physics students wins top honors in superconductivity symposium

December 21, 2010

A graduate student who returned to school after suffering an injury that ended her ballet career has won top honors at the 40th Semiannual Student Symposium at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston.

Melissa Gooch, a graduate student in physics, received the first place honor for her work on newly discovered iron pnictide superconductors.

Debtanu De, also a graduate physics student, took second place for his work involving the pairing mechanism between the electrons inside a superconductor. Ngozi Amuneke, a chemistry graduate student, and Sladjana Maric, a biophysics graduate student, tied for third place. All four are graduate students in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

About 100 students have been pursuing various research efforts in different laboratories at TcSUH, and nine of them were chosen to present their work at the recent symposium, which highlights undergraduate and graduate students' original, multidisciplinary research efforts.

The competing students were judged on the originality of their work and presentation. First prize was $300, second was $200 and third was $100.

"This symposium provides students with a forum to gain experience in formally presenting their work to an audience that includes their peers and mentors," said TcSUH Director Allan Jacobson, professor of chemistry and the Robert A. Welch Chair of Science. "This is important because researchers are often called on to present their work."

Gooch worked under the supervision of superconductivity pioneer Paul Chu, who founded TcSUH and now serves as the center's executive director. De's project leader was Haibing Peng, an assistant physics professor. Amuneke's project leader was Angela Moeller, an assistant professor in chemistry, and Maric's was John Miller, a physics professor.

The winning students found the experience valuable to their budding careers.

"When you're in academia, you spend a lot of time going to presentations and you have to talk in front of people," said Amuneke, whose high school chemistry teacher sparked her interest in the field. "You have to present your research. A lot of times it's intimidating to speak in front of audiences about what you're doing. This is really helpful because it gives me that practice. It makes me feel confident when I'm talking and people are nodding their heads."

Maric, who is originally from Serbia and learned to speak English in recent years, said she knew she had to present her work clearly and concisely.

"I was really nervous," said Maric, who has been interested in physics since she was a child. "But this was a great opportunity for me. It was time for me to get out of the lab and tell people what I'm doing. I feel much more confident now."

Amuneke's research project deals with finding ways to make batteries as efficient as possible. Maric has been investigating the nano-devices in cells that convert food to energy, which is then used to make the human body function.

De, who is from India where he attended the University of Calcutta and the Indian Institute of Technology, also was inspired by his high school science teacher.

But Gooch's path to physics was not quite as direct. She originally wanted to be a professional ballet dancer and performed in the Austin and Houston areas before an injury forced her to quit.

"I went back to school, enrolling at the University of Houston. After seeing a demonstration in my introductory physics class of the Meissner effect, I became interested in superconductors," Gooch said. (The Meissner effect is the expulsion of a magnetic field from a superconductor during its transition to the superconducting state.)
-end-
About the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston (TcSUH):

TcSUH represents the largest multidisciplinary university superconductivity and related materials research effort in the United States, with over 240 faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, housed in the $22.5 million Houston Science Center and several other buildings on the UH campus. Center personnel create and develop high temperature superconducting and advanced materials and further their fundamental understanding, advanced new applications based on these materials, and disseminate fundamental and applied knowledge through extensive education and outreach programs. Strong collaborations with industry and national laboratories promote the commercialization of TcSUH research results through the TcSUH Applied Research Hub.

University of Houston

Related Superconductivity Articles from Brightsurf:

New kind of superconductivity discovered
Superconductivity is a phenomenon where an electric circuit loses its resistance and becomes extremely efficient under certain conditions.

Room temperature superconductivity creeping toward possibility
The possibility of achieving room temperature superconductivity took a tiny step forward with a recent discovery by a team of Penn State physicists and materials scientists.

A 'breath of nothing' provides a new perspective on superconductivity
Zero electrical resistance at room temperature? A material with this property, i.e. a room temperature superconductor, could revolutionize power distribution.

New Princeton study takes superconductivity to the edge
The existence of superconducting currents, or supercurrents, along the exterior of a superconductor, has been surprisingly hard to find.

Superconductivity: It's hydrogen's fault
Last summer, it was discovered that there are promising superconductors in a special class of materials, the so-called nickelates.

How a magnet could help boost understanding of superconductivity
Physicists have unraveled a mystery behind the strange behavior of electrons in a ferromagnet, a finding that could eventually help develop high temperature superconductivity.

New study explains why superconductivity takes place in graphene
Theoretical physicists take important step in development of high temperature superconductors.

Better studying superconductivity in single-layer graphene
A new study published in EPJ B demonstrates that an existing technique is better suited for probing superconductivity in pure, single-layer graphene than previously thought.

Stressing metallic material controls superconductivity
No strain, no gain -- that's the credo for Cornell researchers who have helped find a way to control superconductivity in a metallic material by stressing and deforming it.

First report of superconductivity in a nickel oxide material
Scientists at SLAC and Stanford have made the first nickel oxide material that shows clear signs of superconductivity - the ability to transmit electrical current with no loss.

Read More: Superconductivity News and Superconductivity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.