Eric Wondergem's pictureEric Wondergem

Hope College

Dr. Mader, Dr. Peaslee, Dr. DeYoung (Nuclear Group)

Supported by NSF-REU

At the beginning of the summer, I had never spent time with computer languages. I had heard of FORTRAN, but I really didn't know anything about it (except for the fact that it is a very old computer language). Anyway, when I arrived at Hope for my summer employment, I was informed that FORTRAN is the language of choice for the physics community. I was also informed that I would be learning the "ropes" of this language this summer. Under the guidance of Dr. Mader, I slowly (and I emphasize that word!!) began to get the hang of FORTRAN. At first, I hated it because I was so frustrated all of the time. However, now I am able to write programs that I never dreamed possible. With a lot of patience, I have become almost comfortable with the FORTRAN language. By the way, I did programming for Dr. Mader throughout the summer. She is Hope College's resident Theoretical Physicist. When I wasn't plugging away at the computer, I was busy helping Dr. Peaslee and Katie Drake with the PPACs that we made here this summer. I won't go in to the details, but basically, a PPAC is a gas ionization chamber. It detects particles as they pass through the chamber. The making of a PPAC is a long and tedious process. However, after redesigning the detector several times, we finally found a method for constructing them that seems to work. For more info on the PPACs, you should check out Katie's document on what she did this summer. Also, as a part of my "initiation" into the world of nuclear physics, I was invited (on several occasions) to go to Michigan State Univ. to see the national lab there. I received personal tours and insights from Dr. Peaslee that really sunk in. I now have a pretty good understanding of how the Cyclotron at MSU works.

I have also been to Notre Dame on two occasions to visit their lab. Once, I was there for a tour, and the other time, I was there for an experiment that was being carried out by another student named Matt Barton. Matt was under the direction of Dr. Deyoung. To make a long story short, I spent 4 days at Notre Dame during that experiment. I was a part of data taking and accelerator upkeep. It was an experience that was very enlightening. Not only did I get to watch nuclear physicists in their "element," but I also got the experience of the dreaded "midnight shift." nuff' said.

Over all, this summer has been a terrific one. The professors in the Physics dept. have all been patient and understanding. They are really committed to helping undergrads make the LEAP to nuclear physics. I have learned a tremendous amount and couldn't be happier with the way I have been treated.

I'd like to thank the NSF for my funding. Thanks also to Hope College for this opportunity.