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SURFing Through Summer
SURFing Through Summer
Zachary Radeka '14
Randolph-Macon College student
Zachary Radeka ’14
caught a lot of waves this summer.
As part of the Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (
) program, Radeka conducted research with the help of a Rubens’ tube, sometimes known as a flame tube, which was invented in 1905 by German Physicist Heinrich Rubens. Flames shooting out the top of the tube at various heights represented acoustic waves. The Rubens’ tube illustrated the relationship between sound waves and sound pressure. Radeka worked under the guidance of Physics Professor George Spagna.
“Because we don’t see acoustic waves in our everyday lives, it gives a good representation of what they look like,” explains Radeka. “A jump rope is an example of a ‘standing wave’—the wave being created by the rope is not traveling, it’s stationary. I explored how parts of equations made by other researchers throughout the years could be refined to match the flame heights exactly. In particular I noted if variables that the researchers failed to take into account—for example, the diameter and length of the tube—affected the flame heights.”
Radeka, who hails from Williamsburg, Virginia, is a
minor. He has been interested in physics since high school.
“I was extremely good at mathematics, and math teachers always try to explain how math has applications in the ‘real world,’ but I never really saw them,” he says. “During my junior year of high school I took a physics course and instantly fell in love with it, because every ounce of mathematics that I had learned was being used; math suddenly had an application!”
A typical day of SURF research involved “a lot of construction” for Radeka, who spent much of his time building the flame tube apparatus.
“I also did a lot of data collection and note-taking, and that information was used in my final SURF paper,” he says. “Professor Spagna’s mentorship was very important. I relied on him to answer questions and give me advice.” Radeka presented his paper at the recent
“I have been interested in the Rubens’ flame tube for longer than I like to admit,” says Spagna. “It’s long been one of my favorite classroom demonstrations, and I wrote my first paper on this apparatus in 1983. Zack continued and extended the work done by previous students, including
Dave Hook ’89
Frank Wang ’95
. Zack learned some of the joys and frustrations of doing research – but he clearly was excited when he saw something unexpected and then demonstrated to himself that he could figure out an explanation for the underlying phenomenon.”
Radeka is a member of several R-MC organizations, including the
Omicron Delta Kappa
and Sigma Pi Sigma. He also serves on the Randolph-Macon College Relay for Life committee. As for his post-R-MC plans, Radeka is aiming high.
“I plan to go to grad school, and eventually I’d like to land a job at NASA,” he says. “It has been my goal to work there for quite some time.”
was introduced in 1995 as an endowment to support scholarly undergraduate research by students in all disciplines. Students conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research during the summer months, under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The initial gift for the program was made by Benjamin Schapiro ’64 and his wife Peggy.
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