RMC Students Present Research at 2022 Physics Congress

News Story categories: Astrophysics Engineering Mathematics Physics
Matt Gunn '24 poses with his winning research poster at the 2022 Physics Congress

As the Society of Physics Students (SPS) celebrated its 100th anniversary at the 2022 Physics Congress, five students from Randolph-Macon’s chapter were in attendance, presenting research as undergraduate physicists and rubbing elbows with Nobel laureates.

Matt Gunn ’24, an engineering and math double-major with a minor in computer science, won the research poster competition in the engineering category for his work with RMC professor Zach Cullingsworth. The research modeled a 3D-printed prototype device that would simplify bladder irrigation.

Bladder irrigation is a medical procedure that flushes the bladder with sterile liquid to prevent or remove blood clots after surgery in the urinary system. The existing procedure involves continually disconnecting and reconnecting a syringe from three different catheters; Gunn and Cullingsworth’s prototype includes an interior, rotating piece that connects the three catheters, reducing the procedure time by 10.5% and making the process more comfortable for patients with just one syringe insertion.

Gunn was also grateful for the recognition as well as the chance to formally present his work.

“This was the first conference where I presented, and I thought it was great to get some feedback from other people in physics and engineering,” Gunn said.

The other four RMC students presented on a wide range of topics, highlighting the breadth of the College’s Physics, Engineering, and Astrophysics department.

·         Sasha Campana ’23 compared two samples of dwarf galaxies hosting active galactic nuclei (AGNs), where each sample was constructed using different selection criteria, to determine if inferred galactic properties are affected by the different AGN selection methods.

·         Megan Gunn ’23 explored a computational fluid dynamics model for lid-driven cavity flow and Poiseuille flow, creating a visual model of the fluid as it approached a steady state.

·         Jake Raugh ’25 evaluated the relationship between the moment of inertia of wind turbine blades and the overall efficiency of the turbines, experimenting with varying the center of mass of the blades and how it can affect the turbines’ power output.

·         Rebecca Sauls ’23 generated a qualitative representation of the evolutionary track of stellar clusters within NGC 7320, a dwarf galaxy found in the foreground of Stephan’s Quintet. The results support the current working theory that stellar clusters form in an episodic fashion.

Sasha Campana '23 poses with Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the scientist that discovered pulsars

RMC’s SPS chapter, advised by Rachele Dominguez, was awarded travel funding from the national SPS organization for the trip. Beyond the opportunity to present research, Campana, who serves as the chapter’s president, highlighted the thrill of meeting notable scientists like Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the woman who discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967 but was excluded from the team that won the Nobel Prize in 1974.

“It was very inspiring to hear what she went through while still making this grand discovery,” Campana said.

Other highlights of the experience included networking with other scientists and grad school programs, promoting the Randolph-Macon chapter and the Keeble Observatory with a table, and now contributing an article on the plenary remarks to the SPS website.

For Campana, the opportunity to share the experience of the Physics Congress with students of similar interests was “a big deal,” saying, “It meant a lot to us to go to a really cool event as a group and feel like a community.”

The SPS at RMC is open to any student, including those not studying physics.