Local teachers assist summer research

Six PSU faculty members will spend the next two summers working one-on-one with area high school science teachers on cutting-edge research projects, thanks to a series of grants made by the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust of Vancouver, Wash.

The teachers will work on projects with chemistry and physics professors on topics ranging from fuel cells to aerosols to quantum mechanics. The grants were awarded through the Partners in Science Program at the Murdock Trust, whose goal is to provide high school teachers with opportunities to work at the cutting edge of science.

The Partners in Science program aims to connect teachers and academic scientists to help the high school teachers develop an improved image by being part of the scientific community. It’s goal is also for faculty members to “benefit not only from research assistance, but from contact with those shaping their future students,” according to their Web site.

Both PSU professors and high school teachers submitted applications to participate late last year. Most professors who submitted ideas are either personally interested in the topic or have already been doing research in that area. The high school teachers have a scientific background and will help do research on campus at PSU labs.

PSU faculty involved in this year’s program are Eric Bodegom and Peter Leung from the physics department, and George Coia, Dean Atkinson, Mingdi Yan and Jie Lin from the chemistry department. Bodegom, a physics professor, will be working with a Forest Grove High School science teacher on a project called “Impurities and the Meyer-Neldel Rule in CCD-imagers.”

Bodegom and his assistant will look at how camera images are affected by impurities in the air, in film or from other sources. A CCD-imager is just a fancy name for a video camera, Bodegom explained.

“A video camera detects photons [particles of light], and a chip converts that light to signals on the screen,” he said. “Any impurities that are present will leave an afterimage and degrade the image. We’re looking at how we can detect those impurities to help manufacturers improve image quality.”

Such improved image quality would be of use in the field of astronomy. The Hubble telescope uses the same kind of camera he is testing.

Bodegom has been working in conjunction with a local company to develop a special type of camera designed to measure any impurities.

After being chosen for a research position, Bodegom played a close role in selecting which teacher would work under him.

“I had known the teacher for a while and knew that he was interested in astronomy, so [this project] will fit in nicely with what he’s doing in the classroom,” Bodegom said. “I felt it would be a great match.”

Bodegom’s assistant will be helping the professor gather large amounts of data and compile it into a presentation, which will be given at the annual Partners in Science conference upon completion. He expects the research to cover two full summers and is eager to begin working with the high school teacher.