Upcoming Colloquia

Friday, October 25

12:00 PM, C215 ESC

Abigail Mechtenberg

University of Notre Dame

Experimental design as a bridge from cookbook labs to inquiry labs

Experimental design is an approach to bridge from the best attributes of cookbook labs to the finest aspects of inquiry labs. Prof. Mechtenberg will talk about her experimental-design pedagogy developed as a high-school physics teacher in Brooklyn, New York in a US defined hard to staff high school, as well as at Colgate University as a physics professor when forced to use their cookbook labs in her physics majors lab section. Phase 1 involves using an experimental design scaffolding technique for students to understand cookbook labs. When students use this scaffolding, they naturally start overtime to question the procedures when appropriate. Phase 2 happens when students move from passive learners to active learners, have socially constructed their knowledge such that they have confidence to critically debate their new experimental design, and norms of doing science become tacit (where students are not explicit given directions). In Phase 3, students will
worry about their grades for their experimental design and it is imperative to be self-reflective and communicate what it means to get reviews from experts in academic journals and how to navigate reviews (Lab TA comments). Phase 4 involves Lab TAs learning how to move from being a Judging Assistant into a Teaching Assistant. Putting all these phases together, experimental design has the ability to transform the way physics is taught without reinventing the wheel (ignoring cookbook labs - use them as research literature for students) and without giving up on inquiry pedagogy (critical thinking about epistemology methodologies and then creating new knowledge within the constraints of a discipline's epistemology).

Summary of experimental design phases: Phase 1 - scaffolding for students to understand cookbook labs, Phase 2 - understanding cultural norms of doing science, Phase 3 - communicating back to students in lab report comments, and Phase 4 - distinguishing between a judging assistant and a teaching assistant.

Abigail Mechtenberg earned a B.S. in Physics at Texas A&M, followed by an M.Ed. in Educational Psychology at UC Santa Barbara, an M.S. in Physics at the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics at the University of Michigan.  She joined the faculty at Colgate University in 2014, and more recently has joined the faculty of the Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame.  In addition to an active energy-research program, she is a widely-respected innovator in the development of inquiry-based laboratory courses.

Friday, November 1

12:00 PM, C215 ESC

Eddie Tatar

Idaho State University

Adventures in Particle Physics

This presentation is intended for people curious about the inner workings of the Universe. We will examine the puzzling behaviors of the smallest objects known to science: quarks and leptons, and will seek the connection with mysterious objects like giant black holes and neutron stars. We will see what the current research says about the fundamentals laws of Nature and discuss the challenges that lie ahead in for Modern Physics in an accessible and entertaining way.


Dr. Tatar received a BS degree in Physics from Sofia University, Bulgaria in 1989.  He worked as a junior physicist at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, before moving to the USA to study Physics at the University of Notre Dame under the supervision of Professor Neal Cason.  In 1999 Mr. Tatar presented a paper on Groups and Representation Theory and was awarded a MS degree in Applied Mathematics.  A year later, he completed a dissertation on Hadron Spectroscopy of Light Mesons and earned a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics.  Dr. Tatar joined the faculty of Idaho State University in August 2001, where he remains until now.  Dr. Tatar’s scientific interests are in experimental and phenomenological studies of strong and weak interactions and the possible extensions of the Standard Model.  He was a member of the team that discovered the first mesons with exotic quantum numbers, after analyzing a large data set from Brookhaven National Laboratory.  His current scientific work includes high-precision measurements of the neutron decay asymmetry at Los Alamos, and neutrino oscillation experiments at Fermilab. 

Friday, November 8

12:00 PM, C215 ESC

Jani Radebaugh

Brigham Young University


Friday, November 15

12:00 PM, C215 ESC

Greg Nordin

Brigham Young University

Advanced 3D Printing for Lab-on-a-Chip Devices

While there is great interest in 3D printing for microfluidic device fabrication, the challenge has been to achieve feature sizes that are in the truly microfluidic regime (<100 μm). The fundamental problem is that commercial tools and materials, which excel in many other application areas, have not been developed to address the unique needs of microfluidic device fabrication. Consequently, we have created our own stereolithographic 3D printer and materials that are specifically tailored to meet these needs. We have shown that flow channels as small as 18 μm x 20 μm can be reliably fabricated, as well as compact active elements such as valves and pumps. With these capabilities, we demonstrate highly integrated 3D printed microfluidic devices that measure only a few millimeters on a side, and that integrate separate chip-to-world interfaces through high density interconnects (up to 88 interconnects per square mm) that are directly 3D printed as part of a device chip. These advances open the door to 3D printing as a replacement for expensive cleanroom fabrication processes, with the additional advantage of fast (~30 minute), parallel fabrication of many devices in a single print run due to their small size.

Prof. Greg Nordin received a BS degree in Physics at BYU, an MS degree in Physics from UCLA, and a PhD in Electrical Engineering from USC. He spent 8 years at Hughes Aircraft Company before joining the Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he founded the university's Nano and Micro Devices Center, and developed a 7,600 sq. ft. clean-room facility for nano and microfabrication. Dr. Nordin joined the faculty of the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department at Brigham Young University as Full Professor in 2005.

Friday, December 6

12:00 PM, C215 ESC

Angel Garcia

Los Alamos National Laboratory


We welcome anyone who wish to attend, and typically serve refreshments ten minutes before the colloquium begins. Speakers generally keep their presentation accessible to undergraduate physics students.