16 May 2012

User Summer School offers hands-on experience for a diverse group of young researchers


MagLab Summer School is the place for young scientists-in-training. 

This week, a widely diverse group of 24 graduate students, postdocs and scholars came from Florida, California, Russia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere to attend classes at the Magnet Lab.

Camilla Moir high-fives a fellow student.User Summer School student Camilla Moir high-fives a fellow student during the "Find the Ground Loop" exercise."This is an important experience for today's young scientists who want to do cutting-edge research in physics, chemistry and biology," said Eric Palm. Palm is the director of the DC Field User Program, which matches visiting scientists with magnet laboratories and tools. "We're committed to making sure our next generation of scientists have plenty of opportunities to explore the latest tools and techniques."

For five days, Summer School students get in-depth talks from experts on timely topics in physics and magnet science as well as practical experience in handling equipment and taking precise measurements.

"What has impressed me is that the people we are talking to are very friendly and are basically treating us as equals," said Halyna Hodovanets, a 31-year-old condensed matter physics graduate student from Iowa State University.

Visiting Fulbright Scholar Yuriy Sakhratov, 37, agreed.

User Summer School students David Nisson and Liz Green.User Summer School students David Nisson and Liz Green."I like that they give us practical exercises, not just lectures," said the scholar from Kazan State Power Engineering University in Russia. "I want to know about this facility as much as possible so I can use it in the future of my career."

Also attending Summer School this year is David Nisson, 24, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 4 and is pursuing a doctorate in condensed matter physics from the University of California at Davis.

"So far, it's been a very exciting and wonderful experience," he said. "I thought it would be really cool to be face-to-face with the strongest magnets in the world, and it has been."

Nisson wanted to familiarize himself with the lab and its tools because he hopes to return in the fall to assist a colleague — Abigail Shockley, also from UC Davis and another Summer School attendee — with an experiment.

"Coming here lets you get to meet your peers who might be your collaborators one day," Shockley said. "I was pretty jet-lagged the first day, but I'm really excited to be here."