HWS Enters National Physics Competition – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWS Enters National Physics Competition

This spring, a group of students and faculty from HWS will travel to Bozeman, Montana to participate in the National Student Solar Spectrograph Competition. One of eight teams from across the country, the HWS group will present its own spectrograph to a panel of judges to compete for a national title and recognition.

This will be the second consecutive year that HWS has participated in the competition. This year’s team includes Christopher Demas ’17, Joseph Carrock ’17, Michelle Gomez ’16, Jeff Rizza ’16 and Justin Partyka ’16. Participating faculty members are Assistant Professor of Physics Ileana Dumitriu, Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics Joshua Nollenberg and Physics lab technician Peter Spacher.

The team, which has met on a weekly basis throughout the year to construct a spectrograph, has focused on testing the effectiveness of various sunglasses for their project. On Friday, May 2, the team plans to lead a demonstration in front of Scandling Campus Center to highlight their research and its applications.

“Have you ever wondered why a CD gives off a beautiful dispersion of colors? Spectroscopy is your answer,” Demas explains. “How about light passing through a glass chandelier that generates a rainbow of colors throughout the room? That can also be explained by spectroscopy. The list goes on and on.”  Spectroscopy is truly an interdisciplinary endeavor, having applications in astronomy, biology, chemistry and archeology.

The group will examine different brands of sunglasses to analyze how well each brand of sunglasses protects the wearer’s eyes from harmful UV rays emitted by the sun. The spectrograph, which diffracts and separates wavelengths of light to determine information about the light source, is an invaluable tool for studying the throughput of sunglasses as well as other scientific endeavors.

The HWS team members will demonstrate their instrument and present their research findings in a competitive science fair environment. There are four judged categories: best build, best design, best science and best presentation.

“It has been an incredible learning experience and I cannot wait to see what we can achieve,” Demas says.