Guest Post: Michael Wolff ’17

When I first came to Wooster, I had no clue what discipline I would explore, and didn’t even take my first physics class until the second semester of my freshman year; now, I’m coming up on the end of my second month conducting research at Michigan State’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), one of the nation’s top nuclear science research labs. Not only has it been a wonderful period of growth for me as a physicist, it’s also the first experience I’ve had living alone in a new place for any significant length of time. It’s been a long, rewarding journey, and I continue to learn new things and expand my horizons nearly every day.

During my time here, it has been my privilege to work with Dr. Fritsch and the rest of the AT-TPC detector group. The “AT-TPC” stands for ”Active Target Time Projection Chamber,” which means that it’s filled with a gas that both reacts with the beam of particles shot into the detector, and also serves as a medium to track the reaction.

The Prototype AT-TPC (at the top middle of photo) in its natural habitat

The Prototype AT-TPC (at the top middle of photo) in its natural habitat

My first week or so at the lab, I spent most of my time reading papers on the AT-TPC and other detectors, catching up so I could better understand the work I would be doing. Since then, most of my time here has been spent in the lab, working with another undergrad researcher from France to perform tests on the smaller Prototype AT-TPC (PAT-TPC), as shown above. Though I had high expectations coming in, I’ve actually been surprised by how much time I’ve spent in the lab, hands-on with the equipment. Last week, we packed up the prototype and sent it to the nuclear physics lab at Notre Dame, where we’ll be conducting an experiment next week. Even in the last few days of my research position, I’ll be going new places and experiencing new things.

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