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Physics

Summer 2003

How do bonds break?

The underlying question that motivates my current work is,

What are the forces on atoms and ions associated with surfaces that result in these particles leaving or reattaching to the surface when stimulated with an outside agent?

These surfaces may be surrounded by very high vacuum or by an aqueous solution. The stimulation that assists the motion of the atoms or ions may be a laser or electron beam, or it might be a very sharp, hard tip pushing on the surface. In all cases, the rate of particle removal or attachment, the speeds or energies of the particles involved, and even the direction they … » More …

Summer 2006

Learning what it is to do science

A few years ago, Tom Dickinson lifted the lid from his grande americano and started wondering about the water droplets that clung to its underside. Why were they that size? Why did some merge into bigger drops surrounded by little drops?

Coming from someone else, such questions might indicate that the asker has too much time on his hands. Coming from Dickinson, they launch serious research-and new careers.

Dickinson has an international reputation in the physics of surfaces and optics, and a lab that every summer brims with undergraduates doing research projects. In fact, his resume wouldn’t show nearly the breadth it does without his … » More …

Winter 2004

Abelson shaped thinking as a scientist, editor of Science

Regents’ Distinguished WSU Alumnus

During a life spanning 91 years, Tacoma native Philip Hauge Abelson left an indelible imprint on science. As a scientist and as longtime respected editor of Science magazine (1962-83), he shaped thinking in the science community. His leadership and service on important advisory committees also enabled him to influence national science and technology policy.

He was a man of many research interests, among them chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, geology, and physics. When he was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 1959, his accomplishments qualified him in all seven NAS categories. He chose geology.

His pioneering research would have global implications:

» More …

Summer 2005

Shock Physics: Power, Pressure, and People

After the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device, the U.S. determined that staying ahead in the arms race would require the best scientists and the best weapons. A new federal funding model emerged, channeling money into universities around the country for research and the training of the next generation of national scientists. By the late 1950s, WSU had started on shock-wave research. » More ...
Spring 2005

A Nuclear Icon

If you’ve ever driven State Road 24 from Othello to Yakima, you may have glanced across the Columbia as you neared the Vernita Bridge and noticed the B Reactor. There it sits across the river, stark, intriguing, and mysterious against the shrub-steppe Hanford Reservation. But that’s probably as close as you’re going to get. Public access is limited, possible only through special arrangement with the Department of Energy.

Tim Cowan (’00 Architecture) wants to change that.

Cowan adopted the B Reactor as his architectural thesis project and has never let go of his idea. Now an architect with the Portland firm Yost Grube Hall, Cowan … » More …

Fall 2007

Student of light: Recent grad transcends boundaries

“When you come to a fork in the road,” said Yogi Berra, “take it.”

Xavier Perez-Moreno has done just that.

Last spring the effusive, pony-tailed Spaniard received a Ph.D. conferred by Washington State University and The Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. WSU officials think he is the first Cougar to earn a doctoral degree jointly with a foreign institution.

Xavi (SHAH-vee), as his friends call him, clearly isn’t big on either/or choices. Besides bridging universities on two continents, his dual degree also combines different kinds of research and departments: theoretical physics here, experimental chemistry at Leuven.

But Xavi didn’t set out to break institutional … » More …

Summer 2009

Picture this

Doerte Blume is good at explaining difficult concepts. She draws as she talks, putting into pictures what she knows about the tiniest fragments of matter. Her desk is swimming in paper, with notes and graphs and sketches of atoms lapping at the sides of her computer and spilling against a jetty of books. As a theoretical physicist, she relies heavily on high-powered math; but for her, before the math come the images.

Working solely from equations “doesn’t get me very far,” she says. “I also have to have the physical picture of, what would I expect? What do the particles do? I always try to … » More …

Summer 2009

Uncle Phil and the Atomic Bomb

John Abelson ’60, and Philip H. Abelson ’33, ’35
Roberts & Company, 2007

I was lucky enough to meet Philip Abelson in 2002 on the occasion of his visit to Pullman for the dedication of Abelson Hall (formerly Science Hall) in honor of the scientist and his wife Dr. Neva Abelson ’34.

During our brief interview, Abelson downplayed his own story, instead emphasizing his family’s ties to Washington State University. In 1905, his parents … » More …