Physics and mathematics departments receive funding, promote student research

Geneseo’s physics and mathematics departments have each received funding for undergraduate research. The two departments have received more than $495,000 for independent projects. The physics department will be working on a project entitled “Nuclear and Plasma Diagnostics for the EP-OMEGA and MTW Laser Systems” for the 24th year in a row with this funding. In the department of mathematics, Assistant professor of mathematics Cesar Aguilar received the funding in the form of a grant transfer for his project, “RUI: Controllability Classes and Leader-Follower Configurations in Complex Dynamic Networks.”

Distinguished teaching professor of physics Stephen Padalino is the project lead for the physics department’s independent research project. Geneseo will continue to work in conjunction with the University of Rochester at its Laboratory for Laser Energetics, which receives the initial funding for the project and then gives a percentage of the funding to Geneseo to participate in the project, according to Padalino.

“The major reason for this project is to study the inertial confinement fusion, and it is part of understanding high energy-density physics,” Padalino said.

The project will study the systems that make matter disassociate and form plasma, Padalino said. Plasmas are substances composed of agitated particles.

“This research is interested in energetic plasmas with high temperatures and high densities, where the ions—when they have sufficient energy—can actually fuse together in a process that’s called thermonuclear fusion,” Padalino said.

This is the same type of fusion that occurs in the center of stars, thermonuclear weapons and supernovas, according to Padalino.

On top of learning about thermonuclear fusion generating energy, the project also aims to learn about nuclear stewardship and to discover what the physics department can learn about astrophysics and states of matter, according to Padalino.

Funding for this project helps to pay for approximately 20 students to conduct research in full-time positions over the summer, he said.

The funding will also help the students and the program to develop the tools necessary for measuring the heat and density of the plasmas that researchers only have a few nanoseconds to measure, according to Padalino.

The Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems branch of the National Science Foundation gave a grant of $181,900 to Aguilar to conduct research for the mathematics department.

“The main project is on studying how the structure of a network influences dynamic properties of the network … what’s popular nowadays is the study of how social networks are structured and how the connectivity of a social network influences dynamic behavior,” Aguilar said.

The study is also looking at how the dynamic behavior of a network can be influenced once someone understands the structure of the network, according to Aguilar. The project uses a significant amount of linear algebra to study the mathematical side of a particular network, he said.

“Students who work on the project will be able to work on specific networks because network science has been growing rapidly and networks have been made for study,” Aguilar said.

Students will look for where network structures and dynamic processes have conjectures.

“If we study a whole bunch of examples and always see this pattern, it may be true not just for those particular networks, but for every type of network that has that particular type of structure,” Aguilar said.

Like the physics department’s project, the funding for Aguilar’s project allows students to work full-time as researchers during the summer.

Padalino commented that he has remained close while working with students over the years on the physics department’s research project.

“I remain very close with a lot of these students after they go off to grad school, or get married,” he said. “This is our 24th year in the project and my 32nd year at Geneseo, so I’m getting old but my students keep me young.”