Physics professor working with a student

NSF Research Grant

Project Summary

Research Work

Professor Mario Affatigato and Coe student

This proposal describes a vigorous and innovative undergraduate research program in glass science that, we believe, serves as a national model of excellence. The projects involve more than 30 students working over next four years, studying a mix of applied and basic science projects. Most of the work will be done in-house at Coe College using superbly equipped laboratories for use by our undergraduates. Our equipment base includes: scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, laser-desorption time-of-flight mass spectroscopy, x-ray diffraction, much thermal equipment, chemical determination by x-ray analysis (EDXRF), and an excellent glass making facility including our own build state-of-the-art roller quencher along with many furnaces, a professional glove box, and several home-built glove boxes.

The publishable research our students perform is on discovering new glass forming systems, extending glass-forming ranges, characterizing physical properties, designing and building patentable state-of-the art rapid cooling devices, learning to make micron-scale gratings and microspheres using laser crystallization and flame spheroidization, working on nuclear waste incorporation into borosilicate host glasses, and doing atomic structure studies of new glasses using a wealth of spectroscopic techniques both at Coe and around the world. We have started a novel 10 B NMR study of borate glasses which brings enough sensitivity to discern order in glasses at the level of 10-15 atoms. In short, our students have been most productive with us and have coauthored well over 100 refereed journal papers in the field.

A considerable amount of this research will be done with well-established and new collaborators around the world. We have found that collaborations enhance our student research to a large extent. Thus, in addition to our in-house work we are able to add solid state NMR, EXAFS, neutron scattering, and ESR to our research. Collaborations also bring wonderful new ideas and new students to our campus.

Broader Impacts

The broader impacts of this proposed work are manifold. They include:

Coe student at a research conference

  1. Teaching large numbers of undergraduates how to do meaningful and sustained research; the total over 25 years is over 180. This work leads to 80 % of our research students going to graduate school in physics, engineering or a related field. We maintain a fully inclusive research team and welcome participation by all. Along these lines we also work with high school students in research, including members of Coe’s Upward Bound Program. Further, we are part of Coe's NSF-REU site and, as a result, we routinely host two-three students from other colleges who stay and do research with our glass groups each summer.
  2. Inventing and producing twin-roller quenchers for the glass science community. We just delivered one to Corning, INC. It is digital and capable of cooling liquids at rates exceeding 500,000 oC/s.
  3. Serving the glass science and physics community. In this area we have and continue to hold leadership roles (examples: Mario Affatigato was just chair of the Glass and Optical Materials Division of the American Ceramic Society, Steve Feller was co- president of AIP's Society of Physics Students) and we have organized numerous conferences in glass science and physics and we produced proceedings for several of these meetings. In 2002 we hosted an international conference on borate glasses. In alternate years we host the Iowa Glass Conference. Also, we taught two segments of the online courses in glass science (spectroscopy and properties) organized by Clemson University and the NSF-IMI hosted by Lehigh and Penn State. We serve on organizing committees for international conferences.
  4. Actively giving talks on how we work with undergraduates to other universities and college and at conferences. Over the past four years we have given 23 such presentations. More are planned.
  5. Faculty and students jointly bringing our science to the public by visiting schools, hosting students groups at Coe College, giving public demonstrations such as glass-forming, and by presenting lectures to the community. A signature outreach program is our Coe Playground of Science that brings 1500-2000 community people, mainly students, to our campus for science demonstrations by the score.