Rollins Physics Professor Receives NSF Grant

August 25, 2010

thomArchibald Granville Bush Professor of Science and Professor of Physics Thomas Moore has been awarded a new three-year $178,787 federal grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of his continued research with undergraduate students in the area of musical acoustics.

The award, part of NSF’s Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) program, is intended to facilitate research by faculty at predominantly undergraduate institutions and encourage educational opportunities for undergraduate students. The award marks the second RUI grant for Moore since 2007, and will support the involvement of several Rollins students, as well as Sarah Zietlow ’06, a local high school physics teacher, in collaborative research taking place on campus.

The project, which investigates the underlying physical phenomena of musical instruments, has proven a successful way to introduce students to important and original scientific research through a subject that most find fascinating. Rollins undergraduates who have been part of Moore’s ongoing research have benefited tremendously from the experience, appearing as co-authors on peer-reviewed publications and presenting their work at national and international conferences. Most have gone on to pursue graduate school or careers in the sciences.

Much of the project’s long-term success can be attributed to its mentor-based model, which allows more experienced students to mentor younger students and encourages the development of new research ideas while the proposed work is ongoing. The addition of Zietlow has added another important dimension to the project by fostering a burgeoning collaboration between Rollins and science students at the Paul J. Hagerty High School. In the past, these students have visited Rollins and Rollins students have, in turn, visited their school to serve as guest lecturers. This opportunity also allows Zietlow to return to her classroom and students each fall armed with new knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm gained by participating in summer research.


(l to r) Hagerty High physics teacher Sarah Zietlow and Rollins students Ashley Cannaday (Class of 2011), Adi Mahara (Class of 2012) and Brandon August (Class of 2013) took part in the Rollins Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program this summer.

While the primary goal of this project is the development of students into future scientists, the potential impact of the research is extensive.

“Many scientific, industrial and military problems can be resolved only with a complete understanding of the physics of vibrating systems, and all musical sounds are produced by things that vibrate,” said Moore. “We study many percussion instruments that are really just flat plates subject to a sudden impact. Understanding this system is important in its own right, but the knowledge gained by studying a cymbal can also be applied to the problem of improving the armor on tanks or understanding why an industrial metal punch fails during use.”

Through the support of this grant, Moore and his team will contribute to the basic understanding of these ubiquitous systems while providing our students the opportunity to be integrally involved in original scientific research. This project is also supported by the Rollins Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program.


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