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Apker Award finalists (f) and judges (sc). [Rear, from left: Michael Brown (sc), Ali Kinkhabwala (f), Carl Steinke (f), and Laurence Marschall (sc). Front, from left: Harry Lustig (sc), Gwendolyn Bell (recipient), Brian D'Urso (recipient), Sylvia Smullin (f), and Barrie Ripin (sc). Selection committee members not in photo: Stephen Ralph, D. Allan Bromley, J. Robert Schrieffer and George Snow.]
Brian Richard D'Urso of the California Institute of Technology and Gwendolyn Rae Bell of Harvey Mudd College have been named by the APS as recipients of the 21st Apker Award competition for their research achievements as undergraduates.
The Apker Awards were established by Jean Dickey Apker as a memorial to her husband, LeRoy Apker. Both were physicists employed the General Electric Research Laboratories in Schenectady, NY. Each year the selection committee invites five or six finalists out of the nominees to give presentations of their undergraduate research work. Apker Award recipients are selected from the finalists, usually, one doing their undergraduate work at a PhD-granting institution and one from a non-PhD-granting college. Finalists receive a $1000 award, a certificate, and expenses to the APS Centennial meeting. Their undergraduate institutions receive $500 each. Apker Award recipients each receive an additional $5000 and an invited paper at the Centennial meeting. Their institutions also receive a $5000 grant to further encourage undergraduate research.
Bell began her research concerning dwarf spheroidal galaxies at the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, while participating in a summer program sponsored by Northern Arizona University. Upon returning to Harvey Mudd College, she decided to continue the work as her senior research project. The resulting thesis provides an estimate of the total mass of the Milky Way within 100 kpc of galactic center by calculating the orbits of some of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies, called dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Bell's mass estimate is one of the few mass calculations that extends to such a large galactic radius and it relies on fewer assumptions than previous studies. Bell also examines the origins of the dwarf spheroidal galaxies themselves. Bell is now beginning graduate studies in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology.
D'Urso began his undergraduate research at CalTech with numerical modeling of electromagnetic waves in photonic crystal structures. These calculations were used to design optical resonance cavities which utilized two dimensional photonic bandgap crystal mirrors. In his senior year, he used nanofabrication techniques to implement these structures in the InGaAs/InGaAsP material system. When optically pumped, the hexagonal cavities, which are less than 20 microns across, show strong resonance features. The ultimate goal of this project is to use the geometrical flexibility of the photonic crystal mirrors to create coupling paths between the cavities on a wavelength scale.
Following his graduation D'Urso has now begun graduate studies in experimental atomic physics at Harvard University.
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