Junior Physics Major Wins Award at National Conference

By Sydney Wiseman

This summer, Jordan Van Nest traveled to St. Paul, Minn. Unlike others taking summer trips to soak up summer sun and travel to new places, Van Nest was not vacationing.

The junior physics major and J.O. McClurkan scholarship winner in 2014 was in St. Paul to present his research findings on high altitude cosmic ray detection at the 2016 Academic High Altitude Conference at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota. Van Nest was up against six others from different universities in the U.S. and won for his poster presentation and research.

“It was definitely a surprise to win the award. It was a humbling experience, especially since I had to present in front of the entire conference because of it,” said Van Nest.

Van Nest worked has worked on the research since last semester with Matthew Huddleston, associate professor of Physics, for Trevecca’s Faculty-Led Academic Research Experience (FLARE) project. The FLARE course was titled Exploring Earth and Space through a High-Altitude Balloon Research Platform.

Huddleston explained that the students executed a balloon launch and tracked and recovered the balloon to show their findings in the high-altitude research and present them at Trevecca’s student research symposium.

Huddleston saw the research and asked Van Nest to present at the conference this past summer.

“Besides winning the Student Poster Award, a researcher at the conference has since expressed interest in including some of Jordan’s data in a future collaborative publication,” said Huddleston.

Van Nest made a model to change the way to detect cosmic rays which are radioactive particles that originated outside of the earth. Van Nest took a cylinder detection tube and bound it with lead to detect the rays in the direction in which the lead is pointing instead of from all directions.

Van Nest said one of the reasons he initially came to Trevecca was because of the physics program and the research students were able to conduct as a part of it.

“Astro-physics specifically was always an interest of mine—studying space and everything,” said Van Nest. “After seeing what they do here [at Trevecca] and all the opportunities they provide for hands-on research and experience, that was definitely a deciding factor when [considering] coming to Trevecca.”  

Van Nest said he has always had a passion for math and science and hopes to work in the field of physics and get a research position in the field.

“Jordan has excelled in his physics courses so far. The FLARE course was no exception,” said Huddleston.

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