MC physics major chosen for national summer research program

Medina Senior High School graduate Kevin S. Knoll was one of three Marietta College physics majors selected to participate in the National Science Foundation’s funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program during the past summer.

Knoll, the son of Jeanne and Steve Knoll, was chosen for a 10-week internship at Michigan State University. Junior Chris Cheng participated in the program at Columbia University, and senior Seth Avery interned at North Carolina State University.

Stanley Radford, chair of MC’s physics department is more than pleased that three MC students were chosen for programs that draw from a nationwide pool of applicants.

“We are proud that our students were successful in winning these summer research opportunities,” Radford said. “The educational and career opportunities that they open up are quite valuable. We hope our students continue to take advantage of these opportunities in the future.”

Radford said that NSF funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. Each of the students selected is associated with a specific research project, working closely with the faculty and other researchers. Students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel.

“Generally students are accepted into the program for the summer between their junior and senior years, but occasionally a student is accepted the summer between their sophomore and junior year,” Radford said.

Knoll and 19 other undergraduates participated in a theoretical research project with their MSU advisor, Dr. Scott Pratt. “One of the most important things I gained from the experience was that I learned what it was like to do some actual research,” Knoll said.

“It was all done on the computer,” Knoll said. “I made a program that looked at the correlations of different particles that were created in high energy collisions and then decayed. The results of my research were actually compared to the results from the actual experiment that had just recently taken place at the STAR collaboration at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in Brookhaven, N.Y. My theoretical results compared with decent accuracy to their experimental results.”

Despite his success with the theoretical research project, Knoll said he would not consider it for his senior thesis. “I did not really like doing everything on the computer,” he said.

Currently a junior at Marietta, Knoll majors in both physics and mathematics. He was awarded the College’s Rickey Scholarship in Physics in 2002, and has renewed his scholarship benefits for each year of the four-year program. He was also named to Kappa Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honorary.

In addition to his academic work, Knoll is president of the Ultimate Frisbee Organization at MC. During his spare time during the summer program, Knoll was able to join the East Lansing Ultimate Frisbee summer league with a couple of the other physics REU students. “The REU program also sponsored some trips, one to Cedar Point and one a canoeing trip, which I helped organize,” he said.

Although he has not decided what he will do after graduation, Knoll says he will consider attending graduate school at MSU. “I liked the campus, although it was a lot more spread out than other large universities,” he said.