MC physics major chosen for summer research program at N.C. State

Parkersburg High School graduate Seth Avery 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.

Avery, the son of Elaine and David Avery, was chosen for a 10-week internship at North Carolina State University. Senior Chris Cheng participated in the program at Columbia University, and junior Kevin Knoll interned at Michigan 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. “Personally, I think it's a pretty big deal,” Radford said.

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.

Avery was awarded a stipend of $4,000, plus room and board and a travel allowance. He worked with mentor Dr. David Aspnes of the N.C. State physics department. “It was a great experience to work with Dr. Aspnes,” Avery said. “It was nice to be exposed to research in academia versus a government lab.”
Results of Avery’s research, titled “Spectroellipsometric Analysis of Electrodeposited InSb,” might help lower the production cost of certain electronics.

“The antimonides have potential for low power consumption electronics, such as an mp3 player. My job was to analyze the quality of the films. With my results, the process by which the films are produced can be improved, making it cheaper,” Avery said.

This was not Avery’s first research experience. He was selected for an undergraduate summer research fellowship in the Physics Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology during the summer of 2003.

While these research experiences confirmed Avery’s inclination toward a career in research or laboratory work in the future, he will be looking for a new topic for his senior thesis. “It was interesting, but I don't want to spend my life studying properties of semi-conductors,” he said.

A senior at MC, Avery plans to be involved with engineering of some sort after he graduates. He was awarded the Rickey Scholarship in Physics in 2001, and has renewed his scholarship benefits for each year of the four-year program.