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Meet Cole Coughlin and Garrett Kozyniak Faculty of Science Graduates – Class of 2022! – UM Today

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June 8, 2022 — 

Cole Coughlin and Garrett Kozyniak, Class of 2022, UM Faculty of Science Graduates, have proven a degree in physics, whether theoretical or experimental can be very rewarding.

Coughlin (BSc./22 (Hons.), is off to pursue a master’s program at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and Kozyniak (BSc./22 (Hons), will pursue a master’s program at UM, developing a non-invasive blood glucose monitoring device for diabetics, with Dr. Can Ming Hu.

Cole Coughlin, Class of 2022

Cole Coughlin, Class of 2022
BSc.(Hons.), Computer Science and Physics

What got you interested in Physics? 

I would say science communicators like Carl Sagan, and Richard Feynman showed me that physics could lead us to answers to some of the biggest questions we can ask about the universe like did it have a beginning, and what is everything made of? My parents and teachers helped encourage my passion for science and math, and once I learned that being a scientist was a career that I could pursue, computer science and physics became an obvious choice as they were and remain my biggest interests.

Why are you interested in this subject? 

I have always been interested in what makes the world tick and was admittedly the kid who would almost never be satisfied with any answer given to me and would keep asking ‘why?’  – until we got so far from the original question we would forget what it was all together. I remember being thrilled at how confusing quantum mechanics is and how the universe seems to behave in such a way that we never could have guessed if we hadn’t been forced to come up with the theory in order to describe what we see. Being a physicist allows me to wonder and learn about the smallest things we know of, and the size of the universe at the same time along with everything in-between. My interest in computer science stems from my love of technology and how it can be used to solve problems that we could not otherwise. Programming has turned out to be an invaluable tool for my studies in physics on top of being one of my favourite creative outlets.

What was the toughest challenge you had to overcome during your degree?

During the first few years of my degree, I had learned that I worked best in social settings that pressured me to focus on studying and my assignments, like the noisy part of the engineering library, or working with friends. When the pandemic moved us online, I had to learn how to rely on myself to motivate me to work and study, which was a challenge, to say the least. I have slowly gotten better at it and I am sure that being able to motivate myself to work when I need to will prove to be a useful skill in the future.

What will you remember the most about your experience at UM?

The Organization of Physics Undergraduate Students is the physics student group at the UM, and through joining and volunteering with the organization I have met some of the most incredible friends anyone could ask for. The friends I met encouraged me to run for vice president, and then president of the organization, which was an experience I am incredibly thankful for. Beyond providing free tutoring for undergraduates and exam cram sessions, OPUS gave me the chance to build a great group of friends to bounce ideas off of and support each other when we needed it most. I can’t wait to see where the friends I made will go and we will no doubt stay in touch far into the future, reminiscing about the good old days cramming for exams and struggling with our theses, and somehow having a great time along the way.

What’s next? 

This September, I will be participating in the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Scholars International Masters Program along with 25 other students from around 20 different countries, in Waterloo, Ontario. This masters program lasts 10 months and promises a fast passed education on all of the wildest concepts in physics, from quantum field theory to cosmology. I am beyond thrilled to be selected for the program and am looking forward to the challenge. After that, I will be looking to start my PhD, in the hopes of becoming a professor of physics one day and conducting my own research, as well as be able to teach and share my excitement about physics.

Advice for future students?

My advice for future students would be to try your best to get involved in the community that you are in. OPUS was there to help me through my degree with support from friends and being able to contribute as an executive of the organization was a rewarding experience. University is difficult, and in my experience much harder alone. So if you can, getting out of your comfort zone and trying to get involved with student groups was scary for me at first, but one of the better decisions I have made.


Garrett Kozyniak, Class of 2022Garrett Kozyniak
BSc.(Hons.), Physics and Astronomy

What got you interested in your Physics and Astronomy?

What got me interested in choosing physics as my major is the versatile knowledge gained that is applicable to other fields, such as biology, chemistry, and engineering to name a few. At the same time building essential skills in mathematics, coding, and critical thinking. All in all, a major in physics is very rewarding.

Why are you interested in this subject?

I have always enjoyed building things, especially electronics. Being able to theoretically predict outcomes of a device or contraption that you built, I find to be really powerful and interesting.

What was the toughest challenge you had to overcome during your degree?

Determining which branch of study I was truly passionate about in order to pursue further education. I was always interested in the mysteries and expansiveness of space, which is why I chose a distinction in astrophysics. However, it wasn’t until I took a class that was more hands-on that I found experimental physics to be more satisfying.

What will you remember most about your time at UM?

Since I am returning for graduate studies, what I remember most, so far, is how helpful and carrying my professors are, and their genuine interest in the success of their students. My supervisor is Dr. Can-Ming Hu, and I joined his spintronics lab in the department of physics and astronomy. For my honours thesis project, I used the theory developed by Group Hu to design an enhanced sensor using microwaves that can non-invasively detect blood glucous levels, and hopefully in the future, can be used as a convenient alternative for blood glucose monitoring for diabetics.

The primary reason I decided on this project was that I wanted to make a useful device based on the amazing research found in Dr. Can-Ming Hu’s lab. Eventually, I picked an enhanced sensing application that hadn’t been realized yet using the work done by Group Hu. 

What’s next?

I am a planned Master’s student starting in the fall 2022 semester with the Hu research group that I joined during my Honours thesis where I aim to further my thesis work and participate in future research projects. I believe I can learn a lot more from Dr Hu, and his group.

Advice for future students?

Try your best and never give up then you will never disappoint yourself.
 

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Las Vegas Aces Rookie Kate Martin Suffers Ankle Injury in Game Against Chicago Sky

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Las Vegas Aces rookie Kate Martin had to be helped off the floor and taken to the locker room after suffering an apparent ankle injury in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Sky.

Late in the first quarter, Martin was pushing the ball up the court when she appeared to twist her ankle and lost her balance. The rookie was in serious pain, lying on the floor before eventually being helped off. Her entire team came out in support, and although she managed to put some pressure on the leg, she was taken to the locker room for further evaluation.

Martin returned to the team’s bench late in the second quarter but was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

“Kate Martin is awesome. Kate Martin picks up things so quickly, she’s an amazing sponge,” Aces guard Kelsey Plum said of the rookie during the preseason. “I think (coach) Becky (Hammon) nicknamed her Kate ‘Money’ Martin. I think that’s gonna stick. And when I say ‘money,’ it’s not just about scoring and stuff, she’s just in the right place at the right time. She just makes people better. And that’s what Becky values, that’s what our coaching staff values and that’s why she’s gonna be a great asset to our team.”

Las Vegas selected Martin in the second round of the 2024 WNBA Draft. She was coming off the best season of her collegiate career at Iowa, where she averaged 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game during the 2023-24 campaign. Martin’s integration into the Aces organization has been seamless, with her quickly earning the respect and admiration of her teammates and coaches.

The team and fans alike are hoping for a speedy recovery for Martin, whose contributions have been vital to the Aces’ performance this season.

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Asteroid Apophis will visit Earth in 2029, and this European satellite will be along for the ride

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The European Space Agency is fast-tracking a new mission called Ramses, which will fly to near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis and join the space rock in 2029 when it comes very close to our planet — closer even than the region where geosynchronous satellites sit.

Ramses is short for Rapid Apophis Mission for Space Safety and, as its name suggests, is the next phase in humanity’s efforts to learn more about near-Earth asteroids (NEOs) and how we might deflect them should one ever be discovered on a collision course with planet Earth.

In order to launch in time to rendezvous with Apophis in February 2029, scientists at the European Space Agency have been given permission to start planning Ramses even before the multinational space agency officially adopts the mission. The sanctioning and appropriation of funding for the Ramses mission will hopefully take place at ESA’s Ministerial Council meeting (involving representatives from each of ESA’s member states) in November of 2025. To arrive at Apophis in February 2029, launch would have to take place in April 2028, the agency says.

This is a big deal because large asteroids don’t come this close to Earth very often. It is thus scientifically precious that, on April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass within 19,794 miles (31,860 kilometers) of Earth. For comparison, geosynchronous orbit is 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above Earth’s surface. Such close fly-bys by asteroids hundreds of meters across (Apophis is about 1,230 feet, or 375 meters, across) only occur on average once every 5,000 to 10,000 years. Miss this one, and we’ve got a long time to wait for the next.

When Apophis was discovered in 2004, it was for a short time the most dangerous asteroid known, being classified as having the potential to impact with Earth possibly in 2029, 2036, or 2068. Should an asteroid of its size strike Earth, it could gouge out a crater several kilometers across and devastate a country with shock waves, flash heating and earth tremors. If it crashed down in the ocean, it could send a towering tsunami to devastate coastlines in multiple countries.

Over time, as our knowledge of Apophis’ orbit became more refined, however, the risk of impact  greatly went down. Radar observations of the asteroid in March of 2021 reduced the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit from hundreds of kilometers to just a few kilometers, finally removing any lingering worries about an impact — at least for the next 100 years. (Beyond 100 years, asteroid orbits can become too unpredictable to plot with any accuracy, but there’s currently no suggestion that an impact will occur after 100 years.) So, Earth is expected to be perfectly safe in 2029 when Apophis comes through. Still, scientists want to see how Apophis responds by coming so close to Earth and entering our planet’s gravitational field.

“There is still so much we have yet to learn about asteroids but, until now, we have had to travel deep into the solar system to study them and perform experiments ourselves to interact with their surface,” said Patrick Michel, who is the Director of Research at CNRS at Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in Nice, France, in a statement. “Nature is bringing one to us and conducting the experiment itself. All we need to do is watch as Apophis is stretched and squeezed by strong tidal forces that may trigger landslides and other disturbances and reveal new material from beneath the surface.”

The Goldstone radar’s imagery of asteroid 99942 Apophis as it made its closest approach to Earth, in March 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL–Caltech/NSF/AUI/GBO)

By arriving at Apophis before the asteroid’s close encounter with Earth, and sticking with it throughout the flyby and beyond, Ramses will be in prime position to conduct before-and-after surveys to see how Apophis reacts to Earth. By looking for disturbances Earth’s gravitational tidal forces trigger on the asteroid’s surface, Ramses will be able to learn about Apophis’ internal structure, density, porosity and composition, all of which are characteristics that we would need to first understand before considering how best to deflect a similar asteroid were one ever found to be on a collision course with our world.

Besides assisting in protecting Earth, learning about Apophis will give scientists further insights into how similar asteroids formed in the early solar system, and, in the process, how  planets (including Earth) formed out of the same material.

One way we already know Earth will affect Apophis is by changing its orbit. Currently, Apophis is categorized as an Aten-type asteroid, which is what we call the class of near-Earth objects that have a shorter orbit around the sun than Earth does. Apophis currently gets as far as 0.92 astronomical units (137.6 million km, or 85.5 million miles) from the sun. However, our planet will give Apophis a gravitational nudge that will enlarge its orbit to 1.1 astronomical units (164.6 million km, or 102 million miles), such that its orbital period becomes longer than Earth’s.

It will then be classed as an Apollo-type asteroid.

Ramses won’t be alone in tracking Apophis. NASA has repurposed their OSIRIS-REx mission, which returned a sample from another near-Earth asteroid, 101955 Bennu, in 2023. However, the spacecraft, renamed OSIRIS-APEX (Apophis Explorer), won’t arrive at the asteroid until April 23, 2029, ten days after the close encounter with Earth. OSIRIS-APEX will initially perform a flyby of Apophis at a distance of about 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from the object, then return in June that year to settle into orbit around Apophis for an 18-month mission.

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Furthermore, the European Space Agency still plans on launching its Hera spacecraft in October 2024 to follow-up on the DART mission to the double asteroid Didymos and Dimorphos. DART impacted the latter in a test of kinetic impactor capabilities for potentially changing a hazardous asteroid’s orbit around our planet. Hera will survey the binary asteroid system and observe the crater made by DART’s sacrifice to gain a better understanding of Dimorphos’ structure and composition post-impact, so that we can place the results in context.

The more near-Earth asteroids like Dimorphos and Apophis that we study, the greater that context becomes. Perhaps, one day, the understanding that we have gained from these missions will indeed save our planet.

 

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McMaster Astronomy grad student takes a star turn in Killarney Provincial Park

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Astronomy PhD candidate Veronika Dornan served as the astronomer in residence at Killarney Provincial Park. She’ll be back again in October when the nights are longer (and bug free). Dornan has delivered dozens of talks and shows at the W.J. McCallion Planetarium and in the community. (Photos by Veronika Dornan)

Veronika Dornan followed up the April 8 total solar eclipse with another awe-inspiring celestial moment.

This time, the astronomy PhD candidate wasn’t cheering alongside thousands of people at McMaster — she was alone with a telescope in the heart of Killarney Provincial Park just before midnight.

Dornan had the park’s telescope pointed at one of the hundreds of globular star clusters that make up the Milky Way. She was seeing light from thousands of stars that had travelled more than 10,000 years to reach the Earth.

This time there was no cheering: All she could say was a quiet “wow”.

Dornan drove five hours north to spend a week at Killarney Park as the astronomer in residence. part of an outreach program run by the park in collaboration with the Allan I. Carswell Observatory at York University.

Dornan applied because the program combines her two favourite things — astronomy and the great outdoors. While she’s a lifelong camper, hiker and canoeist, it was her first trip to Killarney.

Bruce Waters, who’s taught astronomy to the public since 1981 and co-founded Stars over Killarney, warned Dornan that once she went to the park, she wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

The park lived up to the hype. Everywhere she looked was like a painting, something “a certain Group of Seven had already thought many times over.”

The dome telescopes at Killarney Provincial Park.

She spent her days hiking the Granite Ridge, Crack and Chikanishing trails and kayaking on George Lake.  At night, she went stargazing with campers — or at least tried to. The weather didn’t cooperate most evenings — instead of looking through the park’s two domed telescopes, Dornan improvised and gave talks in the amphitheatre beneath cloudy skies.

Dornan has delivered dozens of talks over the years in McMaster’s W.J. McCallion Planetarium and out in the community, but “it’s a bit more complicated when you’re talking about the stars while at the same time fighting for your life against swarms of bugs.”

When the campers called it a night and the clouds parted, Dornan spent hours observing the stars. “I seriously messed up my sleep schedule.”

She also gave astrophotography a try during her residency, capturing images of the Ring Nebula and the Great Hercules Cluster.

A star cluster image by Veronika Dornan

“People assume astronomers take their own photos. I needed quite a lot of guidance for how to take the images. It took a while to fiddle with the image properties, but I got my images.”

Dornan’s been invited back for another week-long residency in bug-free October, when longer nights offer more opportunities to explore and photograph the final frontier.

She’s aiming to defend her PhD thesis early next summer, then build a career that continues to combine research and outreach.

“Research leads to new discoveries which gives you exciting things to talk about. And if you’re not connecting with the public then what’s the point of doing research?”

 

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