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Physics major receives national award for undergraduate research

Honors College senior Zoey Warecki, of Shirley, N.Y., has received a 2014 Outstanding Student Award for Undergraduate Research from the Society of Physics Students (SPS), an organization of the American Institute of Physics.

SPS has more than 700 chapters on campuses across the country, with about 5,000 students taking part in chapter activities each year.

Pulsed Laser Deposition Lab

Zoey Warecki at work in TU’s Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) Lab with graduate student Prakash Sharma.

As a winner of the SPS national competition, Warecki will represent the United States as an official delegate to the International Conference of Physics Students. The award includes an all-expenses-paid trip to Heidelberg, Germany, where she will attend the conference and talk about her research on Calcium Manganese Oxide thin films.

She also receives a $500 honorarium, with an additional $500 going to TU’s SPS chapter.

Jeffrey R. Simpson, associate professor of physics, advises the campus chapter, where Warecki serves as president. He characterizes her as a proactive leader who has been instrumental in obtaining national SPS grants for the chapter’s outreach efforts to area schools.

In addition to promoting physics off campus, Warecki says she enjoys encouraging TU freshmen and sophomores who share her interest in science. “I didn’t have upper-class student mentors, so I wanted to help younger students,” she adds.

Warecki’s research mentor, Rajeswari Kolagani, professor of physics, says she plans to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal. She says Warecki’s “careful and systematic method of conducting the experiments played no small role in our discovery, which has important theoretical and practical implications in terms of engineering the properties of thin films for technological applications.

“I am confident that Zoey will not only be a successful physicist,” Kolagani continues, “but also a trailblazer, mentor and guide to many aspiring young women physicists.”

Warecki will be spending the summer at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y., in an internship funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“I definitely want to go to graduate school,” she says. “I may study experimental physics, materials science or engineering—there are so many possibilities.”


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