September 3, 2004  


SULI Students Celebrate a Summer of Physics

By Shawne Neeper

SLAC students in the DOE’s Summer Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program celebrated the close of their eight-week experience in hands-on research with hamburgers and sunshine at the Sector 6 picnic area on August 13. The 25 physics and engineering undergraduates received their SULI certificates with a word and a handshake. Each took a photo with his or her SLAC mentor, to commemorate a summer filled with scientific and social adventures.

SULI interns (left to right) Joseph Piacentine, Kevin Reynolds and Rebekah Schiller with SULI Program Director Roberto Vega. (Photo by Diana Rogers)

The luncheon concluded with the presentation of the 10th annual Ernest Coleman Award for Scholarship and Citizenship. The award is named for SLAC physicist Ernest Coleman, who helped develop the SLAC Summer Science Program—a predecessor to SULI—to encourage minority and less-advantaged students to pursue science careers. This year’s interns nominated their peer Kevin Reynolds,  for his enthusiasm and hard work with his mentor, x-ray spectroscopist Uwe Bergmann (SSRL).

To help Bergmann evaluate new equipment from different vendors, Reynolds set up lasers and performed experiments comparing spectrograph mirrors on the SSRL floor. The mirrors will be used in novel x-ray techniques to study light elements including water and protein catalysts. “It was extremely useful,” Bergmann said. “We have now made a large order of mirrors based on his analysis.” This fall, Reynolds is entering his sophomore year at Norfolk University.

Reynolds and the other students presented their projects as papers and 20-minute talks, in the days leading up to their closing picnic.

“This year’s students really got to work fast, and seemed to get a lot out of their summer here,” said SULI Program Manager Helen Quinn (THP). “About half of them were able to stay on an extra week after the official program end, a possibility we have been able to offer only in the last two years. The program is all too short for most projects, so the extra week is appreciated by both students and mentors.”

During their stay at SLAC, the students lived in a cooperative house on Stanford University’s fraternity row with SULI Program Director Roberto Vega (THP). On summer leave from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Vega pursued Higgs phenomenology by day and addressed student needs—from fielding physics questions to promoting kitchen clean up—by night.

Shown left to right: Roberto Vega (THP) and Jonathan Dorfan (DO) present SULI intern Kevin Reynolds with the Ernest Coleman award. (Photo by Diana Rogers)

“It’s fun,” Vega said. “It’s challenging.” He arranged talks by SLAC physicists each week, and organized SULI field trips to Lick Observatory, the Stanford Medical School MRI facility and the Stanford physics department. He also encouraged an informal SULI social calendar of impromptu outings to local salsa clubs and weekend climbing expeditions.

The SULI program provides science and engineering internship opportunities at twelve DOE facilities. A tour last summer made SLAC the first choice of 27-year old Chico State University senior Joe Piacentine (KIPAC). “I wanted to explore what graduate school might be like,” he said, “and explore astrophysics or particle physics.” This summer, Piacentine learned to use custom software to analyze the telescope data for objects that had not been seen before, and ascertain which were likely to be clusters of galaxies.

“This has really gotten me excited about going to graduate school,” said Rebekah Schiller (SCS), who will be a senior at Oglethorpe University this fall. During a SULI field trip to the Stanford University physics department, Schiller accepted an invitation to share a day in the life of a physics graduate student. She spent a day learning about a thesis project and helped solder research equipment.

The SULI interns have now returned to their colleges, hopefully with new inspiration and aspirations.

For more information on the program, see:




The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Thursday September 02, 2004 by Emily Ball