Augenbraun wins Apker Award for physics research

October 21, 2015 by James Rasmussen, Staff Writer

Augenbraun won the LeRoy Apker Award for his research. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Augenbraun

Augenbraun won the LeRoy Apker Award for his research. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Augenbraun

Benjamin Augenbraun ’15 recently won the LeRoy Apker Award for his undergraduate research in physics.

Augenbraun received $5000 for his research and the physics department received an additional $5000 from the award.

The American Physical Society presents the LeRoy Apker Award to one student at a non-PhD-granting institution each year for outstanding achievement in physics. The physics department nominated Augenbraun and the award committee later chose him as one of three finalists. After he traveled to a conference and spoke about his work, the committee ultimately selected him to receive this prestigious award.

Augenbraun’s project in particular studied how large electric fields can cause atoms to deform.

“We use lasers to study heavy metallic atoms when we heat them up to be a vapor,” Augenbraun said. “We take precisely tuned lasers and we shine those through this sample of atoms, and then we measure the light that comes out on the other end. If we see that light of a specific wavelength was absorbed or transmitted, that gives us information about the structure of the atom itself.”

Tiku Majumder, professor of physics,  gave Augenbraun praise for his work over the past two years including Augenbraun’s excellent work in his section of the project and other components of the project.

“[Ben has an] unusual combination of experimental sense and skill on one hand,” said Majumder, “and on the other hand an ability to tackle difficult theoretical problems.”

Augenbraun also expressed gratitude to the students and faculty of the physics department. “I want to make sure that the physics department and the physics professors get a lot of credit because they really helped me learn and enjoy doing physics,” Augenbraun said.

Augenbraun is continuing his physics career at Harvard, where he is working on a different project.

“I’m in the same subfield of physics, but I’m working on a very different experiment,” Augenbraun said. His current experiment involves using a combination of lasers and magnetic fields to cool and trap molecules.

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