Rollins Offers Top-Notch Student-Faculty Collaboration

June 30, 2009

Summer 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship program.  Professor of Physics Thomas Moore leads the program, which offers students the opportunity to participate in high-level scholarly research—research that is typically only available at the graduate-school level. Since its launch, a total of 71 faculty members representing 24 disciplines have collaborated in research with students, and a total of 307 students will have taken part in the program by the end of the summer.

Rollins’ Faculty, Student and Alumna Work Side-by-Side Researching Laser Interferometry

Summer is a time for rest and relaxation. After a hard year of work, most college students pass the time frolicking at the beach or watching re-runs of their favorite sitcom. Physics major Ashley Cannaday, however, decided that there was no place she would rather be than in the laboratory at the Bush Science Center continuing breakthrough scientific research.

Partnered with fellow physics major Nicholas Horton (Class of 2009) and in collaboration with Professor of Physics Thomas Moore, Cannaday spent her first year at Rollins researching the use of lasers to detect land mines. During the summer of 2008, Cannaday and Horton built an apparatus that could be used to find buried landmines. Since it was just a prototype and not made to withstand the elements, they brought a sandbox into the laboratory and buried a tin can, rocks and sticks into the sand. They then tested their method of detecting land mines by attempting to find the tin can, which vibrated much like an antipersonnel mine. They had a success rate of 100 percent- finding the "mine" every time. 

Throughout this summer, Cannaday is continuing her research using lasers to locate buried land mines, focusing on a new method of finding buried objects that can be made to vibrate. The process she is using was invented at Rollins and is called Speckle Subtraction Imaging.

“Last summer, our preliminary results showed that our new method could indeed detect buried man-made objects and discriminate between them and natural objects such as rocks and roots,” said Moore. “We are continuing our work trying to understand the issues involved in applying this technique outside of the laboratory.

Joining Cannaday in the laboratory is her former high school physics teacher and Rollins alumna Sarah Zietlow (Class of 2006). Zietlow is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Although she has never specifically studied the problem of detecting land mines, she did complete extensive research with Moore using lasers to study the vibrations of piano soundboards and crash cymbals while she was a student at Rollins.

The professor, the teacher and the student are now working side by side in the laboratory as a part of the Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship program. Pleased with the progress made in their research, the trio is proud to announce that a grant proposal has been submitted to the United States Army, which would allow for the purchase of new materials and the employment of more researchers in the laboratory.

“We definitely have had difficulties,” said Cannaday. “In fact, we have had weeks’ worth of difficulties, but we overcame them. We made great strides in a short period of time.”

Cannaday and Zietlow will be continuing their research together throughout the next year.

View a complete list of summer research projects.

Read about the "Golden Personality" research project.

--Brittany Fornof (Class of 2011)

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