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Graduate students selected to receive Sigma Xi grants

Two graduate students from Louisiana Tech University have been selected to receive grants from Sigma Xi, an international interdisciplinary research society, as part of the Grants in Aid of Research (GIAR) program.

Tyler Sonsalla, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Louisiana Tech’s molecular science and nanotechnology (MSNT) program and also a master’s in applied physics, and Taylor Tarlton, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in engineering physics, were two of just 184 recipients selected from over 1,100 applications submitted from institutions throughout the world.

SX logo4CbuiltBMThe GIAR program provides funding to undergraduate and graduate students involved in all areas of scientific research with awards of up to $1,000. Sonsalla and Tarlton wrote proposals as part of a graduate research methods course taught by Dr. Jamie Newman, assistant professor of biological sciences and chapter president of Sigma Xi at Louisiana Tech.

Sonsalla is working with Dr. Leland Weiss, associate professor of mechanical engineering, to develop an improved small-scale solar thermal collector as part of energy research taking place in Louisiana Tech’s Institute for Micromanufacturing. The new design will consist of a PDMS polymer attachment on top of the solar thermal collector that will reduce heat loss. The funds from the Sigma Xi grant will help purchase a quantity of xenon gas and a micro thermal conductivity vacuum gauge to monitor the effects of inert gas on the solar thermal collector.

Tarlton works with Dr. Pedro Derosa, associate professor of physics at Louisiana Tech, and is using Monte Carlo methods to study charge transport in nano-composite materials. All program codes have been developed at Louisiana Tech with the commercially available Matlab software. The GIAR grant will be used to purchase a new set that will be added to the current package to allow for smoother operation and fewer conflicts with other projects. A parallel toolbox will also be purchased along with annual maintenance, which will allow the continued use of Matlab as the main software development tool and prevent significant setbacks within this study.

Louisiana Tech’s Sigma Xi chapter was honored recently with a Chapter Program of Excellence Award for 2013-2014. The Louisiana Tech chapter holds monthly brown bag lunch meetings and is developing a partnership program with SciTEC in the College of Education that pairs local teachers with Louisiana Tech faculty and students to promote interactions between the campus and the community.

Sigma Xi has approximately 60,000 members in more than 500 international chapters. It was founded in 1886 “to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in fields of science and engineering.”