Hampton Univ. aims to grow interest in physics

By Shantel Hanley

Hampton University senior Marcus Wiggs has done internships here and at Notre Dame. He played football here his freshman and sophomore year.

Kyle Howard is a junior who had internships at HU and FermiLab in Illinois.

 Freshman Guy Jackson has not had an internship yet, but desires to do medical science research. He is a tuba player in the HU marching band.

Although these students have different interests, they are all physics majors.

The Hampton University physics department provides career paths in medicine, entrepreneurship, law and more, according to department promotional literature. The physics program is not solely about math and science; it also includes writing and presentation, which are necessary to develop clarity when communicating physics.

Just as three student’s classifications differ, so does their stage in the department. Wiggs is working on his senior capstone project entitled “Suppressed Fresnel reflection in self-pumped phase conjugate 4 wave-mix.”

“Basically, it’s like the same idea of a hologram,” Wiggs explained. Instead of lasers beaming through a crystal to create a picture, the laser beam is amplified after shining through the crystal. Wiggs has designed the experiment, but he continues reviewing his research and doing equations before conducting the experiment.

While Wiggs works on completing his capstone project before graduation, Howard has yet to begin his. “My capstone thesis has not been fully declared,” said Howard “but it will deal with measuring the cosmic ray influx at ground level.” Since freshman year, he has been working in a lab with his adviser. The experience is what he will use to develop his capstone project.

Students are not thrown into physics their freshmen year, but they are slowly incorporated in the experience. This is done by giving majors the opportunity to learn techniques about physics and have math skills reiterated and applied to physics.

Jackson is using the concepts he learned in his physics class in other means. “In physics one has to be very precise because physics is an exact science where every detail is vital to the problem,” he said, “Even though the rest of my classes are not like that, I still use the skills in my other classes so that they can help me understand them a little bit better.”

Jan Mangana, associate director for education and outreach, knows the names and classification of all physics majors. There are 20 students majoring in physics, said Mangana, and students are able to converse casually about anything.  

Mangana believes mathematics and sciences are not being exposed positively, nor are they being nurtured to comprehend math and sciences. In an effort to change that, the Physics department has an outreach program that is geared into inspiring students in the Hampton Roads area in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a fun environment.

For example, students would make and set off bottled rockets and learn the science behind it.

Students interested in physics are encouraged to attend a summer enrichment program at Hampton University during their high school breaks.

The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications