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SDSU physics students recognized at international conference

Foour physics students at international conference
Pictured above, (from left to right) Cole Brown, Gavin Baker, Matthew Wieberdink and Jax Wysong — all physics majors — posing in front of the American Physical Society's sign at their annual meeting on March 3-8 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Four undergraduate students in South Dakota State University's Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Physics attended the American Physical Society's annual meeting March 3-8 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Cole Brown, Gavin Baker, Matthew Wieberdink and Jax Wysong — all physics majors — presented their research on Heusler alloys, with Wieberdink's poster being recognized as an "outstanding presentation" by the American Physical Society. The quartet's research is under the direction of Parashu Kharel, an associate professor of physics in SDSU's College of Natural Sciences.

Wieberdink, a junior, presented his research on the crystalline and magnetic properties of Cr2MnAl — a Heusler compound — during the conference's poster session. The session was three hours long, and Wieberdink spoke for almost 2 1/2 hours of the allotted time. The interest in Wieberdink's work stems from the growing interest in the field of material sciences, Kharel noted. 

Wieberdrink with research poster
Matthew Wieberdink

While the poster session was illuminating, Wieberdink's biggest takeaway from the conference was the networking opportunities available, which resulted in him landing a competitive internship at Los Alamos National Lab through their Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships program. He will work with the biotechnology group at Los Alamos.

Baker, a senior, presented on his research, titled "Effect of Mn Doping on the Magnetic and Electronic Band Properties of CoFeVAl: Experiment and Theory," which looks at the characteristic properties, both experimentally and computationally, of CoFeVAl, a type of Heusler alloy.

"The application of this research is in spintronic technologies," Baker said.

The goal of this research is to find an alloy that would allow electronic devices, such as computers and phones, to require less battery power with improved speed.

This was Baker's second time presenting on site at this conference. His past experience helped in his preparation for this year's conference. The previous year, Baker learned that the questions from other researchers and presenters can be quite challenging.

"When you talk about research to your family, they don't really know how to ask a challenging question," Baker explained.

Baker presenting
Gavin Baker

"But when I talk about my research to people with Ph.D.s or with people who study physics, they know how to ask questions that might stump me. I need to be prepared to think through those."

For Brown, a first-timer at the conference, the level of the research was a bit surprising.

"The variety of the research really surprised me," Brown said. "They even had Nobel laureates present."

Brown's oral presentation was on structural and magnetic properties of V2CoAl Heusler alloys.

"Overall, the conference is eye-opening," Baker said.

Jax Wysong, a senior, presented at the conference for the second time as well. His research shows how the change in stoichiometry affects the structural and magnetic properties of NiFeMnAl, a predicted half-metal. He has been awarded SDSU's 2024 Schultz-Werth Award for his work.

The American Physical Society's annual meeting is one of the most well-attended physics conferences in the world, with more than 13,000 physicists and students presenting their research.